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Old 01-26-2012, 09:37 PM
Dtrap Dtrap is offline
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My brother was in the army infantry for 8 years and spent almost 6 deployed in Iraq or Afganistan and used many packs in that time including kifaru, mystery ranch, and eberlstock. He used them hard putting hundreds of miles on them in harsh terrain and and abused them along the way. He has told me many times that by far the best carrying and well built pack of all was the mystery ranch. He swears by them and still has a few. He said the comfort level is second to none especially with a heavy load.
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Old 01-27-2012, 11:17 AM
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Dan McHale of McHale packs in Seattle makes by far the best packs in the world! I've used dozens of different pack the last thirty years hiking and nothing comes close to my McHale packs.

Google McHale packs and expand your world.
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Old 01-27-2012, 09:51 PM
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Dan McHale of McHale packs in Seattle makes by far the best packs in the world! I've used dozens of different pack the last thirty years hiking and nothing comes close to my McHale packs.

Google McHale packs and expand your world.
These look like nice packs but offer no Molly webbing and would not hold up to military use.
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Old 01-28-2012, 11:39 AM
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These look like nice packs but offer no Molly webbing and would not hold up to military use.
What is "military use" and how is it different from the abuse that folks not in the military might give a pack? Are you in the military? What pack do you use?

I don't know Dan, and don't profess to speak for him, but I would imagine if you called and talked to him about your specific molle needs, he might oblige you. Of course, it's a moot point for the OP as he stated a $200 budget. McHale packs are pretty expensive.

Personally, I haven't had too much problem adding a few molle straps to most any pack that I really liked and wanted to use. It's not hard to sew a few straps on. And having bought a molle covered pack thinking it might be useful in a SHTF kinda situation, I have since decided that it's probably not. Molle where you need it is more important than covering a pack with molle. And all those unused straps add up to dead weight. The only advantage I could see for having the entire pack covered was that it was fun to play with and reorganize pouches and such. But when it came to moving out, I generally removed everything that wasn't needed. And ended up only using a couple or three attachment points.

The waist belts are the exception. All waist belts should have molle on them.

Az
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Old 01-28-2012, 11:36 PM
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I highly dought that anybody would just throw their back country pack around without care at all. Paying no attention to where it lands or drag it for many yards on a regular basis. In the military when your being shot at and you and your friends lives are on the line caring for your pack is not exactly a concern. So yes I would say that in most cases military used packs are far more abused than the average backpacking pack. When was the last time you were out camping carrying 35-45lbs or more and you dragged your pack across a gravel road or just took it off and threw it into a ditch. I'd say pretty easily that there is no comparison. Those packs simply would not hold up or you would see them in use already.
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Old 01-28-2012, 11:46 PM
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The OP also stated later on that he was just going to save up a bit longer and spend more money and that is why the higher quality packs came into the discussion. I currently have no need for such packs and carry a camel back trizip which is for the most part a mystery ranch design. The technology and reasherch and design put into these high end packs are unsurpassed and are not standard issue to the troops. They pick and choose these packs based on the results they get from extensive hard use.
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Old 01-29-2012, 02:42 AM
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The Mchale packs are no doubt excellent packs, but wouldn't suit me. I'll spend more money for a great pack if i get added versatility, but i already have a top shelf 'ultralite' pack. The crew cab has the toughness of a military grade pack which is what i want in a BOB. It also has the ability to cart large loads if needed so if i wanted to chuck in a big bag of rice/jerry can of water/kangaroo or whatever it can do that too.
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Old 01-29-2012, 09:32 AM
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I highly dought that anybody would just throw their back country pack around without care at all. Paying no attention to where it lands or drag it for many yards on a regular basis. In the military when your being shot at and you and your friends lives are on the line caring for your pack is not exactly a concern. So yes I would say that in most cases military used packs are far more abused than the average backpacking pack. When was the last time you were out camping carrying 35-45lbs or more and you dragged your pack across a gravel road or just took it off and threw it into a ditch. I'd say pretty easily that there is no comparison. Those packs simply would not hold up or you would see them in use already.
While you're right, you're not seeing the other side of the coin. Military equipment is definitely treated poorly on a regular basis. So yes, it has to be tough. You've got people that simply don't care, or situations where gently setting your gear down is the last thing on your mind.

However, a certain percentage of civilian gear is used a great deal longer, and a great deal more than military gear is generally deployed. One hike of the AT is 4-5 months of day in, day long use over 2000 miles of being carried, dropped, tossed into pickup trucks, falling down mountains, getting rained on, snowed on, frozen, burnt, covered in sweat, sap, bird droppings, skunk spray and assorted other woodland goo.

Let me tell you a story of two packs. This is a true story about 2 guys that hiked the AT. One of them carried a mid priced (around $160) typical civilian pack, the other a milsurp pack that cost ~$40. Both men were about the same age, size, and general condition. The loads were similar in that they were both far too heavy at times, and just really heavy at other times.

After about 500-600 miles, there were some issues with the packs. The civilian pack had a zipper that was sticky and a pin that had fallen out of the frame allowing one corner of the pack to flap a little bit. A bit of bailing wire stopped the flapping. The milsurp pack had turned out to be mildly uncomfortable, causing neck and back pains, muscle spasms, and sore skin in contact areas. The guy with the milsurp pack cut a piece of foam from his sleeping pad, and duct taped it to one of the contact areas. He also got tired of re-tensioning the waist belt straps every day, as it required quite a bit of strength to get them really tight. He installed some safety pins on the opposite side of the tension buckle to help prevent the strap from slipping through the buckle and loosening. It didn't eliminate the problem, but it helped a lot.

About 200 miles later, a piece of the frame on the milsurp pack came off. It was a cross member that held the waist strap tension, and it probably broke from being constantly retensioned and of course it was stressed every time a step was taken, (or maybe it was from falling down that mountain?) so a rivet fatigued and let go. Repairs were made with bailing wire and duct tape to continue hiking. Both hikers headed into a small town and sought out repairs. The milsurp pack was easily repaired at the hardware store at very little cost. The rivet was replaced by a stainless self threading screw. In fact, it looked so much stronger, the other rivets on both crossmembers were replaced as a preventative measure. The old guy in the hardware store was very helpful and allowed the use of a screwdriver and a drill to effect repairs. Cost was about .25 per screw. The other guy found an outdoor store that had replacement pins for the one that went missing. They were 4 for a buck or so. So the spares were packed in case it happened again. The zipper was still broken, but as a workaround, the pocket only contained things that were not needed on a regular basis, and safety pins were used to hold the pocket shut.

The two marched on.

Up north, the terrain became quite rocky, and the lower center of gravity of the milsurp pack was an advantage. However, the rubbing on the skin of the lower back had turned into an open sore and was infected. The higher center of gravity of the civvy pack had caused it to get caught on some rocks and tree branches, and there was some damage to the top of the pack. Both fellas took several tumbles, and there were all kinds of abrasions to pack cloth, and nicks and dents in frames. But both packs were serviceable.

By the time they reached Maine, both packs looked like hell. In fact, both hikers, and every bit of their equipment looked like hell. Boots were coming apart, clothes were destroyed, stoves were black, dented, and covered in goo that was a combination of mud, food, and fuel. Tents and tarps had holes and rips, socks were full of holes, knives were dull, maps were tattered. And everything smelled faintly of skunk, sweat, and dirt. The hikers themselves had fared well enough. The oozing sore had mostly healed and was no longer infected. Feet were hard and calloused, and both men were 30 lbs underweight. But they both made it.

On the way back home, they stopped in VA for a hiker rally. It was mostly an excuse to extend their adventure a bit more, but it was also an excuse to eat enormous amounts of food and drink enormous amounts of beer. At the rally, there were several vendors of outdoor equipment, including the maker of the civvy pack. The guy with the civvy pack took it over to the booth to see if they could fix the zipper. The guy at the booth, who was the VP of the company said sure, come back tomorrow.

He returned the next day, and the VP told him that he had some bad news. He could not fix everything on the pack because it was too badly damaged so he offered a new pack in exchange. The hiker said he'd really rather have the old pack since that was the one that he hiked the trail with, and he'd just buy a new pack for future hikes if necessary. The VP smiled and said he thought he might say that. He handed over the guy's old pack. The zipper replaced, the straps replaced, all the tears expertly patched, and the pack washed and deodorized. In addition, if the hiker wanted, he could buy another at a greatly reduced price to be considered a replacement. There was no cost for the repairs of the old pack.

Both packs were used for hiking later on, and both packs are still around here somewhere, as both of those guys were me. The first time I hiked the AT, I carried an ALICE pack. It had it's advantages. It was tough, and it made the whole trail. I did see several packs that did not. It had a low center of gravity which made it more stable on river crossings, bushwhacking, and technical climbing. However, the low center of gravity also hurt, as it put a great deal of the pack's weight on my shoulders causing all kinds of issues with neck pain, back pain and muscle spasms. The sore on my back was caused by the absolutely horrid waistbelt design, and nearly took me off the trail... and probably should have. But I was young, stubborn and stupid and pressed on.

The civvy pack was an Osprey. It was very comfortable, although the external frame design was not one that I enjoyed. It was too tall, too unstable, too wide, etc for easily moving over rough terrain. However, it was so much more comfortable, it was worth it. And I still have it, and it's still covered by the company warranty, which states they'll replace it if they can't repair it.

I own a lot of packs now. All internal frame designs as they fit more closely to the body and make maneuvering much easier. I have a newer Osprey which is my go to pack for just about everything as it is the most comfortable pack I own.

The moral of the story is that while milsurp may be tough, there are civilian designs that are nearly, or just as tough. And several manufacturers have a lifetime warranty, so there's no need to get to wrapped up in how bulletproof a pack is, as long as it's well built.You are very unlikely to wear out a well built civilian pack in your lifetime. And even if you do, you can get a new one. And while the reliability gap between milsurp and civvy might be close, the comfort level is miles apart.

So if you read this far, take a tip from someone who has worn out packs. Get a pack that's light, comfortable, tough, and easy to carry. Don't buy a milsurp pack just because it's cheap and rationalize the purchase by saying it'll last forever. Because if you use it, it won't last forever. And if you use it, you'll appreciate being comfortable.

Az
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Old 01-29-2012, 09:44 AM
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The Mchale packs are no doubt excellent packs, but wouldn't suit me. I'll spend more money for a great pack if i get added versatility, but i already have a top shelf 'ultralite' pack. The crew cab has the toughness of a military grade pack which is what i want in a BOB. It also has the ability to cart large loads if needed so if i wanted to chuck in a big bag of rice/jerry can of water/kangaroo or whatever it can do that too.
I remember seeing a modern packboard design on the web recently. I think it was Australian or New Zealander. I don't recall the name. But it had a modern suspension system that was designed to carry large, bulky objects with as much comfort as you could expect. And in the meantime, it wouldn't be hard to attach some sort of bag to it to carry smaller items.

Otherwise, something like the Eberlestock might be good. They have several packs that can be used with a cargo shelf that can be used to haul anything. Tough packs, reasonably comfortable, designed to haul heavy, bulky loads...

They're not cheap though.

Az
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Old 01-29-2012, 02:50 PM
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I never suggested a cheap pack. I'm a firm believer in getting what you pay for. I'm not sure what you are arguing but I'm confident that my even on the trail as you described it that todays best military packs would withstand the abuse and keep on going as well. I stated that my brother has a few mystery ranch packs that have been through hell with almost no problems at all. From the caves and dense pine forests of Pech Valley in Afghanista to the deserts and urban warfare of Iraq and never had a zipper or suspension system fail. They are still his go to packs today. I would not have recommended them with out knowing their capabilities. I know that hikers also use packs hard but still tend to better care for their stuff so their 2000 miles is little, I'm my experience, compared to the thousands of miles and daily use of the military designed packs. Both mystery ranch, kifaru, and eberlestock have packs also designed specifically for backcountry work as well not just ,as you say, cheap milsurp packs. Just my 2 cents. Take it or leave it.
PapaWiskyBravo you will have to choose the pack that best fits your needs and I was just offering up my opinion based on what I like for what you described. everyones needs vary based on your intended use of said pack and those exact needs should lead you to the pack that is the best compromise of cost, reliability, and function. Good luck with your decision and let us know what you end up deciding on.
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Old 01-29-2012, 04:05 PM
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I started with the osprey kestrel 48 and have since upgraded/changed to the camelbak bfm. Here are my thoughts on those two

Starting with the osprey...great pack, well built and tons of room. Love the adjustable harness and the waist belt was nice and comfy. The main pouch had enough room for a two person tent, sleeping bag and tons of other stuff. Why I changed was the lack of additional pouches and the ability to add pouches (I.e molle). I also love the ice ax loops on it (holds a tomahawk pretty dang well. The rain fly is a nice touch as well. I recommend this pack, and still have mine.

However, the bfm fit the bill for me. 100 oz bladder, molle, and lots of room. Less room than the osprey, but still enough for my needs (didnt need a 6lb tent in my bob anyway). The backing is nice and padded and the hip belt is too. Only complaint is no molle on the waist belt. I wanted more of a large 3 day pack than a backpacking pack so needless to say I'm really happy with it (wife after I bought it not so much). may add a ice ax loop and some molle webbing to the waist band, but all in all a great piece of kit. Another great thing is all the pockets and there's two internal organizer pockets that work great for random stuff.

Somebody recommended maxpedition. I am a huge fan of maxpedition stuff, but not a huge fan of their packs. Have one of their versipacks as a duty bag, which works great. Their actual packs are high quality, but seem to be generally poorly thought out. I'm also not a huge fan of the single strap for a larger pack, which is part of my issue.

Price wise, neither the osprey nor the bfm are cheap, but then again you pay for the quality. I try not to beat the crap out of my stuff if I don't need to, but I think the codura on the bfm will probably hold up better. Just my experience and thoughts.
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Old 01-29-2012, 04:52 PM
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I'm not sure what you are arguing but I'm confident that my even on the trail as you described it that todays best military packs would withstand the abuse and keep on going as well.
Yes, but they won't be as comfortable. I know relative comfort is subjective, and well...relative. That's why I offered my experience. Take it for what it's worth, or not. Happy trails either way!

Az
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Old 01-29-2012, 04:58 PM
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I believe the comfort level of the new military style packs are equally as comfortable as any hiking pack that money can buy. Take it for what is worth or not. It doesn't seem to me you have any much experience with the newer military packs to say which would be more comfortable. I have used both types of packs and prefer the mystery ranch specifically for the comfort.
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Old 01-29-2012, 05:57 PM
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I believe the comfort level of the new military style packs are equally as comfortable as any hiking pack that money can buy. Take it for what is worth or not. It doesn't seem to me you have any much experience with the newer military packs to say which would be more comfortable. I have used both types of packs and prefer the mystery ranch specifically for the comfort.
Like I said, it's relative.

I own an ILBE as well. It's not bad, but it doesn't compare to the lighter and more comfortable civvy packs I own. It's also way too big for what I carry into the bush. Even in the dead of winter, I can't fill that thing halfway up. It's designed for young men going into battle, and I'm an old man going on vacation.

I also own an Arc'Teryx civilian pack, (they're the company that designed the ILBE, review found here) and it's darned good as well.

Az
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Old 01-29-2012, 06:02 PM
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Like I said, it's relative.

I own an ILBE as well. It's not bad, but it doesn't compare to the lighter and more comfortable civvy packs I own. It's also way too big for what I carry into the bush. Even in the dead of winter, I can't fill that thing halfway up. It's designed for young men going into battle, and I'm an old man going on vacation.

I also own an Arc'Teryx civilian pack, (they're the company that designed the ILBE) and it's darned good as well.

Az
I whole heartedly agree. It really is relative. I own Mystery Ranch, Osprey, Gregory, Dana design, Arc'Teryx and a host of others. And even on the type of trip I take "comfort" is a relative term. Now when I am going into something heavy and need the ability to carry some serious lbs then it is Mystery Ranch all the way. But if I am going on a dayhike or a 2 day trip in the summer of FL, I go with Osprey. Different "Types" of comfort.
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