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Front-Loading Pack Is An Elusive Prey

Sun., Nov. 2, 1997

Q. Do you know of anyone who manufactures an internal frame pack that is front-loading (panel loader) with sewn-in side pockets approx. 4000 cu in. capacity.

HELP!!! I am tired of finding what I’m looking for at the bottom of my top loader, and am also tired of the loose fit sway of add-on pockets. Have been searching high and low with no luck.

Ron Godin

Gear Guy: I accept this challenge, Ron. I will call upon my encylopedic knowledge of the outdoor industry, sift through the hundreds of packs filed by size, price and color in my cerebral cortex, then by mustering all the resources of my powerful brain devise an answer that is concise, accurate and unimpeachable. And that answer is: I don’t know.

Really, I don’t. The tricky part is the “panel-loading” bit. The North Face’s Pacific Crest (3600 cubic inches, two pockets, $210), Lowe Alpine’s Ophir (3600 cubic inches, two pockets, $129) and Dana Design’s Bridge (4000 cubic inches, two pockets, $260), all come close - but they’re top-loaders. I’d suggest taking a look at the Bridger, or at Gregory’s new Reality (3,850 cubic inches, one rear pocket, $200). I’ve been using a Reality this winter and like it a lot, while the Bridger is one of those packs that can carry far more than it’s rated capacity by virtue of Dana’s superb suspension.

I’ve gnashed teeth myself during a bout of “pack diving” to find the item that’s wormed its way to the very bottom of a top-loader, but packs this size shouldn’t present too much of a problem simply because they aren’t that large. I bet with some judicious load arrangement you can eliminate half of the gear-hunting. And if you have to take some items out, so what? Top loaders are great because you can jam things in so fast - not like having to fussily arrange them in a panel loader.

Anyway, hope this helps a little.


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