Do I Really Need All These Packs?

With so many diverse brands and styles of packs available, each designed for a different type of use, each appealing to various needs, wants, and fashion trends, it’s no wonder I own so many.

The first backpack I called my own lasted about four years before I upgraded to a much better one. That second pack, heavily used but well maintained, served me well for over thirty five years. I hated to part with my second pack. It was like an old hiking buddy who had been on many memorable trips with me but could no longer keep up or negotiate the terrain. I have also gone through two or three frameless day packs that eventually wore out or no longer met my needs.

I currently own several packs, some specialized, ranging from a fanny pack that converts into a day pack, a few frame-less day packs, and two internal frame backpacks. Because I have been hiking and backpacking for over forty years, I did not acquire all of these packs at once. The oldest dates back at least forty years. A couple I obtained in just the past two years. I am not as emotionally attached to any of them as I was to that thirty five year old rigid framed friend I have since discarded. My variety offers me the ability to choose the right pack for the right hike.

The four packs in my go to inventory range from a slim and trim 12 oz. day pack to a 6 lb., 4 oz. behemoth of an expedition pack.

Day Hikes

I use my limited edition REI “Member” Flash 18 for day hikes in warm weather to carry the ten essentials, rain gear, a first aid kit, food, water, and perhaps a few other items. This top loading pack offers 18 liters or 1,100 cubic inches of internal space and weighs a mere 12 oz. It is equipped to hold a bladder and offers daisy chain loops on the back through which I wove a bungee cord for quick attachment.

Day Hikes and Overnights

During colder weather, I ditch the Flash 18 and opt for my front opening Kelty Redwing Classic (2003 Model) to carry what I would have stowed in the Flash, plus a stove with some fuel, and a Therm-a-Rest seat cushion. The extra room in the pack allows me to throw in clothing that I might shed as either I or the day warms up. It offers a back pocket with two compartments for smaller items and two sleeved side pockets I can use to quickly attach XC skis to the pack.

I use this Redwing for overnight trips in warmer weather when I don’t need to carry a lot of gear; however with a three season, two person tent, sleeping bag, stove, pot, and food, I pretty much max out its 40 liters or 2,400 cubic inch capacity,with my closed cell sleeping pad lashed outside to the bottom. It weighs 3 lbs., 1 oz., over three times the weight of the Flash 18, but barely doubles the internal capacity. On the other hand, it offers lashing possibilities and three pockets that the Flash doesn’t. In addition, the ability to zip open the front allows me to see all its contents and find what I need without taking out gear or feeling around in a top loading Flash.

Overnight to Week Long Trips

My top loading Osprey Volt 75, with a 75 liter or 4,577 cubic inch capacity and weighing in at 3lbs., 12 oz., doesn’t qualify as a minimalist lightweight backpack, but it comes close. I use it for short winter trips or longer warm weather trips of up to six days and five nights and have not yet filled it to capacity. Its compression straps allow me to adjust it to fit the load I am carrying, and I can strap my closed cell sleeping pad and a tent under the bottom if I need to. The small pockets built into the waist belt are great places to store some GORP and other small items I can access without taking the pack off. A lower zipper entry into an adjustable lower part of the bag compensates for sometimes having to feel around or remove gear to find what I need. My Volt is the pack I would carry if I were headed out on the AT for a weekend trip or a through hike with resupply.

For the Expedition I May Never Take

I used my LOWE NOLS Expedition Pack only once when I was taking a Leave No Trace Master Educator Course in Shenandoah National Park and needed to carry course material as well as personal and some group gear. The Volt  wasn’t in my inventory back then and the pack I did have was aged, deteriorating,  and may not have held up. When I had the opportunity to buy this workhorse, new, and at a reduced price, I took advantage of the offer. I didn’t even come close to filling it up on that trip.

This internal frame expedition pack, offering 115 liters or 7,000 cubic inches of capacity and weighing 6lbs., 4 oz. is not be my first choice for a weekend trip. If I were headed out on the trail for more than a week from mid-fall to mid-spring, or needed to carry additional gear like climbing gear, this is the pack I would take. It is also the pack I would use if I ever get the chance to return to the Winds for a week of climbing or a couple weeks of backpacking without resupply.

When is Enough Enough?

These four packs currently meet all my hiking and backpacking needs. I do not foresee acquiring any more packs in the future. They offer me the opportunity to carry whatever I need, be it for a eight or ten mile day hike in warm weather or that dreamed of unsupported, two week long expedition into the Winds.

How many packs do you own? How many do you really use?  When is enough enough?

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