Nature (Published on TBNWeekly.com - Nov. 17,
back to nature The narrow mountain road ascended to the peak high
campground wed call our base camp for the next seven days. The twists and
curves made for a slow journey. Underground streams trickled down the sides of the
cliffs over sheer blasted stone from where this road had been carved leading us to
wonder of these ancient paths diverted. A black bear and her cub sauntered onto the
road, perused our dusty Jeep then gave us a gruff huff, turned and disappeared with
her babe into the forest.
Wed planned this trip to the Georgia mountains for months, examining gear,
sealing all seams, weighing in every ounce, as well as conducting additional testing
on weekend jaunts. Here we were; the jeep, our packs stuffed full of gear, the
wilderness and the occasional bear. Gone were the times when we loaded a beat up, old
VW bus with our gear which consisted of a couple of 6-pound Coleman sleeping bags we
had used since Scouts, the scratchy but everlasting, gray wool Army blanket, a rugged
but ever so bulky used Army external frame backpack, a jar of Jiffy peanut butter and
a loaf of Wonder Bread.
Remember those days? Remember how the gears grinded as you drove the bus beyond its
limits on the punishing unpaved back roads. Maybe youre too young to recall
these romantic interludes and perhaps Im showing my age but for those that do
remember, todays decisions for buying gear of the latest, most innovative,
fluffy, lightweight, titanium, Polartec, water repellent, two-poled, extreme hike
gear of today goes way beyond daunting. Last week we discussed, tents. If
you missed it, I will be more than happy to e-mail that to you.
There are nine foremost important considerations: External or internal frame,
weight, size (regular, medium, mens or womens frame), capacity (quoted in
cubic inches), price (can vary from less than $100 to more than $500).
Another consideration is loading: Is there enough room for a long weekends
worth of gear? How difficult is it to load and unload, trail convenience, compartment
design, detachable top lids and fanny packs, pocket arrangement, lashing options,
compression straps, adjustability and fit: Will custom-fitting this pack to your body
require a toolbox or can average humans fine-tune fit on the trail? Does the pack
have fit and size options for people of all shapes and sizes, or is it made for
Mr. Medium only?
Consider comfort: How well will this pack bear up under a full load? Is the harness
and hip belt supportive enough to carry the weight comfortably for days on end? Will
the shoulder straps dig in or slip?
Load control: How much will this pack affect your freedom of movement? Does it work
with you or against you, i.e., elbow clearance, and other ergonomic factors that
effect balance and freedom of movement.
To assess durability, read reviews such as those at Backpacker.com. Did
they rip, snap, unravel, or fall off?
Presently the in pack is the internal frame but it can be very
1) Because it hugs your back it provides for increased stability if you are
participating in steep climbing, river hopping or stalking glaciers;
2) This packs slimmer design and internal frame doesnt get caught on
branches along a tight trail.
1) It is hot against your back with very little to no air movement;
2) The weight is not lifted off your shoulders as with the external frames.
The old fashioned external frame is not old fashioned anymore, with new materials,
Velcro closures, lightweight frame and palatable pricing.
1) This pack will allow you to carry more weight comfortably and lash things onto
2) It is designed away from the back and allows airflow so is a cooler pack.
1) Because of the frame on the outside the load is not as stable and tilts you if
you are leaning while negotiating on icy or slippery surfaces or dangling over
2) The external frame does get caught on low hanging branches on occasion. It is
more comfortably used on wider trails and is great for Florida. My favorite is the
Kelty Trekkor (around $130) and my husbands favorite is the Kelty Tioga (around
Back to Nature is offering this series of columns that gives a partial breakdown
of what weve found in our research on outdoor gear today. In spite of the
ever-changing specs, unending decisions and mounting confusion, let us return you to
just basics and see if we can ease you off road and back to nature once
Karen can be reached at MyMuddyPawsStudio@gmail.com.