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 onecoolbackpack.com. 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.
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.