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Future Of Backpacks

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Re: Future Of Backpacks

Postby Wandering Daisy » Fri Dec 01, 2017 10:06 pm

I suspect a wheel on a pack may not be legal where other wheeled things are not (such as no bicycles allowed). "Machines" are generally not allowed in the wilderness- such as chain saws for trail crews. So the engineering of future backpack gear will have to keep in mind the concept of wilderness. Have a drone carry your pack? No way! Resupply by drone? NO. Propulsion shoes? Not sure about that one.

MY future is others to carry my pack. Grooming the grandkids to do that!

Future developments have to be economic to be practical. Cuben fiber tents are here, but will not be common until they come down in price. Once our packs are 5Lb, we may still be carrying a 2 pound bear can. Stronger lighter materials? Probably. Affordable? Probably not.

Before designers do all that gee-whiz stuff, I wish they would concentrate on making stuff that really fits the wide variety of people's shapes that are out there backpacking. I am sick of the limited sizes. And first, make ALL packs fit bear cans horizontally. Beats me why they do not. The more minimalist you go with a light pack, the more uncomfortable it is to carry a stiff bear can vertically.

Advances in solar power and batteries may make bear cans obsolete when the electric fence type wire mesh systems weigh less. I think they are about 5 pounds now, but will enclose maybe 10 food sacks. Good for groups, not so much for solo or twosomes. Better yet a bear repellant.

Not everyone WANTS to be a minimalist. I think there will always be a market for something that makes carrying a heavier pack more comfortable and efficient. You are never going to get serious fishermen down to a 5 pound pack. Or serious photographers. Or climbers.



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Re: Future Of Backpacks

Postby markskor » Sat Dec 02, 2017 4:16 pm

Wandering Daisy wrote:Not everyone WANTS to be a minimalist. I think there will always be a market for something that makes carrying a heavier pack more comfortable and efficient. You are never going to get serious fishermen down to a 5 pound pack.

More specialization in backpacks is coming...designed (fine tuned) for today's discerning backpacker.

For the minimalist, foresee slight but continued weight reductions - new, space-age fabrics... maybe lose another backpack pound but there's not much more weight to lose here. (BTW, will still have plenty of room for the "Got any spare food?" sign.)

For the average backpacker - maybe someone will figure out that you don't need all the zippers, do-dads, and detachable tops that morph into butt-packs. Something around 50 - 60 liters, clean... capable of comfortably holding 35 - 40 pounds all day, with a robust suspension system that fits ...well made, won't fall apart after one season....under 3 pounds?

As for the fisherman, same as above but asymmetrical pack sides - beefier side pocket configuration for rod tube and tent/kayak pole (tie-ons?) ...large (tent?) pocket on the other side/ exterior of the backpack. Maybe incorporate a water bottle holster system that you can actually access?
Whatever comes along, rest assured it will cost us a few dollars more.
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Re: Future Of Backpacks

Postby dave54 » Sat Dec 02, 2017 6:01 pm

I can see a sensor inside a frame that senses pack movement and adjusts small weights inside the frame to compensate. The tradeoff between weight and pack stability may be worth it.
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Re: Future Of Backpacks

Postby longri » Sun Dec 03, 2017 11:02 am

Maybe. Those videos of the military "lightning" pack (one of the links in the paper Maverick linked to) are pretty cool to see. It would be interesting to know more of the details about the weight and efficiency gains in different scenarios. While the additional weight to improve efficiency might work on level terrain it could be a disadvantage on climbs and descents. In typical mountain terrain would the extra weight cancel out the benefits or even make things worse? As a skier and a climber I shudder at the notion of a pack that wiggles around a lot as I move.

On the other hand, the electrical generating aspect of those packs is intriguing. More and more people are carrying electronics, especially smart phones, into the backcountry, and battery technology isn't up to the task of keeping them charged for very long. Maybe this is a viable alternative to using solar panels. Or maybe you could power a small immersion heater buried in an insulated container that holds your dinner.

Or maybe not.
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Re: Future Of Backpacks

Postby paul » Wed Dec 06, 2017 3:55 pm

A tumpline can be useful, IF you use it often enough to develop the neck muscles sufficiently. But you're not going to carry the load on top of your head like an African unless you are walking on pretty much level trails since having the load so far from your center of gravity is inherently less stable. So the weight still wants to be on your back, as close to your center of gravity as you can get it.
To a certain extent I agree with WD that a return to external frames but with much lighter frames could be good - but only for really long trips with high food weight. And particularly in bear canister country where that could mean more than one canister.
For most of us and most of our trips the pack design becomes a very small issue once you get the rest of your gear weight down. I make my own packs; with stays and hipbelt my summer pack is about a pound and carries up to 30 lbs about as comfortably as anything I've ever had. At 20 lbs total weight it's definitely more comfortable than anything I've ever used. I don't have the lightest gear out there and still I can do a comfortable week-long trip well under 30 lbs at the start. Really not hard to design an internal frame pack using the available materials that carries that kind of weight comfortably and weighs a pound or less. Very hard to get an external down to that because the added structure just weighs a lot more. The stays in my summer pack are about 3 oz for the pair.
So the evolution in pack design I envision is simply a matter of simplification. Simple design, light materials, no "features" - and light gear to go inside it.
If you have to carry heavy loads, or just want to, then I do think that on most trails an internal frame is superior. Based on my experience with external frame packs going back to the 70's, and pack making (including packbags to go on external frames), I'd say an external frame pack to handle 60lbs could be around 2 or 2 1/2 lbs with the right material selections and very simple design for the sack. I could probably go 30 days without resupply with 60 lbs - if I could get in shape to lug that much again!
I don't expect any rocket science type advancements - seems highly unlikely that any kind of energy recovery technology could be light enough to pay its own freight. But lighter materials will continue to appear, and new fabrication techniques as well.
But really, how far does it need to go? once you get the weight of the pack down to a pound, you might as well forget about it until you have everything that goes into it down under 5 lbs - and at that point, even with food your typical 5-7 day trip gets so light that who cares if the pack is a couple ounces lighter?
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Re: Future Of Backpacks

Postby Wandering Daisy » Wed Dec 06, 2017 10:49 pm

The bear can is a big issue. I see that more and more locations will require a bear can, until the day when an electric fence system can get under 2 pounds (and be approved by the authorities). The bear can is awkward and stiff. It will kill your back if you put a loaded bear can in a 1 pound pack. I hope more manufacturers will incorporate a system to best haul a bear can. For me the most comfortable placement of a bear can is horizontally, just above the shoulders (sort of like a head rest). When talking about a 5-10 pound base weight, a bear can with a week's worth of food weighs enough to throw off the balance of the entire pack. It needs to be a part of the design from the get-go.

I envision a custom internal type frame exactly fit to your back. To this you simply clip on a pack. Also with a place to clip on a bear can. Component parts - removable hip belt, gadget to attach a backpacking umbrella, attachment point for a solar recharger, several interchangeable water carrying systems. Different attachable packs (compartments) depending on the volume you need.

In concept this is similar to a very old idea, that we used at NOLS called the three bag system where three zip duffels were tied on to a bare Kelty pack frame. Now with the lighter gear, the frame could be lighter, slim, and fit like a glove (example- I have a protruding tail bone and the hip area of all packs pressure this area- would not it be great if I had a frame, built with a little hole or doughnut padding that took pressure off this area!)
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Re: Future Of Backpacks

Postby longri » Thu Dec 07, 2017 11:06 am

paul wrote:But really, how far does it need to go? once you get the weight of the pack down to a pound, you might as well forget about it until you have everything that goes into it down under 5 lbs - and at that point, even with food your typical 5-7 day trip gets so light that who cares if the pack is a couple ounces lighter?

If you're never going to carry more than what's needed for a typical 5-7 day summer Sierra backpack then the problem has been solved for some time. But what if you are carrying a larger load? You might be able to carry 60lbs with a 2.5lb backpack but if there were a way to effectively reduce that load wouldn't you be interested?


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Re: Future Of Backpacks

Postby mrphil » Wed May 16, 2018 7:13 am

Old thread, but interesting.

First of all, it's obviously going to boil down to material weight vs cost. You also take the modern idea/need? of incorporating electronics and charging systems that have so far not only added additional weight, but require separate components... even something like the Lightning packs require a seperate suspension system to achieve this. You combine the two and you logically go with an overall lighter pack material that's using some form of stiffener that could be photovoltaic in nature...solar panel reinforcement ribs. Built in power, no extra battery weight, no separate component to carry and deploy. That's all fine and dandy, but it's just one aspect of what some might want or need.

But, I think the real advancements are going to come in the carry. We all know that loads shift, packs move around as we do, often not in unison, shoulder, sternum, and hip belts focus the load and dig in...and they hurt. Over all, you need what you need for any given trip, and regardless of wherever it goes, it'll weigh what it weighs and add to pain, fatigue, whatever. Right now, we use the trunk of our bodies to support the load, but not necessarily our cores. When you consider a load that's carried and only attached to us with straps, the entire pack weight is really only being borne on not too many square inches of surface area. Everybody claims that their suspension system is more comfortable, independent, etc, but they're all really not any vastly different or innovative a system than the next, all said and done. Our personal preferences only fall within a subjective and limited set of choices that really only comes down to lessers of evils and what works for us individually. What I think is the way to go is, turn the entire suspension system into an integrated vest of sorts, or at the very least, a broader harness system that uses more of you to take the load. That load then becomes part of you, and instead of focused points of contact, you spread it over the entirety of your shoulders, your back, your chest, your abdomen, and your hips...essentially, your center mass, inclusive of your core. You add body weight, inevitably, but it's no longer a clunky separate mass that's hanging from you. You take the right design that distributes the load evenly, using lightweight yet strong materials, make it comfortable and breathable, and then you have something that changes the way we think of and how we carry our backpacks.
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Re: Future Of Backpacks

Postby Wandering Daisy » Wed May 16, 2018 9:15 am

I do not know how you solve the "sweat" problem if the pack load is distributed all over your body. Sure, it may be comfortable, for a while, but probably miserable shortly after you begin to sweat. I think simply 3-d printing of a standard pack, custom fit to your body, may be just as good. When a pack really fits well, load shift is not that big of a deal. You also have to load it very carefully.
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Re: Future Of Backpacks

Postby mrphil » Wed May 16, 2018 10:12 am

I totally agree that breathability and sweating would be the biggest issue, but you take military applications like a Molle FLC harness or a plate carrier, add to it all the things a soldier has to carry as comfortably as possible, for extended periods of time, and you basically end up with the vest idea. They can recommend that a soldier typically ruck with no more than 55 lbs, but the reality is, it's not uncommon for them to carry 80-120 lbs for over 20 miles at a time, as quickly and as efficiently as possible. It may not all be on their back, but it is secured to them close in, at the core, and with where we're deploying these days, triple-digit temperatures are the norm. Throw in a helmet, a weapon, and heavy ACUs, and the heat and sweating become secondary to a comfortable long distance carry and maybe having to do it when under serious duress. Certainly under conditions that the average backpacker isn't likely to encounter. Lighten the material and make it breath because it doesn't necessarily have to perform to military specs and handle such huge loads, and you potentially have much more leeway for civilian use. We have the technology, and with a bit of willingness to compromise and engage in experimentation, we might just find something that incorporates the best of both worlds and shifts the paradigm in what we always accepted as the way it is, for the reasons we thought we had to.
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