Coleman Exponent Rush backpack OWNERS REPORT
Height: 6 ft. 5 in. / 1.96 m
Weight: 205 lbs. / 93.1 Kg
Pack Size: 20.5 in. / 52.1 cm
For the past six to seven years I have been an avid backpacker. I am actively involved with two Search and Rescue organizations in the Shenandoah River Valley region, which has pushed my equipment to its limits in both rescue situations and training environments. I reside in the eastern panhandle of West Virginia, within a half-hour drive of the AT and about an hour from the Shenandoah National Park.
Coleman Exponent Rush backpack
Year of Manufacture: 2002
Weight: 4.4 lbs. / 1996 g
Capacity: 5,000 ci / 81.9 l
Torso Length: 16 22 in / 40.6 55.9 cm
Suggested Retail: $134.99
When youre as tall as I am, finding gear that fits can prove to be a lesson in frustration. Boots are always one size too small, tents are always too short, and sliding into a sleeping bag is akin to climbing back into the womb. Backpacks have to be the worst of them all. Even though a pack may say it fits up to a twenty-two inch torso, maxed out the shoulder straps still bear down and cut off the circulation to my arms.
Earlier this summer, I began the nearly futile search for a new pack that not only fit me, but also fit my needs and my bank account. Now that my son is getting close to the age where we can progress from day hikes to overnighters, though not quite big enough to carry all of his own stuff, I needed a pack that could carry my gear as well as his.
In my search I came across a number of packs that outfitters claimed to be what I was looking for. However, time and time again, the pack wound up being a smaller torso size than advertised or, if the fit was right, the capacity for storage was all wrong. Occasionally, I would find a pack that both fit reasonably well and answered my storage needs, but was nearly as heavy as the gear I intended on carrying in it or had a price tag equivalent to couple of monthly payments on a BMW. However, I eventually found my pack. I was very surprised to learn the answer to my questions came from an unlikely source.
To me, the name Coleman normally conjures up images of Wal-Mart camping equipment, aptly situated between the automotive supplies and the toys. This is an image that Coleman has been trying to shake. Though they arent planning on stopping production on their ten-pound, rectangular sleeping bags or thirty pound, three-room tents anytime in the near future, Coleman is working hard to appeal to the more discerning crowds. To do this, Coleman is producing lightweight, quality equipment worthy of a thru-hike at a lower cost than most of their close competitors.
To help in the transition from mass-merchandise camping to quality outfitter, Coleman has created an entire line of backpacking equipment under the Exponent label. Nestled amongst the two-pound sleeping bags and expedition stoves is an array of backpacks ranging from 1,900 cubic inches to 6,000 cubic inches. At the 5,000 cubic inch level is the Coleman Exponent Rush.
The Rush is a top-loading pack, constructed of with mini-ripstop nylon and high-density oxford weave in the high wear areas. To batten things down, the pack has a drawstring closure and a removable lid, which has about 200 cubic inches of storage space. Inside the pack is nothing noteworthy, since its really just a big bag. But, whats nice about this bag is the lower portion of it. Near the bottom, there is an additional collar with a drawstring closure to separate your larger and heavier items (like tents and sleeping bags) from everything else. Accessing the items stored there is as simple as unzipping a large flap on the rear of the bag, removing the need to completely unload the pack.
To compliment the Rushs gobs of internal storage, it has an eighty cubic inch external storage pouch on the rear of the pack and two (one each side) nylon web pockets. The side pouches are easily accessed while wearing the pack and nicely sized for large bottles, snacks and maps. In addition to the pockets, there are also the standard carambiner loops, bungee cord straps, adjustable sleeping pad ties, and the obligatory ice axe loops.
Even though the pack has massive quantities of storage, the majority of the packs weight is attributed to the padding that Coleman added to increase the comfort of the wearer. The shoulder straps, hip belt, and lower back are very well padded. The torso section of the pack is also abundantly padded. Normally this would be a drawback as padding can act as an insulator making the pack hot and uncomfortable to wear. However, Coleman has incorporated a chimney vent that runs vertically along the pack, between the shoulder straps, allowing air to pass through and cooling the wearer.
The Rush has a lot of adjustability to allow the wearer to properly fit the pack to their liking. Torso length, shoulder height and length, top and bottom load, and, or course, hip belt, are adjustable. In addition, the Rush has a pair of aluminum (T6016) stays that are bendable for a truly custom fit.
I found that fine tuning the packs fit to be a time consuming process. I worked at it for nearly two hours straight. I would don the loaded pack, adjust the various straps, move around, then remove the pack, adjust the torso length or the internal stays and repeat the process all over again until I got it right. But, once I did find the right fit, the fully loaded pack almost felt like nothing at all.
On the trail
The maiden voyage of the Rush was on an overnight in Shenadoah National Park. We took a ten mile jaunt down the AT, crossing both North Marshall Mountain (3320 feet) and South Marshall Mountain (3212 feet) in the process, finally stopping at Gravel Springs for the night. During the previous two days we had experienced light to moderate rain increasing the humidity. Aside from the moisture, the weather for both days was mild (high 70s, Fahrenheit) and clear.
I think the best phrase to describe the outing is over prepared. It was my sons first overnight hiking trip. I had packed for every conceivable problem that might have arisen. Besides the gear that I would normally carry (sleeping bags, tent, clothes, etc), I was also toting a majority of my sons gear (sleeping bag, clothes, etc), plus the items I was actively testing (hammock, food, multi-tool). To quell my wifes fears, I had promised to also carry my brick (two-way radio called a brick because that is roughly the size and weight of it), three different kinds of lights, and, just in case, cold weather gear. All of this and we were no more than 500 yards from Skyline Drive for the entire hike.
Despite the burden (my estimate is fifty-five to sixty pounds), the pack performed very well for me the first day. The fit was so nice that the only time that I realized how much weight that I was actually carrying was when I took the pack off for rest stops and then had to put it back on again.
However, on the second day, I found myself constantly adjusting the tension of the waist and shoulder straps. After a half mile or so of hiking, I would feel the load gradually getting heavier or my hands would begin to tingle from the shoulder straps pressing down. It became a ritual of lifting the weight up, cinching down the hip belt, and then adjusting the shoulder and / or load straps. By the end of the day my right shoulder was a bit tender from the weight and the friction of the strap constantly rubbing across it when it was adjusted.
On later trips, even in similar weather, I did not experience the same issues with adjustment slipping. My guess would be that the excessively heavy load, combined with the damp conditions, was the cause.
If the need for a large capacity pack tops your list, but your budget is limited, the Rush might just be what you are looking for. Though it may not be the lightest pack in its category, it is far from the heaviest. Whatever points it loses for weight, it makes up in quality, fit, and comfort.
It would appear that Coleman has made great strides in the arena of backcountry gear. As they go into their third year marketing under the Exponent moniker, Coleman is showing that they are capable of designing lightweight, high-quality, low-cost equipment.
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