Updated: Jul 4, 2020
We learned early on in the world of backpacking every pound counts. If you don’t believe me then check out Nicole’s post on her first backpacking experience here. For our first couple backpacking trips we both carried 65 liter packs that we shoved way too much stuff into. Each of our packs weighed roughly 40 pounds for a three day trip and by the end of the first day, the extra weight was really putting a damper on our spirits. So, before our next planned trip to the remote Isle Royale National Park (blog post about the trip coming soon) we decided it was best to get some new packs to help us with our overpacking problems.
Being a fan of the Osprey brand, I went with the Stratos 36L pack in Gator Green. Nicole, liking her gear to be just as fashionable as functional went with the Fjällräven Abisko Hike 35L pack in green. Both of these packs could be described as large day hiking packs, but served our purposes perfectly for 4 days and 3 nights in the cool April weather of Northern Michigan/Lake Superior.
As you can tell from Nicole’s post about her first backpacking experience, and the amount of photography equipment we take with us on all our backpacking trips we are far from your typical ultralight backpackers, however we managed to pack all our camera gear, food, kitchen, shelter, 10 degree down sleeping bags, and 2L of water each. Our packs only weighed 22 pounds each. It made a massive difference in how we felt at the end of a long day of hiking.
We have also used these packs for long day hikes when we’ve carried more camera equipment and clothing for changing conditions as we’ve hiked up elevation. For example, during our hike up Old Rag Mountain in Shenadoah National Park, we used these packs to carry lunch, camera tripods, lens filters, rain gear, water, and an extra jacket. While we still had plenty of room and the packs were probably at less than half capacity, these packs are light enough to bring on longer day hiking adventures, but pack enough stuff to get you thru 3-4 days on the trail.
OSPREY STRATOS 36L
210 Nylon Crosshatch with reinforced bottom and shoulders
Includes rain cover
Massive front zipper pocket has plenty of storage for rain jacket, pants, and small items that you may need access to quickly or conveniently.
Osprey’s “Airspeed Suspension System” keeps the pack off your back and reduces sweating
Large capacity hip belt pockets easily hold cell phone, map, or snacks for the trail
Lots of external straps to attach miscellaneous gear such as tripod, tent poles, sleeping pad, etc
Lack of side zipper for easy access to items deep inside pack
Sleeping bag compartment is a little small for my 10 degree, 800 fill down sleeping bag. It fits, but only if I stuff the sleeping bag directly into the pack without a stuff-sack.
FJÄLLRÄVEN ABISKO HIKE 35L
G-1000® Eco: 65% polyester, 35% cotton (Canvas)
Includes rain cover
Side zipper access to easily reach items stored in the bottom of the main compartment
Extremely fashionable backpack for those who want to look nice while hiking
Thick, padded shoulder pads and back padding make up for lack of air suspension system offered by Osprey
Massive main compartment seems to go on forever when compression cords are completely loose and cinches down nicely when everything is packed.
Pack seems more susceptible to damage than nylon backpacks when dragged against rocky cliffs or boulders
Lack of sleeping bag compartment makes packing a larger sleeping bag in the bottom of the back difficult
Only one external water bottle sleeve can make accessing second liter of water a pain.
Either of these packs is an excellent choice if you are a weekend warrior and like getting out on the trail for the day or for 3-4 days. If you have more expensive gear that packs down small and is light weight you can easily hike a few days without issue. A true ultralight backpacker may even be able to go a week with this pack as we carry a lot of items, like camera gear that most backpackers don’t carry. Our packs will come with us on almost every trip from now on. They are versatile pieces of gear that serve well for almost any weekend adventure.