Sunday, March 25, 2012

Packs and Things

Today was another great day with family.  This time we invited my folks to come down to have lunch with us and while away the afternoon relaxing by the creek.  We grilled out hamburgers and served potato salad and baked beans.  It was a fine lunch and we spent the afternoon reading and talking while we watched almost all the campground occupants pack up, hitch up, and pull out.  It was a pleasant afternoon.
Port for water bladder tube (blue water drop)
Teri asked for a few more details about my new pack.  I’m always excited to talk hiking gear.  But before I get into the specifics of this new pack, a little background information might be helpful in understanding my choice in packs.
I can carry my camera bag inside the main compartment
First and foremost--I’m not an ultralighter. Especially not on a day hike.  There are some things I like to have and I don’t care how much they weigh. Secondly, I’m a firm believer in being prepared for an emergency and so I carry what is commonly referred to as the “ten essentials” which includes an emergency shelter.  Thirdly, we like to hike to enjoy the beauty of nature.  We don’t want to be the fastest hikers or the ones who can go the farthest.  Fourth, I’m a type A personality and I thrive on being organized.  Last, but not least, I live in a motorhome.  I can’t have an array of packs for every occasion like I did when I lived in a stick house.
Mesh water bottle pockets on each side
That being said, what about this new pack?  I selected the REI Lookout 40.  If you want an ultralight pack this ain’t it.  It weighs 3 pounds and has a capacity of 40 liters which for a day pack is huge.  I don’t always carry a lot of stuff; more often than not the pack is half empty.  But, on those cold days when I want to carry a thermos of soup for lunch and my bulky winter jacket, there’s room.  If we want to hike up to the waterfall, sip coffee, eat danish, and read a book, there’s room to carry all that stuff plus a small blanket.  If it’s hot and I want chicken salad and a glass of wine for lunch, there’s room for the cooler.  If I anticipate extraordinary wildflowers or, in the words of Tom Mangan over at Two Heel Drive, “charismatic megavistas”, I have room to carry the SLR along with a 300 mm lens all tucked safely away in its own bag inside my pack.
A large zippered pocket behind each
water bottle pocket
This pack has some nice features which I really like.  It has lots of pockets to help me stay organized.  There is a mesh water bottle pocket on each side.  They’re actually large enough and deep enough to hold a water bottle.  Since I normally carry a water bladder inside my pack, I probably won’t use those mesh pockets for water.  However, I can think of a zillion things that I might put there.  On the inside of the pack against the back wall there is a water bladder pocket and there are tube ports on each side of the pack.  I’ve never used those ports on any of my other packs, so probably won’t on this one.  Behind the mesh pockets are large zippered pockets.  I was so excited to see those pockets.  That’s where I like to carry my lunch and snacks and most packs only have the mesh water bottle pockets on the sides.  There is a large outside pocket in front of the main compartment.  That pocket has mesh dividers to keep things organized.  I have a place for pen and paper, headlamp, fire starter, extra boot laces, and a zippered mesh pocket for the first aid kit.  In the very top of the main compartment is a small waterproof pocket with a zipper on the outside--a perfect place for my wallet, car keys and phone.  The waist belt is padded with a small zippered mesh pocket on each side.  I’ve never had these pockets and am excited to have a handy place to carry lip balm, sunscreen, and tissue.  Gene uses his little pockets for snacks.

The back of the pack is covered in egg crate foam stuff which is then covered in mesh.    On my old packs, this was the part that got so stinky from sweat.  This foam will not absorb the moisture so I guess it’ll dry faster since only the surface is wet and be easy to clean.  The label claims this material is cooler.  It does seem to be better ventilated and it is very comfortable against my back.
Small mesh pockets on each side of the waist belt.
This pack is rated to be comfortable for loads up to 40 pounds.  I don’t even carry that much on a backpack.  However, I do often carry 15-20 pounds on day hikes.  With all the pockets it’d be easy to distribute the weight evenly and the waist belt is sturdy enough to carry the load so I guess I believe 40 pounds might not be an exaggeration.  I might give it a try for an overnight backpack some time.  It has straps on the bottom to carry a sleeping pad.  I’ll have to take Gene along, though, to carry the tent.
Small waterproof pocket at the top of the pack

There are a lot of packs out there from which to choose.  What you select really depends on your hiking style.  Just like buying a pair of shoes or an RV--decide what you want to use it for then shop for something that will accommodate that use.  For hiking gear, good outfitters or REI have salespeople that know their products and can really help answer your questions.  They also carry quality (and usually more expensive) products.  You don’t usually get the knowledgeable sales personnel or the quality products at the big box stores.
Egg crate foam for extra ventilation against my back.
Hope this helps, Teri.  Have fun shopping.  I just love this stuff.  Hope it wasn't too boring for those readers who don't hike.

That’s it for today.  Thanks for tagging along.


  1. Hi, thanks for the info. I tend to carry things I may need, just in case. I don't know that I will ever travel ultralight. Even when I was walking on the beach in Texas, I had a small day pack with lots of stuff in it. I like some of the extra features of this pack and will have to check it out next time I am near an REI store.

  2. great backpack lesson!..thanks Judy!

  3. Thanks for sharing all this info! I can't fit much more than camera equipment in my camera backpack and was considering buying something new that would accommodate my basic camera gear and other items comfortably. Next time I'm in REI I'll give the packs a peek!