Thursday, May 29, 2014

Pack for the long haul

How do I carry everything I need for 60-plus miles? Is it better to use bottles? A bladder and bottles? Bottles and flasks? I've carried a handheld for two 100km races, do I want to do it for loop one of Plain?

These are some of the questions that make me pause over the photocopy machine, staring off into trail-mind space.

For a year I was able to get away with only using my Ultimate Direction SJ vest for adventure runs in the 30-50-mile range. I often packed fairly light, not taking extra clothing, food or emergency supplies; things I would have done if I had been hiking or climbing, and carrying a day pack.

Even before I signed up for Plain, I had a couple of long routes penciled into my summer schedule that I knew I would need a larger pack for (I'm trying to justify use of my Visa card...).

Over the winter some Salomon packs went on sale and I picked up the S-Lab 12L (2013 version).

Even though I like the UD pack, and the new ones just had been announced, there were a few advantages I saw in the Salomon pack that I may not use every time but I wanted for greater flexibility:
  • I'm fairly slender and every time I've tried to carry a 20oz bottle in my UD vest, it hurts my ribs. The Salomon pack has great open (but with a draw cord on top) pockets in the vest part that connects the pack to the front. I can carry a 20oz+ bottle on each side without feeling them and easily reach them. Bottles are easier to fill from streams than a bladder.
  • On the rare occasion that I do use a bladder, if I have to refill it I can do it without removing it with the Salomon. UD really needs to create a top zipper to do this, which they did not. I always found it quite difficult to remove the bladder from my SJ vest to refill it. 
  • SPACE; the Salomon pack easily can be a two-night pack with a lightweight sleeping bag. Even when I over pack it I still have lots of space. I tried on the larger Bakwin vest and it seemed to have less usable storage space than the Salomon (though still was quite good!).
Testing my setup in the North Cascades: in this picture I have 2,000+ calories, two 20oz bottles, one 25oz soft flask (full), headlamp, jacket, gloves, hat, phone, camera, emergency blanket, small first-aid kit, aquatabs, maps and a ton of room to spare!
The XS/S Salomon fits me well and has a generous amount of play depending on how many layers I'm wearing (or if I gain weight!). I did reverse one of the front chest straps though for an equal configuration of three points of contact on each side rather than the four-two that Salomon sets it up with.

After doing a few long runs, I feel like I have an initial setup that will work for my upcoming adventures.        

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