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Drop 4.4 oz from the ULA Catalyst in 5 minutes

By Andrew Skurka / June 6, 2019 / 37 Comments

For 5- and 7-day guided trips this summer in the Brooks Range and Yosemite National Park, I plan to carry (and review afterwards) the ULA Catalyst. Its key specs: 48 oz (3 lbs 0 oz, 1360 grams) 4,600 cubic inches (75L) Twin aluminum stays Durable fabrics throughout Generous hipbelt pockets and front stash pocket Made…

Long-term review: Osprey Aether/Ariel Pro 70 || Tough mid-weight load-hauler

By Andrew Skurka / May 21, 2019 / 2 Comments

Recently I had to look through photos of the Great Western Loop from 2007. My, my, I had such a small and light pack. But the trend has been moving in the wrong direction ever since, and for about a year I’ve been using a pack that has more volume and weighs more than anything…

Review: Osprey Exos/Eja backpack || Super comfy, needs hipbelt pockets

By Andrew Skurka / September 1, 2018 / 23 Comments

For two weeks in June and July I wore the new Osprey Exos backpack while guiding overnight trips in Rocky Mountain National Park. To accommodate a guide-sized kit and a full-size bear canister (which I prefer to pack horizontally), I used the largest of the three-pack series: Exos 38 ($180, 2 lbs 8 oz), for streamlined…

Review: Hanchor Marl backpack || Novel brand, clean look, core features

By Andrew Skurka / August 31, 2018 / 16 Comments

For nearly two full seasons a new Hanchor Marl backpack sat in my garage, waiting for the right opportunity to be taken out. It should not have taken so long, but it did — I was preoccupied with designing the Flex Capacitor, and I need more than 50 liters of capacity when guiding trips. Last month…

Sneak peak: Ultimate Direction Scram || Anton Krupicka scramble pack

By Andrew Skurka / January 30, 2018 / 2 Comments

After a Sierra Designs meeting this morning (re updates to the High Route Tent for 2019), I swung through the Ultimate Direction area to ask about the new pack they are designing with the ridiculously fit but chronically injured Anton Krupicka. None of the Exxel Outdoors brands — notably SD, UD, Kelty, and Slumberjack — had…

Osprey Levity/Lumina vs. Exos/Eja: What will you sacrifice for 12 oz?

By Andrew Skurka / January 25, 2018 / 36 Comments

This spring Osprey has released a new backpack design that is aimed squarely at the ultralight and thru-hiking communities. It’s available in men’s and women’s sizes, each in two volumes: Levity 45 ($250, 1 lb 13 oz) and Levity 60 ($270, 1 lb 14 oz) for men; and, Lumina 45 ($250, 1 lb 12 oz) and…

Reader Q: Can a bear canister fit horizontally in the Flex Capacitor?

By Andrew Skurka / January 3, 2018 / 7 Comments

A question from reader, Scott F: To this specific question, my answer is: I don’t know for sure, but it should. I don’t own a Bearikade so I have not tested its compatibility, and I don’t recall any guided clients last year with both a Flex and a Bearikade. However, I know that the BearVault 500…

Reader question: Are Cuben Fiber shelters & backpacks worth the cost?

By Andrew Skurka / March 8, 2017 / 57 Comments

A question from reader Patrick H.: Most backpackers who look beyond REI while researching gear have probably learned of Cuben Fiber, either in a standalone conversation or as a fabric option for shelters, backpacks, and accessories made by cottage brands like Hammock Gear, Katabatic Gear, Mountain Laurel Designs and others. Cuben stands out, partly because equipment made with it is exorbitantly…

Reader question: Is the Flex Capacitor Pack appropriate for a thru-hike?

By Andrew Skurka / February 13, 2017 / 12 Comments

From Lisa K.: For two reasons I wanted to share my answer to this reader question. First, I have not yet addressed the appropriateness of the Sierra Designs Flex Capacitor 40-60 Pack for thru-hiking, and I probably should. Second, it gives me an opportunity to discuss the specific needs of thru-hikers in regards to backpack selection. Appropriateness for thru-hiking…

Upcoming changes to Flex Capacitor sizing & hipbelt

By Andrew Skurka / January 17, 2017 / 28 Comments

Sierra Designs will receive a new shipment of its Flex Capacitor 40-60 Pack at the end of February. The pack has been well received by customers and the media, and we’re optimistic about its future. A few changes have been made to this next round of production. I’ve mentioned these changes in several places, but figured I…