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Old 08-05-2019, 09:22 PM   #1
forest dweller
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Help in choosing a mid to high end strong / comfortable heavy load hauling backpack.

I'm thinking about replacing my (I think) made in Mexico Dana Designs Astral Plane or Terraplane (forget which) for what will probably be my last comfortable heavy load hauling backpack (I'm going to be 52). So I want to get it right.

I was a little bummed out to learn that I did not get a made in Bozeman Dana Designs pack when I bought it used from a friend about 10 years ago. It has held up alright but I feel like getting something modern and new.

I'd rather not spend $1000 if I don't really have to, if I can get something pretty great without having to do so.

I was excited to learn that Dana Gleason was making backpacks in Bozeman again a few years ago - Mystery Ranch - BUT I did not act fast enough and they outsourced to Asia again!

I spoke to someone at Mystery Ranch and he said that he would not worry about it - that current (modern) Asian made Mystery Ranch backpacks could very well be better than Bozeman made Dana Design packs of 25 years ago with the advances in materials and technology...

Would you guys agree with that?

And what other backpacks should I be looking at that will be super strong and comfortable if I still decide to carry knucklehead level weight for a week give or take?

Thanks!
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Old 08-05-2019, 10:37 PM   #2
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Last year, at 64 years old, I started backpacking again. I am not UL, as I take fishing and photography gear and some comfort items. I have been using a Gregory Baltoro 65L pack and really like it. I have taken it on 8 day trips and it has worked out fine for me.
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Old 08-05-2019, 11:12 PM   #3
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Would one of these fit the bill? Well made here in Schenectady. I've had the C-backpack for over 20 years now and it's still good to go.

https://toughtraveler.com/collections/hiking-backpacks
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Old 08-06-2019, 04:21 PM   #4
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I'm not at all familiar with Mystery Ranch apart from having met 1 or 2 people that have used their products over the years. I did take a quick look at their offerings, however, and my superficial impression is to say that I'm not particularly impressed by their current offerings. They definitely don't seem to be prioritizing (or even considering) weight whatsoever. Given the combined weight and price of their packs, I would expect said packs to last, well, pretty much forever to be worthwhile purchases- and that's with constant, even weekly use.

To be blunt: For a 65-liter pack to weigh in at over 4 pounds while costing $300 while still advertising itself as being "for ounce counters" is levels of apparent satire worthy of The Onion. This is especially so when there's other offerings out there of packs of similar size and weight, still rated to carry heavier loads worthy of those who prefer creature comforts in camp over having the lightest pack possible, all for substantially less price (by as much as 30%).

There's the often quoted adage of hiking/backpacking gear: "Gear can be 2 of 3 things: light, durable, cheap." In other words, light and durable gear is never cheap, durable and cheap gear is never light, and cheap and light gear is never durable.

Which 2 of these 3 aspects should be prioritized is very much a matter of personal opinion- but any piece of gear worth purchasing will at least excel at 2 of these things at the expense of the 3rd (or, at the very least, provide half-way decent functionality in all 3 aspects while excelling at none of them). These packs seemingly fail at 2 components (being light and being cheap). The benefits in durability would need to be astronomical to make up for this- and not having any proof that said durability exists makes me immediately wary of the brand.

And to be fair, maybe their packs are that durable- like I said, I've no personal familiarity with the brand. I'd want to be really, really sure of this before investing in one, though.
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Old 08-06-2019, 08:37 PM   #5
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Dsettahr, are you familiar with the legendary Dana Designs packs? These are the successor to those packs...yes they are on the heavy side, but they are probably made to hold up to any and all abuse. That pack you referenced is light compared to their other packs...while still trying to give you as much of that bomb proof build of their other packs in a lighter pack.
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Old 08-07-2019, 08:03 AM   #6
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Take a look at the Osprey Aether. Not super-light, very durable, very comfortable with an oversized load. And pretty bomb-proof.
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Old 08-07-2019, 08:57 AM   #7
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I think at this moment the only reason I'd go with a boutique pack manufacturer is if I were going with a true UL bag, like zPacks or Pa'lante. For a non-UL pack that may get overloaded or get rough use like bush whacking or like me, carrying tools I'll stay with a larger manufacturer with some time in the field and a great warranty.

I think you can't go wrong with an Osprey, or like jblaser has the Gregory. I'm in the market and *may* get the Granite Gear currently listed on MassDrop, it's only $120 for a 65L and has a lifetime warranty. It's normally a $200 pack. It's light and has few bells and whistles, made out of rip stop.
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Old 08-09-2019, 01:30 PM   #8
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How heavy is "heavy"?

Some of the boutique manufacturers, particularly in the western US, are designing packs for loads up to, and past, 100lbs. Mystery Ranch, Stone Glacier, Exo Mtn Gear, Seek Outside, and Kifaru packs are built to handle sizeable loads. I have an Exo that I use for hunting. I carry a 60lb sand bag in there for local training hikes and yeah, it feels heavy, but it's totally secure and fabric doesn't rip or straps/buckles don't break.

It wouldn't be my first choice for a through hike, for example, but I can carry heavy loads in there no problem.
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Old 08-09-2019, 03:50 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by webby459 View Post
I think at this moment the only reason I'd go with a boutique pack manufacturer is if I were going with a true UL bag, like zPacks or Pa'lante. For a non-UL pack that may get overloaded or get rough use like bush whacking or like me, carrying tools I'll stay with a larger manufacturer with some time in the field and a great warranty.

I think you can't go wrong with an Osprey, or like jblaser has the Gregory. I'm in the market and *may* get the Granite Gear currently listed on MassDrop, it's only $120 for a 65L and has a lifetime warranty. It's normally a $200 pack. It's light and has few bells and whistles, made out of rip stop.
I like the Granite Gear pack as well. I considered it when I was in the market, but caught a big sale on the Gregory, so I went with that. Go to a place that sells packs, try them on for the fit and then go shopping. I went to REI and they put weight in the different packs I tried. It really helped to know how each fit and felt. I eliminated some packs that way. Of course, they won't have all the packs you could buy. I ended up buying online because of the clearance sale I found.
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Old 08-16-2019, 03:04 AM   #10
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I have a Seek Outside Revolution Fortress 6,300 backpack and can't say enough good things about about it. In my opinion, it is the best backpack I have ever owned and much more comfortable than my McHale pack which can also carry a large load.

https://seekoutside.com/lightweight-backpacks/

I went with the "breakaway" platform which means the bag is not integrated into the frame. It can pull away and you can insert another bag between the main bag and the frame allowing you to carry a massive amount of stuff. The additional weight penalty for the breakway vs integrated platform is 5oz.

When I was choosing, I selected this particular pack because it did not have a zippered main bag. All of their main bags are a rolltop, waterproof bag (XPAC) but I wanted to be sure the contents will stay dry so I opted out of the zipper. No need for a backpack cover. There is plenty of other space to put things that need to be accessed. For those who prefer a zippered bag with compartments, there are many styles to chose from.

Interestingly enough, the regular side pouches are large and can carry two Gatorade quart-size bottles in each pouch. They are angled at 45 degrees so accessing a waterbottle on either side is a breeze. With backpacks from most companies you have to lift out the bottle vertically which can be a challenge sometimes.

My bag has a top lid, backside pouch (called a Talon), and two belt pouches which in total add about 2,000ci to the 6,300 ci main bag giving me about 136 liters of capacity in a backpack a little over 4 lbs. Pretty amazing. The main bag rolls down into nothing so I use it as a daypack as well. Other people will get a massive-capacity bag like mine then also get a small-capacity bag. You can change out the large bag for the small bag in a minute or two with the breakaway platform.

If weight shaving is a priority and you don't need that much capacity you could go with the Divide 4,500 in the lighter XPAC material which would bring the weight down to 2 lbs, 15oz.

Finally, you can customize your backpack by choosing the platform, zipper vs non-zippered bag, side pouch styles (tall vs regular), materials, camo vs solid, and accent items. You'll be around $500 for a custom-chosen pack.

https://seekoutside.com/custom-backpacks/

Last edited by wiiawiwb; 08-16-2019 at 03:26 AM..
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Old 08-17-2019, 05:54 AM   #11
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I have both long beds an short beds Dana designs for over twenty years an still use them, Go into google an see if there is any for sale. If so that would be your best bet if it is in good shape.
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Old 08-18-2019, 10:58 AM   #12
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I will no doubt be off in left field with this one but I like external frame packs for heavy loads.

I still have - and use - my 70's era Kelty Tioga. Wasn't a whole bunch of internals to choose from back then so this was the way to go. I am a Clydesdale, and my wife being on the smaller side resulted in my carrying more than my fair share. The Tioga took it all in stride. I did finally get into the internal mode, but the loads I had to carry just didn't blend well. So I got new straps and belt from Kelty, gave away the internal, and have been happy ever since. It will haul everything - just keep strapping things on. Plus it's cooler.

My love of comfort gear extends to canoeing. I got a frame from Cabela's with a shelf on the bottom hunters use to pack out giant loads of game. On this I pack my barrel, chair, rods, tackle, fish finder, boots and diet cokes. It weighs a bit more but I can also extend a bar from the top of the frame that I can cover with foam and rest my canoe seat on it.

Of note, it might just be I am hung up on the past. I finally got a pair of shaped ski's, and after using them for a couple of years went back to my 28 year old GS ski's. Perhaps I am more of a Mastodon than I Clydesdale.

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Old 09-02-2019, 02:02 PM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Cold River Bob View Post
I have both long beds an short beds Dana designs for over twenty years an still use them, Go into google an see if there is any for sale. If so that would be your best bet if it is in good shape.
Do you think the Mystery Ranch packs of today are as good or better than the Dana Designs packs of 25 years ago? On the one hand they are made overseas, perhaps with some tradeoffs to keep costs down, on the other hand they do have 25 more years of experience and technology going into them, made by a company and founded by a guy that wants to create great products. I just don't know if a $450 Asian made T100 is perfectly sufficient for comfortable heavy load hauling OR if I'm literally getting twice the pack for twice the money to buy one of their $900 American made military packs.
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Old 09-03-2019, 06:15 PM   #14
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Yup, I've one for ~10 years and love it. Bit heavy by current standards, but bomber and carries well. Plus they have the forever guarantee.

Last edited by LRL; 09-03-2019 at 06:15 PM.. Reason: An opsrey aether, that is.
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