Gear I Use: Packs

I don’t have photos, but I still remember a couple of my first true backpacks from when I was a kid in scouts. One was this orange, frameless pack that was just one large open pocket. Then I had a pack with an external frame, green. It had upper and lower pockets, along with some small ones on the side. I never actually backpacked with them.

The hiking I did while living in Minnesota was usually short day-hikes. For most of that time I used a decent sized Eddie Bauer fanny pack to carry some snacks and water in. I still have it, I still use it, though now it is typically along with another pack of some sort.

view from hammock in the morning

When I first moved to Washington a friend gave me an REI 27 Liter day pack. It served me well for a few years, but I wanted something that was a bit larger. I wanted the higher capacity so that I could use it on overnight trips, but also something with a bridged back for ventilation.

Osprey Stratos 36

That led to me getting the Osprey Stratos 36. While classified as a day-pack, it’s been plenty roomy for me to do a number of overnight trips with now. I’ve also used it for plenty of day trips, though I’ve found something lighter to use for those trips these days (see below).

Overall, I love this pack. Having done a handful of overnight backpacking trips with this one, I can fit what I need in and on it. Barely. I don’t have room for much in the way of extras. I will likely get something larger if I start doing multi-day trips, but this is going to be one of my main packs for a long time. I would make a couple changes/additions if I could. The side access zipper should zip open from the bottom instead of the top in order to make it easier to access stuff at the bottom without fully opening the zipper. Then a few tie down loops for putting stuff like my snowshoes on the back of the pack would be nice as well. As it is, I make use of the compression straps to do so.

I was looking for a nice, light weight, minimalistic way to carry the essentials with me on shorter hikes. Especially in warmer weather, because even with the bridged back, the Stratos still traps a lot of heat. To get around that, I was really interested in checking out a drop-leg style. I finally settled on this one on Amazon. I wore it along with my regular pack on my first backpacking trip. I’ve since trimmed my packing down that I don’t need it, but I may do similar again if I do a base-camp trip, where I hike in a short way, set up base camp, then drop off my gear and do some more hiking. This then becomes my “day pack”. I like that it doesn’t sit on my back, which, like I said, in warmer weather is really nice. But having it stick off my leg can be tricky in tight situations, like some log bridges, where I have to be careful not to smack the rail as I’m crossing.

I added a couple pouches to the belt, this one for holding a water bottle, and another small one that I had laying around for putting a couple other small things (like my lensball, maybe some candy/protein bar). I will also sometimes wear a couple of paracord bracelets I’ve made on the back of the belt, and use those to hold my long sleeve shirt or such when I get too warm. I’ve considering also picking up a roll-up dump pouch, like what hunters use for spent shells, to have something I can roll up and wear on the belt, but open up if I need to stash something.

More recently, I added this Rover Sling Pack, and it’s becoming my main go-to for short day trips. The capacity is a bit larger than the drop leg pouch on it’s own. I’ve also used it for my personal item during a trip to Tampa for some meetings. With the molle system, I am able to expand the capacity a bit as needed using the pouch I also wear with the drop leg system.

I’m still trying to decide between this and the drop-leg pouch as my short-trip pack. The slightly larger capacity of the slink pack is nice, but it traps the heat on my back in warmer weather and while I can use the same water bottle pouch on this, I have to remove the pack to reach it. I’ve been attaching a small water bottle to the front of the strap, so it’s not as much of an issue. The bottle then is used for refilling the smaller bottle as needed. I’m also doing the same on my backpacking trips, because I don’t use my hydration bladder when backpacking.

condor 3 day assault pack

I do have a couple other packs that I don’t really use much. One in particular, the Condor 3-Day Assault Pack. I really like the pack. I like the molle system, and had these big plans for it to be my main pack for getting into backpacking. Some more serious packers would scoff at it, because of it’s military look and heavy weight, but I wanted the flexibility and size. And it was great, I used it on not just a few day hikes, but also a nearly week long trip and it fit everything I needed. But… the shoulder straps just were not comfortable on me. I tried a few times, and I just couldn’t get it sized/fitted right. It was fine on smaller loads, but that wasn’t what I wanted it for. So, I’m currently looking at trying to sell it.

The other one I have is an inexpensive, Ozark Trail, 28 Liter pack from Walmart. I actually did use it during our Denver Road Trip when we hiked at Arches National Park. I have the grey one, not the blue one shown here, but you get the idea. I picked it up to have something light to bring on trips where I just needed a basic pack for short treks and didn’t want to pack my regular gear. It wouldn’t take much room when packed up, and would get me by. It doesn’t have padded straps, no hip belt, but it will carry what I need.

I love hiking, camping, backpacking, etc. I share photos and videos of my adventures, and thought I might also share a few thoughts on gear I like and use. These are typically not full reviews, just a quick glimpse into what I use and why.

Check out the other Gear I Use posts for more gear related information.

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