The following content is comprised of personal opinions, and in no way reflects the opinions of the Peace Corps or the U.S. Government.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Scotland Gear: The Rucksack

In the next few posts I will be outlining the gear I will come to rely on when crossing Scotland on the TGO Challenge.

The Rucksack:

This essential piece of equipment has many different names, including rucksack, backpack, and campbag. Regardless of what you call it, it serves the same function; to protect you gear while making it all easily portable. Many years ago, almost all packs (the term I use most frequently) were built with little thought to not only weight, but also their ability to repel water. The fabric was heavy, although tough, and included many things that would be considered outrageous by almost anyone today.

When the lightweight and ultralight movements started (partly because of one company discussed a little later on here), we started to see the use of special nylons and polyethylene fibers. Soon, companies we 'impregnating' nylon with silicone, making it super strong and still rather light. The problem, however, is that the stronger the fabric, the heavier it is (generally). This is where Dyneema® gridstop nylon come into play. Although Dyneema is not fully waterproof, this allows the fabric to be breathable, allowing the wet air to escape. Dyneema is so light, in fact, that it will actually float on water. The fabric itself is also chemical and UV resistant. We've proven it's light, but how strong is it? Consider this: armed forces around the world use it as a bullet resistant insert, mainly because its twice as strong as Kevlar by weight.

Because of its high strength and low weight, GoLite has started building their packs out of Dyneema-reinforced 210 denier (medium/light-weight) ripstop nylon. In my opinion, Golite's quality is most evident in their Pinnacle pack.

Weighing in at a maximum 0f 26 oz, the Pinnacle (pictured at right packed full) is one of the largest packs by volume to weigh in as an ultra-light. With a maximum fill of 72 liters (4400 cubic inches), I will never have to worry about not having room. In fact, I chose this pack specifically for this trip because of its large capacity. With a no resupply at all I will need to carry 14 days worth of food. With nearly 28 oz per day, that's 24.5 POUNDS OF FOOD, which is far more than the average bag can hold, weight or volume-wise.

Another reason I chose this bag was the front pocket. While not too large, it is large enough to stash all my maps in, allowing for easy access when needed. Although I will still have to take off the pack, I won't have to go digging through everything inside the main compartment to find them. And with 8 different maps, I will be switching almost once a day. In addition to convenience, the pocket also has a light-weight zipper that is fully waterproof. This will allow me to put one more barrier between the rain and my only navigational resources.
You'll also notice in the picture on the left that the Pinnacle has a very bare-bones suspension system. There's a saying that the first place you should be ok with adding weight to is the suspension system on your pack. A good suspension can make a 40 pound weight fell like 20. I spent at least two hours in the store with this pack, trying it on and checking the straps. Here's a rundown of why this system works:

-The flat part you see at left is due to a foam insert that acts as the frame.At only 2 oz, its worth keeping in (I feel), and it's essential in order to keep things from shifting while walking and poking you in the back.

-The shoulder straps are padded from seam to seam. Although this adds a little weight, that's negated by not needing padding in the hip belt. There are also straightener straps that keep the top of the pack from tilting you backwards.

-The hip belt's main (and only) function is to keep the bottom of the pack nice and close, which improves your balance. While some hip belts will distribute a good amount of weight on your hips, I feel this not only hinders my natural stride, but is also unnecessary for weights under 40 pounds. I can, however, lower the pack a little and place a small amount of the weight onto my lumbar region for a short duration of time.

Another main problem I face is that once I near the end of the journey, I will have a lot less in my pack due to the consumption of food. One of the most annoying things a hiker can be forced to endure is the contents of his/her pack sloshing around because of empty space. Not with the Pinnacle, however! GoLite has invented a ComPACKtor system that incorporates two small compression straps on each side of the pack, allowing me to reduce it from 72 liters to only 26 liters. That means no matter how much is in my pack, I will be comfortable knowing nothing is sloshing around!

In short, this pack is both durable and light, the two main features I need. While I have not fully tested it in the field (kind of hard in snow and ice), I am prepared to invest my full confidence in this pack. I am comfortable saying I have faith this piece of gear will only aid me in all my endeavors.

-Shawn Grund

1 comment:

  1. Great job on the research Shawn. Yes, you are truly a Porath Planner!