The Great Pack Debate

As my start date gets closer, my pre-hike panic/obsession has escalated, and I’ve been questioning everything, including my gear, start date, resupply strategy, all the usual. Specifically, I started obsessing about my pack.

ULA Circuit

I purchased the ULA Circuit online last May. It was a leap of faith, since I couldn’t actually try it on, but I liked everything I read about it. I chose the Circuit, because its size would limit what I could put in it, forcing me to keep my pack weight down. I conveniently forgot about this as I started collecting my other gear.


I have been training with my Circuit for about eight months and have been perfectly happy with it, until I read a comment on Facebook. Joining that FB group was probably not the best idea in hindsight, but that’s a whole other post. The comment was about another pack and how the person was pushing the weight limit. This caused me to look at my pack specs again.

When I checked the specs, it said the Circuit is made to carry 30lbs of stuff. What?! My base weight is too high for this pack! How was I going to keep the gear I wanted AND have a total pack weight of 30lbs or less? Impossible. I had two options: 1) get a bigger pack or 2) lower my base weight. So, I started looking at packs again. I found the Osprey Exos 58, which is super light and rated up to 40lbs, so I decided to check it out.

Osprey Exos 58


I definitely liked the pack. It had many more attachment points and a ‘brain’, which the Circuit lacks. But the pack only comes in S, M, and L, with no other torso adjustment, and the material seemed pretty thin compared to my Circuit. I had no less than four sales people help me with the pack. The first guy got the pack down for me then disappeared. The second guy was supposed to get me weight to try the pack with, but he was convinced the M pack was too big for me, as was my Circuit for that matter. He never did get me the weight before disappearing on his lunch break. The third girl said the S pack fit well and also said it should sit lower on my hips than what guy #2 had told me. The fourth guy said I should get a heavier pack and choose comfort over lightweight.

I left the store knowing two things, 1) I didn’t like the way the Exos fit and 2) I like my Circuit regardless of what guy #2 said.

Lowering my Base Weight


So, it has to be a lower base weight, but how to reduce it? My struggle is with items that I’ve chosen for comfort/peace of mind over weight.

  • My tent – I chose the MSR Carbon Reflex 2 (2.6lbs with footprint), because I want room to bring my pack in. Plus I want to be able to use it for trips with Tim.


  • My water filter – The CamelBak All Clear Water Purifier. I chose a UV filter, because it kills everything quickly, and mine comes with a bottle. This was not an easy decision, but I read many comments that said the SteriPEN was known to break as were any water bladders out there, so the Sawyer Squeeze was off my list too. Unfortunately the All Clear WP is heavier than most.


  • My stove – I prefer to have hot meals, especially when it’s cold outside. I chose the JetBoil MiniMo because there’s no loose fuel to deal with and all the parts, including the fuel canister, fit inside the pot.
  • My layers – I’ve ‘been there done that’ with poor gear in cold conditions. I do not want to go through that again. Plus I have a fine line between warm and cold, so I have many mini layers that I can take on and off on the fly, like leg and arm warmers. Unfortunately, they also add weight. I also can’t imagine going through the Sierra in shorts and running shoes, so pants and gaiters are a must for me.


  • Paper maps – Oh, such debate about paper maps. I don’t want to depend solely on electronics, so I plan to have the maps sent to each resupply

I know there has to be a balance between want and need, I just haven’t found it yet. It will be interesting to see what my final gear list looks like. Thankfully, I still have 77 days to figure it out.

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Comments 6

  • Darrell Barrett : Feb 1st

    Every hike I go on it seems like I too go through the same process. No matter what I do pre-wired, the final shakedown for me is ongoing after weeks and miles on the trail. You change, weather and terrain changes and experience is the final arbiter. Good luck!

    • Annette : Feb 1st

      Thank you! I expect things to change again once I’m out there. I’m not immune to rookie mistakes, lol.

  • Ioanna : Feb 6th

    Same problem with trying to lower my base weight! It’s difficult! My tent is 2kg and it’s big and holds all my stuff – and it’s cheap (Vango Blade 200), I can’t afford to jump the ultra-light ones for 500g. My backpack is Deuter AirContact 50+10, it’s on the heavier side, but b/c my base weight is not ultra-light I needed support. And it’s great! I really recommend it, but it’s 2kg or so 🙁

    I’ve been using mini Sawyer filter and am really happy with it. Not good for filtering water for a whole camp, but for just me it’s good enough.

    I’m packing tomorrow – leaving on Thursdays for two weeks hiking in Spain – today my new down sleeping bag came! 🙂

    Happy hiking!
    Ioanna (A Woman Afoot)

    • Annette : Feb 6th

      Hi Ioanna,

      I have to admit, I’m still considering a heavier pack to accommodate the weight. I can’t seem to get it out of my head that comfort of a heavier pack might make it easier to carry the few extra pounds that I just can’t seem to let go of.

      Have a great trip!

  • Chris G. : Feb 6th

    You can use the sawyer with a normal smart water bottle even if the bag breaks. I have used mine on several hikes and haven’t had any issues other than you need to carry a spare empty bottle to fill the bag up. That may be a way to save a little weight and space for your pack needs.

    • Annette : Feb 7th

      Thank you for your comment. I have to admit I don’t know a whole lot about the squeeze. Maybe I’ll check it out again.


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