In skiing parlance, “the quiver” refers to the skis a person may use depending on the conditions and desired mode of travel. Long and skinny for fast transit across flat areas, short and fat for steep descents in powdery conditions, old skis for “rock skiing”..and many more. The joke is you can not have enough skis.
Only space and money prevent a person from having all the skis they want for a certain condition. Some people collects skis to have them; others get skis because they need them for certain conditions.
In the same way, it is how I approach gear.
At this point, I do enough different activities in all four seasons that the one-size-fits-all approach of three season thru-hiking gear would not work for me.
I could get one pack that does it all..but I must confess that I like having options depending on what I am doing.
Theoretically, a vise grip would be fine for most of the very basic mechanical work I do on my car. But a socket set makes things easier and more efficient.
Also, I don’t like to collect gear. I just want something that works.
So with that in mind, here’s the first entry in what I’ll call The Quiver series.
We’ll start with the basic foundation of most outdoor pursuits: The pack.
Skiing, climbing, hiking or backpacking…you have to haul crap.
And the pack is how you generally do it. You put in your stuff and you take your stuff out.
And here are the packs I found work for carrying my crap.
There is no way I can try all the packs out there. This is not a “best” list. Even if I hiked 365 days a year, I could not give a fair and thorough review of every pack (or shelter, shoe, stove, etc) I could theoretically try out.
Rather, here’s the packs that work for me for various activities. They may or may not be the “best” for you and your needs. All I know is that they work for my needs. My personal definition of a good pack is that I should not notice it when doing “stuff”. Your needs may be different.
If I take the appropriate pack for my chosen activity, one of these packs will work well. And, I emphasize this again: For me.
The day pack: A good day pack is able to take all kinds of abuse. Stuff it in the back of the vehicle for those last minute hikes, haul groceries at times, become a stand-in travel pack, go scrambling up mountains, get stained with fine red sand from desert hiking and serve as an impromptu pad at lunch breaks. All my daypacks end up looking used and abused. After four years of steady use, my Gossamer Gear Type II 26 Summit Pack has a nice patina from use. I expect a few more years of continued use before common decency says it is time to get another one…
The three-season+ pack (solo) and winter day pack: The sturdy, rugged, and all-purpose ULA CDT is used for both my backpacking and winter day use trips. Stripped down it is nineteen ounces. The volume, ease of use, and durability have made the CDT a pack that works well for my off-trail backpacking and for winter day use when I am carrying bulkier gear.
The three-season+ pack (couples): Now that I have a regular backpacking partner and regularly carrying a two-person shelter, I find I need a bigger pack on a regular basis. But I don’t want to carry my larger Catalyst as the trips Joan and I are longer than a five-mile a day type trips I did with a previous partner. So, I went with a ULA Circuit. Removing all the extras, I get it under 2.5 lbs, I can haul lots of water (important in Utah!), have extra room for deep shoulder season gear, and is still light enough for prime-three season hiking. And, like most ULA products, it stands up to the rigor of the off-trail scrambling in canyon country and the ever-abrassive red dirt. An all-purpose purpose pack when I need to carry some non-solo gear.
The workhorse: Winter backpacking? Hut trips? Guiding? I reach for my ULA Catalyst. I’ve written about this pack before. And seven+ years later after starting to use it, I still feel the same way. In brief, the Catalyst is large enough to haul “stuff” and it handles it well. Rated at 40 lbs carrying capacity, I’ve pushed it up to 50 lbs when I’ve hauled hut trip essentials (food and wine of course). I don’t know if 50 lbs carried is ever truly comfortable..but it was certainly comfortable enough for the weight it was hauling.
The everyday utility pack: A discontinued Gossamer Gear Rukus. I used it extensively on my road trip to keep my “office” organized, use it almost every day to pack my lunch, a coat, or a laptop, and take it with me on every outdoor trip. The gear holds the clothing and equipment I’ll use at the trailhead and even for camping, I keep such things as a thermos, a road atlas, etc. when on longer trips now. And when car camping, my ditty bag with toiletries and a headlamp is in the front pocket for easy access. And it is my carry on luggage of choice. Just a useful, rugged, and simple item that I’ve made extensive use of quite a bit since 2014.
The “haul my outdoor crap” pack: A bit of a cheat as it is not truly a pack, but I’ll again mention the flyer’s kit bag. Not a pack per se..but something this inexpensive (less than $30 used), durable, useful and just plain well designed should be mentioned again. Throw all my crap for the trip in it (including most of the packs above, the trip appropriate shoes, a change of clothes, the extra gear and so on) and call it good. Works well as luggage, too (much to my wife’s consternation! For trips to see the family, Mrs. Mags strongly encourages me to not use it. 🙂 ) Where to get this wonderful item sans signing up with Uncle Sam? A military surplus store…online or local.
So that is my quiver of packs. Again, I don’t know if these are the “best” packs, but they work well for me.
( Well, the flyer’s kit bag is THE best duffel bag you can buy in my opinion. Really. 😉 )
Disclaimer: The Gossamer Gear pack was provided to me along with the Six Moon Designs pack. The ULA packs were purchased by me but at a discount price.
I bought my first flyer’s kit bag at a surplus store in Newport, RI in the early 1990s. Mrs Mags made me get rid of that canvas one since it was beat up and stained terribly by the time we moved in together …so I bought another one online, this time in nylon, but still in OD green. She calls this color “that ugly army green you like!” 🙂