Retro or Nouveau?
A month ago I had the opportunity to try out a pack that is not very well known
outside the lightweight community. It has been the subject of many contentious discussions
and reviews. This pack has been used successfully by a large number of long trail
thru hikers and other supporters. When Bruce Warren accidentally threw a bunch of
his used LuxuryLite Modular Packs up for sale on his website, I couldn't resist.
These packs go for $450 Cdn minimum new! They were all gone within several hours.
At first glance the LuxuryLite Modular pack looks like a bare bones external pack,
and an uncomfortable and aesthetically displeasing one at that! Like many things
in life, one has to look a little deeper and what first appears to be quite simple
is not all it seems. The pack materials are all high tech making it extremely light
(878g or 31oz). Even so, it is a strong pack capable of holding loads of up to 200
lbs without breaking although weights of around 30lbs are recommended. The telescoping
frame is a mixture of carbon fiber and aluminum. The gear compartments/cylinders
are made from your choice of X-Pac fabrics - tough light, and utterly waterproof.
The suspension system relies on all of the pack weight being supported by your hips
with a surprisingly simple yet comfortable conforming waist belt. There are no zippers
on this pack and all waist belt adjustments are made with Velcro strip, which holds
the belt loop anchor. Everything has been kept as simple as possible to minimize
the chances of breakage in the field and to keep the weight down.
OK, enough with all the techy details, let's talk about how it really works and
feels! I admit to being dubious at first but I was attracted to the LuxuryLite's
weight and modular capabilities. In fact this isn't the first pack I have used where
I can remove or add elements to the pack. Before I go too much further I'd better
add that this pack is intended for trail use and not for those who want something
for off trail and alpine travel. It's designed to be worn loose around the shoulders,
which makes it unsuitable for climbing or scrambling.
I liked the LuxuryLite Modular pack, I really did! It isn't my favorite pack but
it's better than many I have used before. The hip belt was extremely comfortable,
even on a big guy with no waist like me! There was sufficient space between my back
and the frame of the pack to keep my back dry, which is a problem I often have with
many internal frame packs. I loved that I could make adjustments to the telescoping
frame and the straps without needing to stop. On the negative side, I had to unlearn
some packing techniques I have used in many internal frame packs because of the
round shape of the gear cylinders. I also had to get used to the sway of the pack
as I moved but I soon developed a rhythm. I could see the potential of having loads
shift within the gear cylinders but I haven't experienced it.
If you are planning any long extended trips on trail systems like the PCT, this
might be a good pack to consider, especially with all of its optional add-on features.
If you are a person who never intends to go out for more than weekends, the price
of this pack may be prohibitive.
Recently there has been a lot of chatter on various internet hiking forums amongst
people looking for more luxurious camp chairs without sacrificing the weight of
the traditional alternatives such as the Therm-a-Rest Lounge Chair Conversion kits
by Cascade Designs. There are a variety of these "sling chairs" on the market being
suggested as possible substitutes, which are a cross between a hammock and a lounge
chair and are designed to get you up off the cold ground. The popularity of this
chair amongst some Sierra hiking groups has left me a little curious. In fact, I
am always on the lookout for something smaller and lighter that I can use to lounge
around the fire in on my annual winter backpacking beach trips.
This winter I ordered a GCI Outdoor Trail-Sling Ultralight Chair (available locally)
and it looked promising. These sling chairs can vary in price from $20 Cdn to as
high as $110 Cdn depending on the brand.
The chair was light(972 g.) and it folded into a compact package. The company claimed
that it was made of a robust aluminum alloy frame that would support a maximum of
275 lbs. What more could you ask for? Unfortunately, my hopes were dashed when I
discovered that not only would the chair not support my weight, but I seriously
doubted that this chair could take my son's 75 lbs! The company also claimed that
the chair offered a comfortable back support - perfect after a long day of outdoor
activities! To my dismay I found the chair back to be horribly uncomfortable. In
my opinion this chair might even injure your back and it is so awkward to get up
out of that you practically have to fall off it to dismount.
Last weekend I took this chair to a group campout so that a variety of people could
give their opinions on it. One of the major beefs they had with the chair was that
it was too complicated and took too long to set up. The second complaint came as
no surprise, it was uncomfortable!
Since other company's sling chairs are similar in design(indeed another company's
product warns the user of the need for agility and good knees), I don't think I
have the backbone to investigate this avenue of luxurious comfort any further without
consultation with a good physiotherapist.