Craig wearing the Lowe Contour III
on a weekend backpack trip to Lake
Sylvia in the Desolation Wilderness
Backpack Gear Guide

The backpack is a very important piece of gear, for it carries all of our supplies for the hour, day, or week.  You may ask why I need too many backpacks.  I once asked my wife why she needed so many pairs of black shoes, she replied "because they are all different and each used for a different occasion".  Nuf said.

Light Day Hikes
Moderate Day Hikes
Weekend Backpack Trips
Extended Backpack Trips

Light Day Hikes
Gregory Mirage Arroyo

This high-tech little backpack is great for very light hikes.  It carries a Mirage Water Bladder with an amazing 110 ounce capacity, more than any other bladder available today.  When we first bought the Mirage packs, when they first came out in 1997, we couldn't believe they actually held that much water.  I had to test it to verify it actually did hold 110 ounces.  It has a moderate storage compartment which can hold first aid supplies, food, and a light piece of clothing.  Straps exist on the bottom for attaching additional clothing or water.  Joy uses this pack on most of our day trips.

Weight: 1 pound 3 ounces
Capacity: 700 cubic inches

Moderate Day Hikes
Gregory Mirage Endurance

By far, this is my favorite backpack.  I have taken this pack on many day trips and even a hotel-style overnight trip.  Unless I need to carry a lot of gear or gear for Joy, I use this pack.  I've even used this on the extreme hike to Half Dome.  Like the Arroyo, this high-tech wonder carries a Mirage Water Bladder with an amazing 110 ounce capacity, more than any other bladder available today.  We've been using these bladders for about 2 years and have yet to have any leakage or breakage problems.  Now, with that said, I will state that I have bought replacement bladders and will replace them next hiking season.  At $10 each that is a low cost for extra protection.

This pack has a moderate compartment capable of storing first aid supplies and food.  The main compartment is capable of holding the bladder, a water filter, and a reasonable amount of clothing.  Between the moderate compartment and main compartment is an open mesh area which can hold even more equipment.  This area is not calculated into the cubic inch capacity of this pack, so don't' underestimate it.  Like the Aroyo there are straps on the bottom for holding additional gear, I often strap on a jacket.  It holds significantly more gear than the Arroyo and only weights 8 ounces more.  Even then, it is a very light pack.

Weight: 1 pound 11 ounces
Capacity: 920 cubic inches

Long Day Hikes
REI Talus

I have to be honest, I only use this pack when I have to.  Not because I don't' like it, but because I like the Gregory Mirage Endurance so much.  If I have lots of equipment, such as extensive camera gear or group equipment, I use this pack.  It has a large main compartment which is accessible from the top or via a zipper on the side.  Although the pack doesn't come with a bladder system, there is a pocket in the main compartment capable of holding a Gregory Mirage bladder system.

Weight: 3 pounds 7 ounces
Capacity: 2600 cubic inches

Weekend Backpack Trips
Lowe Contour III

I use the Lowe Contour III for weekend backpack trips.  I've used it for trips as long as 3 days and 2 nights (requiring the use of the detachable side compartments for additional cubic inches).

You need to understand my backpacking philosophy before you understand why I need so much storage capacity.  When I backpack with others, my rule is everyone brings their own gear (no sharing of tents, stoves, filters, etc...).  There are several reasons for this philosophy: #1 - Gear sometimes malfunctions when in the backcountry your buddy's gear may become yours too (happened on a 3 day trip when my buddy's stove wouldn't work), #2 - I snore, #3 - I only like to share my bedroom with my wife.

This pack has a large main compartment with a divider for a sleeping bag.  Access to the bag is possible via an opening at the bottom.  The pack is infinitely adjustable for pack height (the shoulder straps can be moved up and down without being restricted to a few configurations).  This pack is also very light when compared to others of comparable size (especially the Gregory packs).  Padding is good and the pack is very comfortable.  I've had as much as 47 pounds in this pack (including the weight of the pack itself).

Weight: 6 pounds 2 ounces
Capacity: 4200 cubic inches

Extended Backpacking
Gregory Petit-Dru

In case you haven't figured it out, I'm a big Gregory fan.  I like high-tech stuff and their packs are definitely high-tech.  Unfortunately the cost of high-tech is $ and weight.  This bag is not for lightpackers because it's heavy, but it's so well padded and functional I don't feel the weight.

Gregory catalogs this pack in their "Professional" series and says it's for small-frame men or women.  I'm 5'7" and 140 pounds and the medium size pack fits me like a glove.  I've used this pack comfortably with 50 pounds (including pack weight).  I haven't had an occasion to carry more weight so I haven't tried to load it up any more.

Like I said earlier, you will not find a higher-tech pack.  There are 4 main compartments to this bag. The main compartment is accessible via the top and contains a sleeve for the Gregory Mirage Water Bladder (included).  The sleeping bag compartment is accessible via an opening on the back bottom, it is much larger than a sleeping back so I use it to store clothing (it provides you easy access).  The pack has a moderate size compartment accessible via the back, it easily holds a jacket and provides wonderful access to the main compartment via a zipper.  The Top lid stores a large amount of gear and even converts to a very useable fanny pack for summit attempts.

Basically, I've got nothing bad to say about this pack, except it is heavy.  The features are worth the extra weight.

Weight: 7 pounds 4 ounces
Capacity: 5300 cubic inches

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This page last changed 28 May, 2004