Ask Me: Which Big Backpack Do You Recommend?
I purchased a Mountainsmith Apex 80 before I knew anything about buying packs. I love the pack, but I recently ended up carrying 45 lbs. for the first time, and the pack refused to stay on my hips. I took it into my local REI and it turns out the pack is too large for me. My torso is 17 inches and the pack starts at 18 inches. I have read through every backpack review on your site (they were very informative) and have narrowed down my replacements, and would like your advice. The three on my list are: Gregory Baltoro 75, Osprey Aether 70/85 (the Xenith only fits torsos starting at 18), and the Deuter Act 75+10. I need the larger pack as the scout troop my son is with does multi-day trips, and we end up carrying all the stuff the boy’s parents over-packed (plus I’m not experienced enough yet to be able to pack myself perfectly).
The employee at the REI store really pushed the Deuter. He said he has been using one for years and loves it. The torso and the hipbelt fit me (I’m a 32 waist—so I’d need the small pack, but medium hipbelt for the Gregory and Osprey), plus the Deuter is a hundred dollars cheaper. But I’m afraid. Cheaper doesn’t always mean worse; but in packs it can. I want comfort, and will be willing to save a little longer and pay for it. I would rather spend $350 now, rather than spend $220 two or three times because I made a bad choice. I want this to be my last multi-day pack (for the time being it will have to double duty on short trips as well), so your thoughts would be much appreciated.
Thanks for following The Big Outside. Good question. I have not used the Mountainsmith Apex 80, though I have used other Mountainsmith packs. (I have an 18-inch torso.) I’ve reviewed at this blog the updated Gregory Baltoro 75 and reviewed previous versions of it and the Osprey Aether series packs for Backpacker magazine (the trekker on the right in lead photo above is carrying an Osprey Aether 60 in Norway’s Jotunheimen National Park), and have reviewed a smaller version of the Deuter ACT 75+10 at The Big Outside, the ACT 50+15. I’ve also reviewed the Osprey Xenith 88 (the women’s version is the Xena 85), also an excellent pack for really heavy loads.
You’re choosing among three packs that are all the flagship backpacking packs for those companies, so the distinctions between them are fine, and you’re not likely to be disappointed with any one of them (as long as the pack fits you well). But I’ll tell you what I think differentiates them.
Check out my review of the updated Baltoro 75 and women’s Deva 70 with a suspension that I think makes it the best choice if you’re going to be carrying 50 pounds or more consistently. Being designed for big loads also means it’s more than a pound heavier than the Osprey Aether 70 or the Deuter ACT 75+10, so it feels like a bigger, heavier pack.
The Aether 70 and ACT 75+10 are both excellent packs that will carry 40 to 45 pounds comfortably, and the Osprey perhaps a little more weight than that (though that comes down to a person’s strength and other issues more about your body than the pack). I would give the edge to the Aether 70 for comfort with a load that size, because it has a good, supportive, well-padded hipbelt that’s heat-moldable for a customized fit.
But they’re both very good packs if that’s the weight range you intend to load into the pack, and both, to my mind, feel noticeably lighter than the Gregory, if that matters to you. They have nearly identical external features in terms of pockets and straps, including a stretchy, front pocket, whereas the Baltoro 75 has a zippered front pocket that’s more durable and secure. The Gregory and Deuter have removable lid pockets that double as a fanny pack. You’ve probably looked at the features of all of them, but my point is that picking those comes down to personal preference.
Would I go with the less-expensive pack? If money was my biggest concern and I didn’t intend to load more than about 40 to 45 pounds into the pack, I’d go with the Deuter. If you expect to haul heavier loads, I’d go with either the Osprey or the Gregory—especially the Gregory for 50+ pounds.
Lastly, before spending that kind of money, I would definitely load up each pack with your gear in the store and walk around wearing each one. By using each one even for an hour—loading, unloading, and wearing it—you’ll notice little differences that either please or annoy you about each pack and will help you make a decision that you feel good about.
I hope that helps answer your question. Good luck.
“5 Tips For Buying the Right Backpack,” which includes instructions on measuring your torso.
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Thanks so much for your expertise. After trying all three on at the local REI store (I was measured in two separate REI stores, and they came up with different measurements—one was 17 inches and the other was 18, so I was told to go with the shorter of the two) the Aether and the Baltoro felt better with 45 lbs. in them. So I narrowed it down to those two. The medium Baltoro on the lower setting with the medium belt felt very comfortable. The Aether felt really good, too, but the pivoting hip belt on the Baltoro was a difference maker, and I’m leaning towards that one.
I’m still going to try them again before I actually purchase one in the spring, and also try on the small Baltoro with a medium hipbelt (I didn’t have the time when I was there the other day) just to make sure the medium is right for me. Since I don’t plan on doing thru-hikes on the AT, I can deal with the extra weight of the Baltoro—especially if it means comfort for the last few hours of a hike (you know the boys don’t get tired until you’re tired, too). And even if I don’t end up having to carry a monster load, the Baltoro felt like it was floating with only 35 lbs. in it.
Thanks Again for your advice.
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