Choosing an Ultralight Backpack to Carry Your Ultralight Load
Now that we have chosen our gear, we will need an ultralight backpack to carry it. We want to continue to make good choices, obtaining what we need without excess in capacity or weight. Experience has taught me that you WILL
fill your pack to capacity. Therefore, we will want to choose the smallest pack that will meet our needs.
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There are three basic types of backpacks, external frame, internal frame and frameless.
The external frame pack has a visable, usually aluminum frame, attached to a fabric sack where your place your gear.
These packs are a less expensive choice. They usually come with a full complement of storage pockets on the outside making getting to your gear easy while on trail. Often, there have straps to attach your sleeping pad or tent on the outside of the pack.
They tend to ride a little away from the back with the majority of the weight carried through the hips and pelvis making them a little cooler to carry. They adjust well to minimize pulling backward on the shoulders.
They tend to have a higher center of gravity, making them a less-than-perfect choice for scrambling over rocks. While least expensive, they tend to be your heaviest choice.
The internal frame is not visable from the outside of the pack. It is metal or plastic and is sandwiched between the layers of pack fabric.
Unlike the external frame, the internal frame pack is designed to hold nearly all of your gear inside. Depending on design, you could perhaps lash your tent to one side of your pack.
The internal frame pack hugs the back and has a lower center of gravity, moving with the hiker. This makes scrambling over unstable ground much easier. Many people find the lower center of gravity of this ultralight backpack more comfortable as it doesn't wobble as you walk.
The ultimate in light weight is the frameless ultralight backpack. This model ranges from a completely frameless sack using straps to hold the gear compressed and in place to a pack containing a couple of metal or plastic stays to hold the pack's shape.
The obvious advantage is decreased weight. The trade-off is a less stable pack that can pull backward on the shoulders and cause pain in the back, especially if trying to carry a load that is too heavy for the pack.
However, since you have chosen your non-consumable gear to be below 12 pounds, you have plenty of room to add the weight of food and water and keep the pack weight below 20 pounds.
How Big is Big Enough? Too Big?
Capacity of an ultralight backpack is measured in cubic inches. What? You don't relate to cubic inches? You don't even remember the formula you learned in high school to calculate cubic inches? Relax, I'll remind you. Cubic inches are calculated by multiplying length x width x height. We will use this formula to estimate what size back you will need.
1) Take all of the gear that you will be carrying on your hike (including food and water) and pile it in the floor.
2) Remove the clothes that you will be wearing on the trail, any water bottle that you will carry outside of your pack, your boots, socks, gloves, and hat.
3) Find a rigid container to contain the pile. You can use a plastic tote or even a cardboard box. Place the remaining pile of gear into the box and press to compress firmly but not hard. Mark the container at the top of the gear.
4) Remember that formula? Now, measure the width and length of the container as well as the height that you marked. Multiply these three numbers together. You now have an estimate of the size pack you will need in cubic inches.
This is only an estimate because your pack will load or stuff differently than your container did. However, this gives you a very good starting point
And There You Have It
Carefully choosing your gear, followed by selecting the lowest capacity ultralight backpack that fits your needs will result in a light load and, hopefully, many happy miles on the trail.
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