The Spokesman-Review

Getting A Bigger Pack Gives Hiker Versatility

Q. I’ve read many, if not most, of your responses to various submissions and made some satisfied purchases accordingly. The last item I need, albeit a big one, is a good, long-term pack, one for both extended weekend excursions as well as a hopeful attempt at the Continental Divide Trail within the next couple of years.

I’ve seen your endorsements of Dana on the high end and REI on the low. Having just moved to Salt Lake City I’ve learned of a local pack manufacturer called Vortex. I’ve seen their small showroom and been quite impressed by the quality and implementation of their designs (1200 denier on the bottoms, double sewn seams, polycarbonate frames inside) and their price ($285 for a Terraplane equivalent).

Have you heard anything about this line and how it stacks up against some of the better known names in the biz? Also, I’m a bit perplexed by the pack volumes out there. What would be a versatile size for my needs and size (5-foot-10, 150 lb.), or should I plan on two purchases (one for now and one for my dream trip)? I’m ready to make a purchase within the next couple of weeks, but will wait on your counsel. Many miles of Utah trail awaits your recommendation. Thanks for any input you can provide.

Mark Fainter

Gear Guy: I haven’t used a Vortex pack, but they’re highly rated and from my casual look-over seem well-made and suited for any serious trip you’d care to make. They have molded-foam suspensions, well-designed shoulder straps and durable construction. I wouldn’t hesitate to use one for the trips you suggest.

The only caveat I’d offer is that the Dana Terraplane is a big pack 6,000 cubic inches. Vortex’s equivalent in that range is the 5800 model, which sells for $379. Definitely a high-end price, but you get a high-end pack.

A pack that size should be about right for any of the trips you suggest. It’ll be a bit large for weekend hikes, where a pack in the 4,000-4,500-cubic-inch range seems best. But it will be perfect for week-long trips. And when the load is small, you can reduce sway simply be tightening up some of the side straps.

Q. I’ve been riding a 10-speed bike since 1974. It’s time to consider a new one. I am not sure what the main difference between the mountain bike and the hybrid type is. I will use the bike on flat surface, dirt trails, and sometimes through the woods. My 10 speed now is comfortable because it is a touring bike. I would like to keep my comfort but yet be more versatile. I’d like to stay around $350. Can you suggest any brands?

Lester Horton

Gear Guy: Well, if you’d waited a few more years, Lester, you’d be entering a bike market where the rear cassettes alone have as many gears as your entire bike!

Basically, a hybrid bike is a mountain bike that’s been toned down a bit. Taking a mountain bike frame and gearing, manufacturers replace the knobby tires with smooth-rolling tires for pavement or the occasional gravel path; jack up the stem a little for a more upright ride; and sometimes wider, more comfy seats.

Some highly rated bikes in this range include the Marin Larkspur ($300), the Bianchi Advantage ($400) and the Specialized Crossroads Ultra ($380). All three of those bikes are similar in weight, features and style, and should suit you fine. For a little more money, the Gary Fisher Nirvana ($500) and the GT Nomad ($550) give you better components and a lighter, more comfortable frame.


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