Another perfect day in Dolly Sods Wilderness

Another perfect day in Dolly Sods Wilderness
Taken just off the Red Creek Trail/Blackbird Knob Trail Junction

Monday, August 9, 2010

Luxury Lite external frame backpack review

Company web address:
2307 Whitetail Lane
Lake Jackson, Texas 77566
Contact Information:
979-798-2248, ask for Bruce Warren

My stats: I am female, 51 years old, about 5 feet tall, 16.5 inch torso length (torso length not too much of an issue with this pack). I backpack every chance I get. I most generally use an ultralight pack and carry a very light load.
I am looking for a pack that can carry heavier loads, around 25 to 30 pounds for trips that require 5 or more days of food or that require carrying 3 or more liters of water for the day with reasonable load control and stability.

Received about 10 days after ordering. Order was complete. Ordered; stackpack with hook belt, and 3 -18 x 9 inch cylinders, and the front pack. All items received in good condition: No damage, no loose threads, no missing parts. Complete instructions for use, loading and fitting received with pack (these can also be printed from website). I will not describe the pack itself in detail since it can be seen on the website

Initial impression: Nice, high-quality workmanship with attention to detail. Instructions are very clear. Only problem encountered with initial fitting was the top bar smacking me in the back of the head (short torso). This was addressed by creating a "back band" across the vertical bars and padding it with some old closed cell foam pieces so that the "pad" hit be at shoulder level. This kept the top bar from hitting me in the head (pictures to follow). If this works out well, I shall try to come up with a smoother looking arrangement.

Initial use:
Place: Dolly Sods Wilderness (northern part) in West Virginia
Weather: very warm and humid. Rain not predicted.
Terrain: Mostly open, fairly gentle and easy. Only a few moderate uphils/downhills. One stream crossing. A few rocky sections.
Mileage: 9 miles round trip.

Beta: Cylinders open wide and load easily. I was trying to load the pack up fairly heavy, but this is difficult for an ultralight backpacker. I used a bear resistant food canister which I usually do not and I carried all of my dogs gear. This brought the total pack weight up to just over 20 pounds.
Initially, the pack feels kinda different, but after a short while, the scenery made me forget about it.

The pack needs to be packed with the load fairly centered and with the cylinders full so that the pack does not sag sideways. I did initially have an issue with the pack sagging to one side. I was able to tweak this by loosening or tightening the shoulder straps. This solved the issue, but I suspect that a really uncentered load would have to be rearranged in the cylinders.
The pack carry was very stable. This actually was a surprise! I was pleased by how stable the carry was. I was afraid of being thrown off balance as this has occurred before when using other external frame packs.
The pack was not "clunky" to carry. There was plenty of room for every thing.

I packed the bear canister (small Bear Boxer Contender model) in the bottom cylinder and stuffed my SMD Lunar solo tent around it and stuffed small items each end of the cylinder. Next, I folded up a torso length self-inflating pack and pushed it into the back of the middle cylinder. I then rolled up 2 short pieces of 1/4 inch closed cell foam pad and put those in. Next I stuffed my sleeping bag (Western Mountaineering Highlight), sleep clothes and down jacket in this cylinder. The top cylinder was for everything else: camp shoes, camera, dog water bowl, dog tie out leash, water filter and empty 2 liter platypus, Cooking gear, and 1/2 liter of extra water (I did not use the front pack on this trip). This cylinder was not full and I suspect this may have been the source of a lopsided load.

The pack carried very nicely, It was comfortable. The hip belt can be worn high on waist or down low without affecting how the pack rides. It is nice to be able to vary where the hip belt rides. The pack was easy to place on and remove from the hook belt. I did use a small water bottle pack that I use on morning walks to carry water and a few other items. It was able to be buckled in the back without creating a comfort issue with the pack.

I am not sure about using the front pack on terrain that might require being able to see foot placement, but I will use it on "easy" terrain just to see how well it counterbalances the load. I am hoping that the front pack will surprise me, so that I can use it on the Appalachian Trail in southern Shenandoah National Park, since one day will require carrying all needed water for a 12 mile section.
I will add pictures to his review at a later date and will add additional information/problems as needed.

I think this is a pack I can live out of for a week or a season on trail. Nicely done pack.

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