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62297LTR - Equinox Katahdin - Michael Lissner

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  • Michael Lissner
    Dec 1, 2004
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      Short Hand:

      Long Term Report of
      Equinox Katahdin Backpack
      By Michael Lissner
      30 November 2004

      Contents of Review:
      1. Tester Biological Information
      2. Backpacking Background
      3. Product Information
      4. Product Description
      5. Conditions of Long Term Testing
      6. Results of Long Term Testing
      7. Final Conclusions

      1. Tester Biological Information
      Name: Michael Jay Lissner
      Trail Name: The Chemist
      Age: 22
      Gender: Male
      Torso Length: 51 cm (20 in)
      Height: 201 cm (6' 7")
      Weight: 88 kg (195 lb)
      Email Address: yourmothership at hotmail dot com (feel free to ask me
      City of Current Residence: Berkeley, California
      [back to top]

      2. Backpacking Background
      I have been backpacking for the greater part of my life. I started
      with heavy weight packing with the Boy Scouts, but my current style is
      a highly minimalist one relying on more skill and discomfort and less
      on creature comforts and toys. Although my backpacking style is an
      evolving thing, at this point I usually clock in 27.4 k (17 mile) days
      with a base weight (without food or water) of about 5.4 kg (12 lbs),
      including my tarp, frameless pack and down quilt. My usual stomping
      grounds are any of the terrain within three hours from wherever I find
      myself living.
      [back to top]

      3. Product Information
      Manufacturer: Equinox Ltd.
      Manufacturer's URL: http://www.equinoxltd.com
      Product's Name: The Katahdin
      Color Tested: Blue/Black
      Year of Manufacture: Presumably, 2004
      Suggested Retail Price: 120.00 USD
      Advertised Weight: 624 g (22 oz)*
      Measured Weight: 720 g (25.4 oz)*
      Advertised Volume: 55 L (3350 cu in)
      Measured Volume: 57 L (3461 cu in)*
      *See the Initial and Field Reports for more information about the
      acquisition of these numbers.
      [back to top]

      4. Product Description
      This is an ultralight frameless pack made of Coolmax fabric, 1.1 oz
      silnylon, some mesh and nylon webbing. It has what I consider to be a
      complete smattering of straps, and has five pockets including the main
      chamber. For a much more detailed description, you have arrived at the
      wrong place. You should seek out either my Initial Report or that of
      one of the other testers.
      [back to top]

      5. Conditions of Long Term Testing
      Since the field report I have used this pack for a total of three
      weekend trips, and a number of training hikes. Two of the weekend
      trips were in the Sierra Mountains, near Yosemite in the Desolation
      and Emigrant Wilderness areas. The third was closer to home, at Point
      Reyes National Park. The weather encountered in each of these trips
      was rather typical autumn in California weather with warm days and
      cool nights. The one near the ocean was damper and warmer, while the
      ones in the Sierras were dryer and colder. The elevations for these
      trips range from about five meters (15 feet) at Point Reyes to about
      2,750 m (9,000 ft) in the Sierras.

      During these trips, my equipment was very much the same as the
      equipment listed for the fourth trip in my field report. The heaviest
      items in my pack aside from food or water were my 666 g (23.5 oz)
      tarp, my 587 g (20.7 oz) quilt, and my 416 g (14.7 oz) fleece anorak.
      Loading the pack during these trips was very much the same as what I
      had settled on at the end of the field report phase. To wit, I began
      my inserting my 3/4 length Thermarest Ridgerest vertically into the
      empty pack, and allowing it to unroll. Once it was unrolled, I would
      place my uncompressed quilt in a garbage bag in the center of it, and
      then everything else on top of that, using the outside pockets to hold
      general miscellanea.

      During the training hikes, my loading technique was to put as much
      weight into the pack as I felt would be comfortable. Though I never
      officially weighed the result, I would guess that it was around 11 kg
      (24 lb). To reach that weight I would usually use my Thermarest
      Ridgerest to fill out the pack, and then would stuff the comforter off
      of my bed into the pack, followed by some weights and some water. I
      usually tried to put the weights in a logical place so that they would
      balance well, but I can't think of a time that they didn't move around
      and bug me. Once that was all together, I would drive to one of the
      steeper locations in town, and would begin going up and down it again
      and again for an hour or so. Usually this meant a number of reps up
      and down the bleachers at the local stadium.
      [back to top]

      6. Results of Long Term Testing
      The last four months of testing have been important ones for me and
      this pack, as they have allowed me to do some experimenting with it,
      and to gain what I hope is some insight. Certain things mentioned in
      the field report still bug me about this pack, most notably its squat
      shape, though the odd strap lengths are a bother that I plan to soon
      remedy where possible. I mentioned the squat shape in some depth in my
      field report, and I have to admit that it is one of the things that
      bothers me most about this pack. I'm not sure exactly why it is such a
      bother, but it makes loading the pack something more of a challenge,
      and it's just too wide and volumous for the stuff I carry. If I could
      make two suggestions to Equinox, this would be the second of them.

      The first suggestion I would make to Equinox would be to improve the
      rain performance of the pack. On a car camping trip that I went on, I
      took this pack along to hold some gear, and it was then that I
      realized how poorly it coped. After the first couple of days at this
      campsite, the rain began coming down in a most violent fashion. I was
      using a tarp, which coped very well with the rain, but after a few
      days of this rain, the dirt around my tarp closed its doors for
      business, and would admit no more water (i.e. puddles began to form).
      Eventually, these puddles made their way under and over my ground
      cloth, and it was then that the Equinox met its nemesis.

      The first problem it had was that the foam in its very comfortable hip
      belt is open celled. It absorbs water like a sponge, and in cold
      weather is pretty gross and soggy. In addition to being gross, by
      absorbing water, it gains weight. Significant amounts of weight to
      such a point that the belt sags when held at the middle. The second
      problem is that the shoulder straps absorb water in the same way, but
      to a lesser degree because they are much thinner. The third problem
      this pack has with rain is that its back panel is made of mesh, and
      does nothing to stop rain. I liked the idea of the mesh, in that my
      back can get pretty sweaty on a hot day, but on every backpacking trip
      that I took with this pack, I had a closed cell pad directly against
      the mesh, effectively stopping my perspiration from going into the
      contents of my pack. This is probably a good thing anyway. At one
      point during this testing period, I took a trip to Big Sur State Park.
      During that trip, rain was expected, and I decided not to take along
      this pack. As such, I haven't actually experienced hiking with it in
      the rain (as opposed to car camping with it) because it so obviously
      would just be trouble.

      The picture at right serves to demonstrate another problem I have had
      with this pack. I mentioned in my Field Report that I was having a
      problem with the top strap popping off of the load and doing nothing
      for extended periods of time. This was continually a problem on pretty
      much all of my trips, and probably has a lot to do with how I loaded
      the pack, but to combat the problem, I developed a technique of
      crossing the straps so that there is no top strap that can pop off.
      This solved the problem, but the resulting pack is pulled downward,
      with the side flaps being pulled on in strange directions. In other
      words, it looks bad, and can't be good for the stitching on the bag.
      From what I could tell, this didn't really have much effect on the fit
      of the bag. For that matter, I am not altogether convinced that the
      three straps are accomplishing much of anything even when they are
      working well.

      Because of the way that I loaded the pack, pulling down on the straps
      really did not seem to compress much of anything. The compression of
      the pack came from the inside, where everything was pushing out on the
      Thermarest Ridgerest, not the outside, and pulling harder on the
      straps couldn't do much compressing, because they had to coil the
      Ridgerest to make anything smaller. I will fully admit that this is
      speculation because I did not actually hike with all of the straps
      undone, but after having the top one pop off for uncounted miles, I
      can say that it didn't make a noticeable difference in the fit of the
      pack. Whatever the case, with the coiled pad inside, I have not been
      able to do much compressing with any of the three straps.

      To contrast those rather sour notes, I can now report that I have
      undertaken a trip with this pack sans hipbelt, and it was great. For
      me this was a huge step in my backpacking life, so before this trip, I
      did everything I could to limit the amount of weight in the pack. At
      this point, all I could do was limit the food I wanted to the lightest
      things I could get away with, and limit myself to two liters (quarts)
      of water. I would wager that the gross weight of the pack was around 9
      kg (20 lb) once water and food was weighed in. At this weight, I found
      that the pack was comfortable, though I always knew when I was running
      low on water in my Platypus because my shoulders felt more
      comfortable. One of the great things about this pack is the width of
      the shoulder straps. Each of them is 8 cm (3 in) wide, making for a
      nice weight distribution across my shoulders. I am happy to say that I
      do not regret leaving the hipbelt at home, and I believe in the future
      I will probably do so again.

      Another thing that I continue to love about this pack is the way the
      hipbelt functions. I mentioned in my field report that the hip
      stabilizer straps work very effectively, and on the trips that I took
      with the pack and the belt, I have again and again been impressed with
      their ability to transfer weight to my hips.
      [back to top]

      7. Final Conclusions
      I have to admit that overall I have not been particularly impressed
      with this pack - in addition to other nits that I mentioned in my
      earlier reports, the compression straps don't seem to do much, it is
      wider and squatter than I would like, and it is highly vulnerable to
      the ravages of water. The harness system on this pack is more
      comfortable than pretty much any other system I have used, but I can't
      say it is better because it absorbs so much water, and because the
      lengths on the straps are all wacky. For me, the future does include
      using this pack for some trips, but I don't believe I will trust it on
      any that involve water or smaller quantities of gear.

      My thanks go out to Equinox Ltd, and BGT for the chance to review this

      Michael Lissner
      Manufacturer's Rep
      BenchPro Inc

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