The Road goes ever on and on; Down from the door where it began;
Now far ahead the Road has gone; And I must follow, if I can;
Pursuing it with eager feet; Until it joins some larger way;
Where many paths and errands met; And whither then? I cannot say.

[JRR Tolkien, Lord of the Rings]

Saturday, 5 April 2008

A New Backpack - Part 2

To recap: I’d tried on the Go-Lite Pursuit, the Gregory Jade 60 and the OMM Villain MSC 45+10 at home and decided on the Villain.

Then I had a conversation with Rose at Backpackinglight and soon afterwards an email arrived* suggesting that when returning the other packs I should also try on the OMM Mountain Mover.

Arriving at BPL I wasn’t just given the Mountain Mover to try, but a whole pile of other packs. Here are a few thoughts about the ones that I can remember:

OMM Mountain Mover
At 55+10 litres this is a big pack (but then I had said that the 45+10 was a bit tight). With the extra 10 litres comes a lot of extra weight (it's 1650g, or 1500 without the chest pouch) much of which I would put down to a different hip belt construction to the Villain.

It swallowed all of my gear without having to think about nooks and crannies, and it didn’t feel dissimilar from the Villain on.

On the plus side, it’s got a clever side pocket design. It also has the same MSC and gear rack as the Villain. However, the big loss, for me, is the lack of hip-belt pockets. In my opinion the chest pouch is not a substitute for hip-belt pockets, and I’m not sure that I could do without those now that I’ve got used to them on my Aura.

It wasn’t looking good for the Mountain Mover, but the girth of the hip-belt put the final nail in its coffin. As comfortable as it was I was back with the problem that I was within an inch of its smallest adjustment; it was enough to take it out of contention.

Go-Lite (Odyssey?)
Next came a massive Go-Lite pack, which was probably the Odyssey. Far bigger than I need, but just out of interest I tried it on.

Urgh! Hideously uncomfortable even without weight in it, mainly due to a hip-belt so stiff that it was almost unmovable. Perhaps a necessary feature for a pack that size, but on me it would bruise my hips without even walking anywhere.

I was coming to the conclusion that I’m just not suited to Go-Lite packs.

Mystery Pack (Looking at the website, it may have been a Lightwave)
I liked this one a lot. The hip-belt made me go ‘ooh’ in surprise at how nicely it sat. It’s shaped such that it cups the hips, which felt very good indeed. Even the hip-belt pockets impressed me (stretchy, elastic topped ones). Unfortunately the only one that BPL has left is a large and my back’s not that long (but if you are a long backed person, I’d recommend that you have a look at it).

It’s also too simple a pack for my current purposes (it’s not adorned with a choice of pockets, nor place for a hydration bladder), but I’d certainly look out for the right size of this one for future for short trips.

Gregory Z Pack
I’d been finding that none of the women specific packs were making me happy. Added to that, a few days before, I’d taken Husband’s Osprey Atmos out for a walk and been surprised to find that it was more comfortable than my Aura (the only problem being, unsurprisingly, the size of the hip-belt).

Having rejected the Jade 60, I tried the Z pack, which is the boys’ equivalent but in the more suitable 50 litre. It was very nearly a winner. The design is much more to my liking than on the Jade 60, in that it has the big pouch pocket on the back, plus a smaller pocket on the back of the pouch. It has a decent size of lid pocket and side pockets and it happily took all of my kit. Being only a few grammes heavier than my Aura (it’s 1.4kg) it even scored favourably on weight.

My only complaint on the design was that (per the Jade) the hip-belt pockets were once again big enough to hold lipsyl and a mobile, but not big enough for my very modest compact camera.

Notwithstanding the hip-belt pockets the comfort was such that I would have chosen this pack. The only problem was that (yet again – sorry if I’m sounding like a broken record) I was within an inch of the smallest size of the hip-belt.

Husband and Bob both agreed that I need to eat more pies…

OMM Villain MSC
That brought us back to where we started – with the Villain, but it’s not quite the end of the story.

I was already grateful to Bob for having talked me into giving this one a try. During that conversation he had also mentioned to me the ability to remove the provided back-pad and replace it with a thermarest. Removing a bit of structure that seems to be quite integral to the pack didn’t appeal (I’ve read Andy Howell’s thoughts on the subject of back systems, but I still wasn’t buying it myself), so it wasn’t something that I'd tried in trialling the pack.

Trying it on again at BPL, Bob requested permission to replace the back-pad with my thermarest, just so that I could try the concept before I rejected it.

I was very surprised at the result (and once again, very grateful to Bob for talking me into trying something). The pack was every bit as comfortable without its stiffened back-pad as it was with it. The huge bonus though was that without my thermarest taking up room in the pack, it became big enough for everything I needed to put in it.

So, it was jolly interesting to try on all of those other packs, but (in the classic female way of buying) I ended up going back to my original choice.

(* That's another feature of BPL’s service that I like: I’d told them I was going to buy one of their packs, notwithstanding which they contacted me to suggest something different; I can’t think of any other retailer who, once I’ve expressed a final decision, has taken the time to tell me to try something else).


  1. My Mountain Mover was the Kimmlite before they became OMM and it has pockets in the hip belt - shame. Bob's idea about substituting the removable pad with a Thermarest sounds brilliant and I shall try it tomorrow (too late now). I wish I'd thought of it first.
    I can't help thinking that your smaller OMM may be too small, unless you're not going to be carrying much food. I'm quite small and lightly built and haven't felt the Mountain Mover is a big pack - far from it. May be best to have a pack a bit bigger than you really need but don't feel obliged to fill it.

  2. I like hip belt pockets, but even better is wearing a belt pack (or bumbag as it is usually inelegantly called) back to front. The advantage of this is that you don't have to be so careful taking your pack off if you have anything delicate in the pockets and your bits and pieces are more accessible. I've just bought the waterproof one from Bob and Rose and it shows promise. I've also got the Inov-8 Race Pro 4, which I can recommend. They are also more convenient than the chest pocket, which I find a bit restrictive.

  3. Hi Litehiker - The new Mountain Mover is 55+15 (not 55+10 as I'd said), whereas the old model was 50+15. To me 55+15 felt bigger than I needed and a lot bigger than the Villain.

    I took the Villain out for 12 miles yesterday, packed with everything that I'll be taking with me (including spare shoes and food) and it all fitted without having to use the +10 bit. Admittedly there's not a huge amount of spare room, but it did fit. And the spare shoes will only be with me for the first 3 weeks, if at all, which will free up more room for spare food for the rest of the trip.

    Robin - I must try the hip-pack thing sometime (out of time before this trip). It's not something that's ever really grabbed me, but I shouldn't discount it until I've tried it.

  4. It's a bit late now, but for a spare pair of shoes, try the Nike Mayfly. They weigh only 300g (pair of size 8) and pack flat.

    The belt pack is well worth a go if you are tight on packing space. Gives you an extra 4L or so.