The Traditional Ash Pack Basket

Contemporary design inspired by the earlier Northwoods pack baskets from the 19th Century.  This one was made by Bill Mackowski in Milford, Maine.

Taken from Bill’s site:

Nothing speaks of the traditions of the Maine woods or the mountains of the Adirondacks like a hand crafted brown ash (black ash if you’re from away) pack basket.  Imbedded in the very creation of the Native Abenakis (People of the Dawn), brown ash is the most unique and durable of all natural or manmade weaving materials.  Nothing can compare with its texture, workability, and visual beauty.  Even its smell has an unusual and inspiring quality.  Although it has been the preferred material of untold utilitarian and artistic basket creations, to me, it’s true beauty reaches its pinnacle in the lines and character of a hand crafted pack basket.

For hundreds of years, no self respecting guide, trapper, or woodsman ventured into the woods of Northern New England and New York without his pack.  It was as critical as his bed roll or tea bucket.  It was his signature piece of apparel.

Many of these packs were made by the guides themselves, but many more were made by the basket makers that lived and crafted throughout the North East.  To me, every one was a unique and artistic creation.  Each maker having his little variation or particular quirk in the crafting.  Unfortunately, most of these craftsman never marked their work, and their styles have been lost over time.  Those packs that remain and are traceable to any of these old craftsman, are truly a piece of North woods history.”

LL Bean used to market one much closer to those shown below [and may still].

A web clip of what I assume entries at a “common-ground” type craft fair

Traditional Pack Baskets are available from a good number of craftsmen throughout New England and can be ordered online from most.


One Wheel Trail “Pulk”

I just saw this on FB and wanted to share it… The MonoWalker FatMate ~~a single wheel, one-person trail-trailer with a harness and off-road tire.

Interesting solution for a big loadout on developed paths or logging traces. Pricey though… 836 € [that’s euros… close to a G-note US] [without the bags !]

onecoolbackpack IS One Cool Backpack!

I am headed into a long weekend of family madness as my brother-in-law and his clan visit from San Diego, we try to get my wife out from the nursing home to visit with them up at the cottage they’ve rented, my daughter and the dog come up from Boston, and we try to fit in all the activities [and food] that everyone wants.

Before I possibly drop off the radar, I really did want to get up a post and a few photos of the backpack I’ve been experimenting with. I was given the go-ahead by Bill Ridley, the pack’s developer at He told me that this is an idea that had been lingering in his mind for nearly 20 years. Hopefully you’ve had a chance to glance over his site, and have read my previous posts about the pack [scroll down and you’ll find them].

Since it was delivered quite literally 15 minutes before I left for our camping trip upstate, I was unable to utilize it that weekend. The canoe was already strapped to the top of the car, and we were already packed and prepared for canoe camping. But over the last week I have been trying out a few different loads and taking brief walks right here at home to get used to the feel and adjustability.




This is pretty much what the frame looks like straight out of the bag it was delivered in. The only things I added were the black pouch snapped to the waistbelt, and the two ball-ended bungee cords. The only things not in the photograph are a pair of black buckle webbing straps that can be used in any place on the frame that they are needed. [that silver aluminum carabiner is actually attached to the support post behind the packframe].

A very unique feature is that the curved sections of the top and the bottom of the frame are made of coiled polycarbonate “springs” covered in a Cordura nylon sleeve. This allows the body of the frame to flex with your own body motion.

Since the entire point of this frame is that you can attach any kind of gear bags that you already have, [without having to go out and purchase a specialty “camping pack”], all the straps, bungee cords, and attachment points are adjustable. For instance, I rethreaded the silver bungee cord and it’s attached straps to a point higher on the frame to better accommodate the compression sack I intend to use for the majority of my own gear. Those red stick-on dots are to remind me of the original attachment points if I want to revert to the package as it was delivered. The ball-ended bungee cords that I added on are to hold my sleeping pad at the very bottom of the back frame. The logo-branded strap can be pulled down all the way from top to bottom, and either on top of, or behind all the other straps, to further secure several different bags to the frame. The variability and ease with which all kinds of different gear bags can be secured to the frame is astounding.

Image     Image  Image        Image

I got up a number of totes, packs, and luggage bags that I had right around the house and then took all of these pictures within 10 minutes, [the loads are all fakes… I just stuffed all the bags with couch cushions] but it shows the ease with which anything can be turned into a useful “pack” for camping. The largest gray bag is actually my airline luggage. I can fit an entire week or more of the things I will need inside.

The last photo that I’ll show you is what I have settled on for my actual usage. Is simply a 31 L compression bag that I picked up on Amazon for under $20. No pockets, pouches, or straps of it’s own. Everything I will want to take can just fit inside in individual ditty bags. Then, I’ll just un-snap three buckles and the whole deal will just come off the frame and sit upright for easy access once I get to camp. No need to hang the frame on a tree or worry about it tipping over and everything falling out the top. And a standard trash bag with a slit down the backside will cover it all, top to bottom, for wet weather. I could even unbuckle things for a minute and use the whole trash bag un-slit. All the strapping would just wrap back around the whole watertight package. There is no need to go out and drop yet another $25 on a rainproof cover that is custom fit to only one size/model of a dedicated pack.


[…the main thing that I find the best about this bag, in particular for my own needs, is that it has a rectangular profile rather than cylindrical. This makes it easier to both pack other, smaller bags inside, and to attach the bag to the frame.]

There are a lot of other nice little touches to the pack frame. A pair of padded tubes extend from shoulders to waist to cushion your backbone. The waistbelt consists of two parallel, padded webbings with separate attachment points. The shoulder straps are provided with a nice, soft neoprene tubing that cushions well without being excessive, and each has a number of webbing loops to accommodate clipped on items like the hose from a hydration bladder.

I found that I was easily able to adjust the fit to my torso size, and every load I have tossed on has seem to be well distributed and easy to carry. While I will know more in a couple of weeks once I have been able to take it out on an extended hike, the only suggestion I made to the developer so far was for some kind of zipper storage on the waistbelt for convenience with small items. That’s why I added the small black pouch you saw in the first photo.

Onecoolbackpack weighs in at quite a bit less than 3 pounds before you add your own packing solution. This might not make it the ideal frame for “gram-weenies”, however, for the vast majority of people, I believe that this would more than fit their needs. I think that Bill Ridley has achieved a lot of the basics of his goal. This is a frame that can be passed around among a number of people, or members of a scout or camping group, and satisfy the requirements of each individual person, on each individual trip. Experienced hikers and campers can customize it to their hearts delight, but a “noob” could pick it up and be out the door in 10 minutes with just what they had around the house already.

With Bill’s permission I even recommended the frame to the folks who supply the hike-in mountain cabins over in the White Mountain National Forest. Their “sherpas” [I think that probably means that they’re the ones who lost the coin-toss that day] have to carry 50 to 80 pound loads of groceries and staples in on steep and rugged trails, twice a week, to maintain the facilities for their guests. With onecoolbackpack a 50 pound bag of groceries or potatoes can be strapped on and carried just as easily as a school kid’s bookbag and that unwieldy, fiberfill sleeping bag for car-camping that you’ve had out in your garage for years.

I hope this gives you some idea about the features of this fairly unique concept in pack frames. Keep checking back in here on the site. Once I have had a chance to get out for an extended trip, I will put up a new post about my actual experience with it… On my back, and on the go.

Update and Filler…

I am working at getting the photos I took this last weekend up at Flagstaff Lake organized, and I’m trying to figure out the WordPress Photo gallery and carousel functions to show them off.

While I’m busy with that I thought I’d throw in a teaser about the pack frame that I am beta testing and reviewing. I’m still waiting for a nondisclosure agreement before I put up any real details, but here is a quick look at the pack.



The whole idea on this frame is that you can use whatever you might already have for a bag/pack/tote. A Boy Scout Troop or other camping organization could buy a number of standalone frames, and the kids would be able to bring along their bookbag from middle school, together with an old fiberfill sleeping bag, and have it fit easily and securely on the frame.

In my own case, my load-out is just my rollup sleep mat, my down jacket in its stuff sack, and a reasonably cheap 31L compression sack. Used with the straps and attachment points provided on the stock frame, everything went together in about a minute and a half. [the down jacket is actually just a filler because I had already packed the sleeping bag and bivy in the compression sack]

Of the 31 L capacity, I am probably using less than 20 L. But in that space I managed to load: the Gore-Tex bivy bag, my sleeping bag, the 5 x 7 tarp, rain parka, fleece hoodie, three individual 2 pound MRE meals and my bag of snacks [food for 24 to 36 hours], my smaller cook kit and 12oz. HEET fuel, and four gear pouches, each of which is the size of a thick paperback book. [these have all my extraneous gear like toiletries, socks, electronics, rope, etc.] My ground cloth is rolled up in the sleep pad.

I will be tweaking my gear list and doing a couple of quick “mods” to the frame to have it function within my own needs, but, all in all, I’m very impressed. Once I’ve gotten a nondisclosure agreement to sign to protect the developers, I’ll be showing you a bunch more features, and how easy it is to use a variety of bags you might have around the house in place of an actual pack. I swapped out four different arrangements of bags, and took pictures to send the developer, all in less than 10 minutes.

I’m very grateful to the developer for allowing me to beta test this unit. It was something I had no thought or anticipation of when I started the blog, but has turned out to be a lot of fun. Since this is a “beta” unit the entire purpose is to provide actual user experiences to allow better development of the final product. Just in the last three days he’s told me about some marvelous changes that he will be making based on the reviews from others that have already come in. I can’t wait to take it out for a walk and be able to add my own input.

Click through and head over to where you will be able to see more details of the frame than I’m allowed to “disclose” right now…


Packing Progress

I have mentioned the pack frame that I am being sent for testing purposes. It is what is called a “pack-less” system. The intention is for you to use a book-bag or day-pack that you already have instead of pouring your money off into a dedicated backpack. Almost everyone has some kind of pack, bag or duffel that can be utilized instead. Larger items like sleeping bags and sleeping mats are strapped onto the frame separately in their own, individual stuff sacks.

Yesterday while I was out driving around, I stopped in at a yard sale. For two dollars I picked up an old Tecnica cordura nylon zip-bag for toting ski boots. I think it is going to solve a lot of my bulk packing. The bag measures in at 8x12x15 with the zipper across the top. I went ahead and took off the shoulder straps immediately, then, depending on the exact nature of the attachment points on the pack frame when it comes, I may also cut the handle straps off to save a little more weight.


Here is my bulk stuff. None of it is overly heavy, but it all adds up and certainly looks like quite a pile.

Down booties, two separate cook-kits [they will get hybridized into a single unit for camping this weekend], goosedown jacket, US Army surplus Bivy-bag, sleeping bag, Typar ground sheet, 5×7 tarp, wind parka, and the white envelope underneath is an insulated pouch for the flameless ration heaters that go with the MREs.

The down booties are for keeping my feet warm in the in the lightweight, 45° sleeping bag. They may very will not make the cut and will be replaced by some heavy wool socks. Also, depending on what the weather forecast is in terms of low temperatures, I may leave out the bulky down jacket since I will probably have a fleece hoodie [for layering] bungeed to the outside of the whole pack anyway. That may very well be enough on its own. The wind parka fits over it quite comfortably even when using the hood.

Anyway, here is the whole caboodle stuffed into the boot bag.Image

Also up for consideration is that the small orange bag up on the left edge of the top photo is a 31 L compression sack. If I put everything into that first and drag the straps down, I’ll have an even smaller package. It is also quite probable that I will actually strap the sleeping bag and the bivy, together with a ground mat, on the outside of the bag and to the frame itself. I suspect that I will find that there’s plenty of room leftover inside the boot bag for all my “smalls” and my share of the food.

I don’t have a scale, but using the old tried-and-true “finger dangle” test, it seems to weigh just about the same as a 12 pack of sodas. That means it comes in right around 10 pounds. The pack frame itself will go just over 2 pounds. Not in the photo is the insulated ground mat which weighs less than a pound itself. Total weight so far?… call it 13 pounds. This is well within my planned limitation of a total carry weight of under 20 pounds.

Today I’m going to fool around with the “smalls”… my personal items, other clothing and all the various little stuff that you end up thinking you’re going to want.  Just how badly do I want to take along the mini boombox? Will I need the water shoes? Swimming trunks or too cold yet?

We will see… Everybody knows that on every camping trip you always end up uttering the phrase “Damn, I wish I had brought that __________…” 

And, when you get home and are unpacking, you will always also say “Why the hell did I take that along?”

Onward through the fog.


UPDATE: The 10 day forecast is now calling for decent weather upptacamp and in the woods over next weekend. Highs in the mid 60°s and lows around 50°… looking good