Saturday, 11 April 2009

Classic Simplicity

I'd been after an external framed pack for some time and eventually picked this one up. I never had one before but I packed it up with everything that I'd carried in my Karrimor Condor 65L and to be honest it was surprisingly comfortable. The main problem is the hip belt insofar as it's really only to stabilize the pack rather than be load bearing. I'm pretty sure they must have made external frame packs with a load bearing hip belt as we have a Karrimor Papoose that we used to carry our daughter and it has a padded shaped belt. Unfortunately while I could remove it I can't get it to fit the other pack.

Frame type aside the thing that I like about the old Karrimor is the simplicity of design, one compartment, 2 side pockets and a lid pocket. In addition it's blessedly free from additional straps/flaps and other IMO unnecessary add-ons. There is no way to reduce the size of the pack as it has no compression straps but to be honest does anyone actually use a 65L + pack compressed to 20L so that they can use it as a day pack? I doubt it.

I've looked at plenty of packs recently and it seems that you can get a very simple pack but with little more than a foam pad as a 'frame' or you get a pack that has any number of add-ons which to be honest must practically double the overall weight.

The closest I've seen is from the Golite range, something like the GoLite 2009 Quest 72L or GoLite Pinnacle 72L or from OMM in the shape of the OMM Mountain Mover

The problem as I see it is that they all have a 'Frame' based around a foam pad, with the old external packs there's a minimal amount of pack/back contact and as such a reduction in sweaty back syndrome. As far as I know until recently the arctic troop RM still used external frame packs for both their load carrying ability and the improved airflow, in fact they may well still use them.

So the question is will any of the mainstream companies ever go back to a modernised external frame, minimalist design pack or will it be left to the UL movers in the USA to think outside the box. For all the talk about a lightweight revolution theres little point in making the actual pack from ultralight material and then adding the same weight again through the addition of foam backpads, compression straps, a multitude of internal and external pockets clips and other paraphernalia.

What I'd like to see is a basic lightweight single compartment bag with tunnelled side pockets that poles could be slipped behind, an ultralight external spar frame (Carbon/Aluminium) load bearing hipbelt and unpadded tension adjustable mesh back pads similar to the Vango Air Canyon packs from a few years ago but without the unnecessary moulded plastic frame (the biggest problem with them was that the moulded plastic frame curve reduced the internal space of the pack)


  1. The brown Karrimor brings back memories. My friend carried one on the Pennine Way in 1978. I think he had a padded hip belt though. I can remeber fitting the unpadded Karrimor hip belt to a different pack frame. If you don't like a sweaty back, the Osprey Atmos or Exos range are worth a look.

  2. I've got a Blue one too, again an Annapurna 2 and it has the padded hip belt. Amazingly light for something that age and size, 1.5 for the brown, 1.8 for the Blue. If I had to carry a heavy/bulky pack again I'd use it rather than the Condor.

    Ordered a Gregory Z55 from Cotswold, seems to get good reviews and on sale at £70.

  3. I have a blue Annapurna 2 with the padded hip belt up in the loft.
    As the multiday hiking I do is with an 2.5kg Lowe Alpine Appalacian (very comfortable) I've been wondering recently about resurrecting the Annapurna. I know that the original elastic in the lid has gone but that is hardly fatal. Seeig the picture of the brown one took me right back to 1978 when I got mine. Thanks for posting the weights as I remembered it as being light but really had no idea what it actually weighed. I did change the shoulder straps on mine in the early 80's.
    So, have you actually used it?

  4. To be honest I haven't, as I can get my gear in the LIM 45 it would be pretty much lost in the Annapurna. I might try it when I'm able to get out again.

  5. I'm unlikely to try mine before next year. Even though I'm getting better at carrying less I still manage to fill the Appalacian. Must try harder.