Monday, August 11, 2014

Packs: My turn.

Since I think everyone else has talked about their packs or their hunt for a good/better pack, I guess it's my turn.

I have two packs that I use: a hiking pack and a trail pack.  Yes, I said trail pack, as in the backpacks you'd use for on the Appalachian Trail or the Pacific Crest Trail.  I don't do the whole tacti-cool, "oh this pack is soooo perfect for bugging out, it's from (5.11, Maxpedition, etc.)" thing. Yes, their gear may be "OMG teh awesome!", but they're also expensive as hell. Their packs -- forgive me guys, but I don't plan on being nice here -- are assembly line packs.

Don't get me wrong, their stuff is pretty freaking awesome... but they're all built, despite the different size ranges, with a "one size fits all" kind of approach. While that may be the most efficient way to manufacture items to appeal to the broadest range of humanity, the fact remains that humans aren't widgets.

I'm a 5'9", very slender woman (How slender?  Let's just say one of my nicknames is "Elfling" and leave it at that) with a narrow frame. Most packs are way, way, WAY too wide for me. Even the smallest of the "fashionably cool" bags end up looking like the rucksacks they give to "light" cavalry troops when I put them on.

Trail Pack

I spent a good two years hunting for a pack before I finally found this one here on the right.  Meet my bug out bag, a Teton Scout 3400.

"That's a backpacking pack, Evelyn."

YEAP!  This is my camping pack, my bug out bag, my trail pack.  I don't do that whole "I need a separate pack for every little thing" jazz.  I don't have the money, the time, or the patience for that kind of nonsense. If you have the money to waste on a pack specifically for bugging out when you have a camping pack that you are used to hauling for long treks and that you know inside and out... then you, my friend, aren't prepping right.  That $100 to $350 you just threw down the drain could have been used to buy better shelves for your bug-in preps, fix something on your vehicle that you've been putting off,  laying in more stores of bottled water and canned meat, etc.

As an aside to the women out there: buy trail packs that are designed for your bodies rather than "tactical" bags that are designed for men. If anyone gets on your case about your bag not being tactical enough, just pat them on the head and say "That's nice, but this is what works for me and, more importantly, it's comfortable."

I have to confess that, sadly, this pack has done more in helping me move than actual hiking, but it's held up beautifully either way. However, a drawback of using a pack you use for camping is that they do wear out. After six years of having this Teton Scout 3400,  it finally had a failure.

About two, three weeks ago, my fiancĂ© and I took our gear out on a shakedown. Six minutes into the hike, I was miserable from not being able to feel my right arm and in a decent amount of pain. One of the nylon webbing straps on my left shoulder had given on out, leaving the weight of the pack unevenly distributed.  (See exhibit A, left.)

Four minutes later, we ended up dropping the packs at our campsite and exploring with just our vest gear. Fast forward to today, with the fiancĂ© wanting to go on another shakedown trip soon.

Making Repairs

Now, I decided that I was going to fix this pack as I don't have the money or inclination to find a new pack. I'd rather not go through the aggravation of trying on pack after pack after pack, and finding that they are too long, too short, or too wide.

Quilting thread is the paracord/duct tape of the sewing world. Seriously.  I have one spool in every major color and there have been several times where I've had to hem pants or other clothes.  Yes, it's all by hand (I don't have the space for a sewing machine).  My biggest concern was whether or not I would have a sewing needle thick enough and strong enough to handle going through the actual shoulder strap in order to fix the webbing. Thankfully, the answer was "yes."

"But what if you didn't have one?"

Ah, see all these lovely buckle-wears, bungees and straps?  Had I not been able to fix the pack, all her parts would have been cannibalized into their separate components and pieces. I would have ended up with several yards of nylon webbing, at least six buckles of various sizes, several D-rings and two bungee cords, along with the top part which I'm fairly certain I could turn into a small pack or hip pack.

Which would leave me with several spare bits and pieces that I could use to fix any problems on any new pack I would need to purchase.

Now, fixing the strap was the most basic sewing that I could do.  However, due to it giving out, I indulged my paranoia a little bit and put three strips of stitching on the strap.  Then I checked the right shoulder.  That stitching looked okay, but I still put a second line of stitches just to be safe.  Voila! My pack is back to functioning again.

Hiking Pack

Now, I did mention that I also have a hiking rig.  This would be it on the right.

"That looks tactical, Evelyn!"

It's about as tactical as a pair of jeans. I needed a water bladder pack and Big 5 (an outdoor supply store here in L.A.) had this for $30.  It's seen more action than my big pack.  This pack still looks huge on me, just not as badly as other bags have. It's got the perfect number of pockets and MOLLE on it.  I have it set up for day hikes right now, but in all honestly, I could easily use this as a get-home bag.  It's big enough and sturdy enough to hold a good three or four days worth of food and water.

There is space at the bottom of the pack to put a sleeping pad and a bivvy sack if I wanted to, and the pack accommodates even the larger water bladders.

You see, you don't need the next big thing in packs. You don't need five, six, or seven packs.  You only need a few, depending on where you keep them.  Dual-purposing your gear will save you time, money and frustration. I know it has for me.

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