Swami’s Gear Closet: Backpacks | The Mountaineering Life


I’ve by no means thought-about myself to be a gearhead. I exploit gear to hike, not the opposite approach round. That stated, if you happen to spend sufficient time backpacking over sufficient years, chances are high you’ll accumulate the kind of gear essential to assist maintain you secure and cozy(ish) in a variety of wilderness eventualities.

Pictured above are the backpacks I’ve used over the previous decade for nearly all my climbing excursions. From day journeys to multi-month journeys, they’ve served me effectively in a broad number of environments and circumstances. I can’t say that anybody of them is the “highest.” Frankly, there isn’t a such factor. However I can say with a level of certainty that they’re all within the dialog for the very best of their class. With solely somewhat extra ado, right here’s a rundown of my backpack quiver as of 2023:

(Notice: Please excuse the article’s wanky third-person title. I used to be attempting to think about one thing distinctive and semi-catchy that described what you’re about to learn. I thought-about “My Favorite Backpacks” and “Backpacks for All Seasons,” however they each sounded too generic and yawn-inducing. In the end I accepted falling in need of my titular goal and went with wanky).

Day Hikes

Montbell Cross Runner Pack 15 – (Japan On-line Retailer) / (US On-line Retailer)

In the event you occur to identify me roaming the ridges, peaks, and valleys of Mexico’s Sierra Madre, chances are high I’ll be carrying the Montbell Cross Runner Pack 15. Certainly, I prefer it a lot, it additionally serves for strolling round city and as a carry-on bag when flying. The Montbell Cross Runner 15 ideas the scales at 10.9 oz (308 gr) and includes a torso-hugging shoulder harness, double sternum straps, expandable/simply accessible shoulder pockets (large enough for a water bottle or smartphone), and a secret squirrel interior pocket for a pockets and keys. The pack is hydration suitable, has a drawcord for compressing/stabilizing your load, and a 3D mesh backpanel to assist maintain issues ethereal when temps begin to rise (Notice: The Cross Runner additionally is available in a 7L model).

Montbell Cross Runner 15 in Mexico’s Sierra Madre.

I normally fill the shoulder pockets with a smartphone, sunscreen, lip balm, hand sanitizer, and perhaps a snack or two.

Gazing out from the sting of Cape Enniberg (754 m/2,474 ft), the world’s highest promontory (Faroe Islands, 2022).

Multi-day Journeys (whole pack weight normally beneath 24 lbs/11 kg)

Mountain Laurel Designs Burn 38 L (frameless)

Since 2009/10, I’ve used three completely different incarnations of the MLD Burn for a complete distance north of 20,000 mi/32,187 km (together with the Calendar Triple Crown/12 Lengthy Walks in 2011/12). Over time, the materials have modified, the amount and weight have elevated, and the straps are wider and extra cushioned, but it surely nonetheless sports activities the identical slim profile and cozy match that I’ve at all times loved. Right here’s a overview I wrote of the pack from 2016 (Notice: Over the previous 20 years, MLD has established a well-earned popularity for producing constantly high-quality ultralight gear. That stated, sometimes (perhaps greater than sometimes), you’ll hear some people moan and groan concerning the firm’s lead occasions. For my whimsical tackle this and lots of different quirks of the ultralight backpacking neighborhood, see 50 Indicators You Could Have Taken Ultralight Backpacking Too Far).

One of many greatest hundreds I’ve carried within the Burn was throughout an roughly 240-mile (386 km) stretch between East Glacier and Helena, MT, on the Continental Divide Path in August 2012 (Notice: The Benchmark Ranch was closed due to fires on the time).

With a Dyneema model of the Burn on Norway’s Lengthy Crossing of the Lofoten Islands (2018) (Notice: As of 2023, the Burn now is available in both Ecopak UltraWeave or UltraGrid 200d RipStop).

Gossamer Gear Kumo 36 (frameless)

I used to be given this pack by Grant from Gossamer Gear at ALDHA West in 2014. My reminiscence’s a bit hazy, however I believe we might have been having a multi-beer dialog about Willie Nelson and the Austin music scene. Since these nebulous beginnings, I’ve taken the Kumo on the Colorado Path (2015) and lots of quick journeys within the Sierra Madre. Certainly, to this present day, I carry it each Wednesday to haul my fruit and veggies from the native farmer’s market. After eight years of standard utilization, it nonetheless seems in nice form. If I used to be to pinpoint my favourite options of the Fist (and Gossamer packs typically), the primary issues that come to thoughts are the extensive shoulder straps, lid system, and general consolation and sturdiness. Retailing for US$170the Kumo nonetheless charges as the most effective value-for-money ultralight packs in the marketplace.

Rocking the Kumo on the Colorado Path (2015).

Multi-week Journeys (whole pack weight frequently exceeds 24 lbs/11 kg)

Six Moon Designs Swift X (inside body)

Since March 2020, I’ve logged over 2,000 miles (3,219 km) with the Swift X within the Sierra Madre, Northern Alaska, Greenland, and Lapland. Throughout this era, it’s grow to be my pack of alternative for long-haul journeys through which I’m frequently carrying heavy hundreds between 22 and 44 lbs (10-20 kg). I wrote an in depth overview of the pack a few weeks in the past.

The standout characteristic of the Swift X is the vest harness. Previous to utilizing this pack, I hadn’t tried a running-style vest harness on something apart from a daypack. Nevertheless, over the previous few years, I’ve grow to be a giant fan of the torso-hugging match and weight distribution it helps present when negotiating difficult circumstances (e.g., river fords, snowfields, tussocks, blowdowns, or scree slopes) whereas carrying a heavy load.

Yours actually on the Greenland Ice Cap – a not-to-be-missed supplemental part of the Arctic Circle Path (September 2022) (Notice: The Arctic Circle Path and the Jotunheimen Loop pictured beneath are each featured in my upcoming e book, Wanderlust Nordicswith Shapes publications).

Crossing the Skautflye plateau throughout a loop hike round Norway’s Jotunheimen Nationwide Park (September 2022).

Hyperlite Mountain Gear 2400 Southwest (inside body)

If I take into consideration the HMG 2400 Southwestthe primary phrase that involves thoughts is “bombproof.” In 2016/17, I took this pack on a collection of heavy-carry traverses, together with the Colorado part of the Sangre de Cristo Vary (beginning weight 34 lb/15.4 kg), South Dakota’s Badlands (beginning weight 44 lb/20 kg), Bolivia’s Altiplano (max weight 33 lb/11 kg), and the hardest of all of them, a journey throughout Southwest Tasmania (beginning weight 42 lb/19 kg). The 2400 Southwest held up very effectively all through these difficult hikes, and regardless that I haven’t used it a lot lately, it nonetheless seems in good condition seven years after I first picked it up.

In addition to its sturdiness, the standout characteristic of the 2400 Southwest is its glorious weight switch functionality from shoulders to hips. Regardless of this, it appears bizarre that HMG has by no means added load lifters; there’s no query that they make a distinction when your pack weight is frequently north of twenty-two lb/10 kg. Certainly, the shortage of lifters, together with the vest harness and somewhat extra inside quantity, have been the explanations I switched from the 2400 Southwest to the Swift X for my large-haul journeys since 2020.

Trekking throughout the Salar de Uyuni in the course of the Altiplano Traverse (Bolivia 2017).

The HMG Southwest 2400 throughout a 16 day meals stick with it the Southwest Tasmania Traverse (2016).

Crossing South Dakota’s Badlands Nationwide Park (2016).

Comparable Backpacks (Day, Frameless, Inner Body)

The fashions listed beneath are all well-regarded amongst skilled ramblers and are in the identical ballpark as my very own packs in regard to quantity, high quality of supplies, and workmanship. A handful are made by giant corporations similar to REI and Osprey, however most are produced by smaller, cottage industry-type producers. They don’t seem to be listed in any specific order apart from alphabetically:

5 Comparable Daypacks

5 Comparable Frameless Packs (35-40L)

5 Comparable Inner Framed Packs (50-55L)

The Previous and the New(ish)…………….Macpac Torre (85 L) and MLD Burn (38 L). I carried the load-hauling monster on the precise for a short interval within the mid/late Nineties. My again and knees harm simply desirous about it.

Associated Articles

Disclaimer: The entire 5 backpacks featured above have been freebies. They got to me by ultralight/light-weight backpacking gear corporations that I’ve partnered with at one time or one other for the reason that 2000s. I used to be underneath no obligation to write down a overview for any of the packs, and the opinions expressed are my very own.

Disclosure: This put up comprises some affiliate hyperlinks, which suggests The Mountaineering Life receives a small fee if you buy an merchandise after clicking on one of many hyperlinks. This comes at no extra price to the reader and helps to assist the web site in its persevering with aim to create high quality content material for backpackers and hikers.


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