Having spent a year inside the industry and years of in-the-field experience w/ different types of packs, I'll give you my $0.03.  Before specific pack recommendations I'll give you general points. 

First and foremost: pack fit!  Some packs, like Lowe Alpine, Kelty, et al., are one-size-fits-all.  They generally have a large range of adjustment for their packs' torso length.  Other packs, like Gregory, Osprey, et al. come in different sizes (eg., sm, md, lg), with narrower torso fit ranges.  These latter packs tend to be a little bit better fitting, since they are more specifically sized to the individual wearer.  Wait, what's torso length?  It's the length of your spine measured from the top of your hips to your C7 vertebra.  You'll need a friend and measuring tape to measure it yourself.  First, find the top of your hipbone directly beneath your armpits (roughly where your love handles may or may not be).  Have your friend find the point on your spine at this level - IOW, if you had a line from left to right tops of hipbone, where that line would intersect with your spine.  Then, drop your chin to your chest and feel around the back of your neck for that big knob at the base of your neck/top of your back (that's your C7).  Measure the distance between said knob and the point on your spine level with the top of your hips, and you've got your torso length.  Knowing this number will permit you to find the right size pack from any pack company.  BTW, it's completely separate from height!  I know people who are 5'8", 6', and 6'3", and they all have an 18" torso length.  Torso length, NOT height determines whether you need a SM, MD, or LG pack.  If you are right on the divide between to sizes drop down to the smaller size!  Phew!  That was a lot.  Sorry, but it really is the most important thing about packs.

Next, what type of pack to buy?  I avoid ski-specific packs b/c they tend to be less versatile and heavier.  I want something I can use for skiing, and hikes and climbs in non-snow seasons.  I also want something bomber.  Ski edges wear out packs!  Nor do I want my pack to fail me when I'm in the backcountry.  Climbing packs tend to be good, because they're bomber, yet simple, and often lightweight, to boot.  TEO mentioned an MEC Crag pack that just had a webbing hipbelt.  For 30 liters on up, I want a real pack suspension: (relatively) stiff, padded hipbelt, and an internal frame (stiff plastic and/or aluminium stay(s)).  This transfers the weight to your hips.  Especially if you have to carry your skis on your pack, this makes a big difference.  A suspension may add weight, but it makes the carrying of any weight A LOT more comfortable.

Ben Peters raised the question of panel-loading (zippers) vs. top-loading (drawstring & lid w/ buckles).  There's also roll-top closure (like a dry bag).  Don't take it personally, Ben, but durability is not an issue with top loaders.  The buckles are solid, & the drawstring offers redundancy (in fact, a lot of people will leave their lid behind).  If you're really paranoid, bring a an extra buckle (and an extra hip-belt buckle, if you're on a multi-day trip!).  At the same time, zippers are pretty bomber these days, too.  My '95 Mountainsmith Bugaboo is a panel-loader, and I've over-stuffed it many times, w/ narry a hint of zipper blow-out.  In fact, most larger top-loading packs have zipper entry point, too, for easier access to the bowels of your pack.

On to my pack recommendations.  A lot of it is personal preference, but all of the ones I have listed below are the best of the best.

Arc'teryx sets the standards for the industry.  Their Needle packs are lightweight, ultra-bomber, and sensible.  On either side of 50 liters are their Needle 55 ( and their Needle 45 ( ).  They're not cheap, but maybe as a ski patroller you can get a prodeal.  If not, don't worry, you will never have to buy another pack (for that capacity range).

I'm also really impressed with Gregory and Osprey packs.  In your capacity range Gregory offers the Alpinisto ( and Zulu (  I prefer the former to the latter (simpler).  From Osprey I prefer their Exposure 50 ( to their Switch 40+5 ( ) b/c it's more versatile, and less clunky.  Again, try Osprey & Gregory for prodeals...try any and everyone for prodeals!

Also worth looking at: Granite Gear packs.  Mountainsmith Vero 55 and/or Sting 45

One last thought.  50 liters is huge for a day pack.  What sort of gear are you carrying?

Good luck!


On 6/18/06, Mark P. Renson < [log in to unmask]> wrote:
This has probably been covered before, but I suspect not for a while and new stuff has been put on the market.  I need a new pack.  Mommy got me the one I have now back in 1997 (Christmas) - Lowe Contour 50.  It's getting pretty hammered and another trip to the repair shop might be just a waste of time.  Incredible memories baked into it.  I'd like to get a new one with the same capacity, with ice axe loops, capability to carry skis.  I do not want a built-in hydration system - sorry, but I've tried Camelbaks and I do not like those for a number of reasons.  Best hydration system for me:  2 wide mouth quart bottles.

Mark P. Renson
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Benjamin Kulas

caveat lector
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