Goldilocks and the Three Packs

Once upon a time there was an aspiring thru hiker who wanted to go for a six month long walk in the forest. She needed a backpack so the search was on. The first pack she tried was too long for her torso and too heavy. The second pack she tried was ultralight, but the hipbelt bar poked her painfully in the back. The third pack she tried was a mixture of lightweight and comfort. It seemed to fit her JUST RIGHT.

*Disclaimer-I actually don’t have golden locks. Kind of a mixture of brown, red and some blonde. (And gray but… whatever.)  I’m also super picky and have a Princess and the Pea sensitivity. For those future thru hikers or just beginning backpackers, I have listed the packs I have tried and the specs, pros, cons and final thoughts for each. I (hopefully) have finally chosen the perfect pack. I have no affiliations with any of these companies, but do highly recommend them all.


The Too-Heavy Pack

The pack I started with was a Gregory Deva 60 liter backpack. I went to REI, got sized (which I wound up being sized incorrectly), and tried on ALL the packs. I’m not joking, I think we were there 3 hours. Oh, and I didn’t even buy anything that day. I was waiting on the coupon and dividends to apply towards my big purchase. I had it narrowed down between the Gregory Maven and the Gregory Deva.

SPECS: $299.00, 5.8 lbs (I got it cheaper than $299)

PROS: Durability, comfort, water bladder that converts into a daypack, comes with a rain cover, lots of pockets and storage options.

CONS: It’s heavy, and kinda expensive.

FINAL THOUGHTS:  I would like to own this pack in the correct size for a short trip or when I need to carry a heavier load. This is a really great pack, and I am sad I have to return it.

The Painful Pokey Pack

Image from ZPacks

The next pack I tried was a ZPacks Arc Haul 62 liter. I was very excited to try this pack! I will be using the ZPacks Duplex tent on the trail and I love it, so I was ready to love this pack. I did love it, until I loaded it with all my gear, 4 days of food, 2 full Smartwater bottles and headed to the park for a test run. For some reason I just couldn’t adjust it where the hipbelt bar wasn’t poking me. The extra lumbar pad didn’t really make a difference and I knew I couldn’t handle the pain on a long hike.

SPECS:  Pack ONLY-$299.00-1.5 lb

Hip Belt Pockets-$45.00/pair-.75 oz each

Lumbar Pad $15.00-1 oz.

Total cost for me-$359.00!!!!

PROS: Ultra lightweight, large outer mesh pocket, very large hip belt pockets, hip belt can be swapped for weight gain or loss, great transfer of load weight to hips, Arc design to keep back cool, great belt design to customize belt fit.

CONS: Very expensive, have to order accessories separately, I couldn’t reach my water bottles without taking the pack off, hip belt pocket zippers seemed fragile.

FINAL THOUGHTS: Very nice pack. I was sad it didn’t work out for me. I recommend trying it if you’re interested, they do have a 30 day return policy.

Final Decision

The pack I ultimately chose was a ULA Circuit 68 liter. I had problems at first with the shoulder straps pinching my underarms. I emailed them, they said to send pictures so they could assist with the proper fitting. I made adjustments on my own and fixed the problem, but I sent them pics anyway to make sure I had adjusted it correctly. They were very quick to respond and answered all my questions. I loaded this pack up with everything too, and so far on dayhikes it has been amazing. It is still an ultralight pack, but because of the wonderful extra padding in the hipbelt and lower back it adds a little bit of weight compared to the ZPacks.

SPECS: $235.00, 2.56 lbs

PROS: Still a lightweight pack, more padding in the hipbelt and lower back, hipbelt pockets come with it, GREAT customer service, large side water bottle pockets, hipbelt can be swapped for weight gain or loss, hipbelt design is like the ZPacks, sturdy belts and zippers, seems pretty durable.

CONS: not really bad, but the outer mesh pocket is not as large or stretchy as the ZPacks. I feel like I’m really having to work to shove stuff in there and maneuver around the cordage that’s on the outside of the mesh. This is just me being picky though.

FINAL THOUGHTS: I feel pretty confident this will be my pack. I still need to take it on a long dayhike in actual mountains, but so far, so good.


I hope this was helpful! I will do full gear post later. Until next time,




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Comments 6

  • Avatar
    Padfoot : Nov 3rd

    Nice! ULA Circuit is the pack I have and I love it. Don’t try to put more than 30 pounds in it though lol

    • Avatar
      Sarah Southard : Nov 3rd


      The Circuit is awesome! I hiked a bit today and forgot I had a pack on. I’m trying to keep my total weight at 25 pounds or less. With my other gear, I feel that’s completely doable.

  • Avatar
    Rhys : Nov 3rd

    Nice, i carried one the whole way. It’s a great pack and durable as all get out.
    Def try to keep your load under 30 to stay comfy, which I reckon you’ll be doing if you’re carrying a duplex.
    When i finished in August i ran mine through a washing machine with a cup of vinegar. I couldn’t believe that that took care of almost all of the stink!

    • Avatar
      Sarah Southard : Nov 3rd


      I’m glad it worked well for you. I’m impressed with it so far and excited when I read you can just throw it in the washer! Yay! I am aiming for total weight of 25 pounds. Base is about 16 I think, but I’m still dialing it in.

  • Avatar
    Sweeper : Nov 3rd

    Froggy, IMHO you have made the right choice. I used a Circuit for my 2016 thru hike and it treated me very well, even though I didn’t always treat it that well! My pack weight was routinely 35 to 38 pounds after a resupply and the Circuit held up all the way, except for one small repair I had done at trail days. I’m sure that was my fault for overloading it. I hope you have a great time on your hike. I think you’ll like your pack.

    • Avatar
      Sarah Southard : Nov 4th


      I’m so glad you loved your Circuit! I feel like I made the right choice too, it’s so comfortable. I’m definitely going to try to keep my pack weight down, I know that will be a challenge when I resupply!


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