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Initial Report for Equinox Katahdin Pack - Michael Lissner

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  • Michael Lissner
    Well, at long last, I have done the following: 1. Graduated from college. 2. Trained for work. 3. Conquered my viris problem. 4. Moved to Berkeley 5. Gotten my
    Message 1 of 5 , Jun 1, 2004
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      Well, at long last, I have done the following:
      1. Graduated from college.
      2. Trained for work.
      3. Conquered my viris problem.
      4. Moved to Berkeley
      5. Gotten my new computer set up.
      AND
      6. Written my Initial Review.

      That's right, I finally wrote the initial review. I'll admit, it still
      lacks a couple of numbers (namely, the measured weight) but those will
      be done in a couple of days, and I figured we could get editing on it
      before then. Anyway, here she be:

      -mike

      PS I already found a typo - the darned alternate text for the first
      picture is spelled incorrectly. I'll get on it...


      In the Very Short Hand:
      http://tinyurl.com/3ynuq

      In the Short Hand:
      http://www.backpackgeartest.org/reviews/test/TESTS/Equinox%20Katahdin%20Pack%20-%20Michael%20Lissner/


      And in the Long Hand:






      Initial Review of
      Equinox Katahdin Backpack
      By Michael Jay Lissner
      1 June 2004


      Contents of Review:
      1. Tester Biographical Information
      2. Backpacking Background
      3. Product Information
      4. Product Description
      5. Initial Impressions
      6. Plans for Further Testing
      7. Current Conclusions

      1. Tester Biographical Information:
      Name: Michael Jay Lissner
      Age: 21
      Gender: Male
      Height: 198 cm (6' 6")
      Torso Length: 51 cm (20 in)
      Weight: 86 kg (185 lb)
      Email Address: yourmothership at hotmail dot com
      City of Current Residence: Berkeley, California (near the San
      Francisco Bay area)
      [back to top]

      2. Backpacking Background:
      I was first introduced to backpacking through the Boy Scouts of
      America, and it was my love of backpacking that made me stick all the
      way through and get my Eagle. After becoming too old to continue with
      the Boy Scouts, I had trouble motivating myself to plan my own trips,
      and did not go backpacking for a number of years, until I realized
      that I should thru-hike the PCT. I am currently in a multiyear
      training program, practicing techniques, studying backpacking
      literature, getting in shape, planning the many wee details and
      perhaps most importantly, converting my ultra-heavy Boy Scout
      techniques into ones more well suited to ultralight thru-hiking. My
      current style is a very minimalist one relying more predominantly on
      intelligence and slight discomfort and less on safety gear and toys.
      At this point, I feel safe saying that my 5.5 kg (12 lb) summer base
      load weight makes me a budding ultra-light hiker. I tend to prefer
      mountains to deserts, and rivers to streams, and my backpacking
      destinations all around northern California reflect that.
      [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: 264 g (22 oz)*
      Measured Weight: ?????????????????**
      Advertised Volume: 55 L (3350 cu in)
      Measured Volume: 57 L (3461 cu in)***
      *The advertised weight has come to be a bit of a recluse number. On
      the Equinox web-site, the weight is not given. On the Campmor
      web-site, the weight is given as 709 g (25 oz). On
      backcountrygear.com, it's given as 567 g (20 oz). The weight I have
      listed above is what Equinox put on their hang tag which came with the
      pack.
      **The weight of the pack was measured by taking it to a supermarket
      and using their checkout scales, which are accurate in ounces to three
      decimal places (sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do).
      ***The volume of the pack was measured by filling all of the pack's
      pockets with packaging peanuts, and then dumping them into a box. By
      then measuring the inside dimensions of the box, and the height of the
      peanuts in it, the volume of the pack was determined.
      [back to top]

      4. Product Description:
      Generally: The pack is designed as a frameless ultralight pack. It has
      five pockets in all: One central pocket that opens at the top with a
      drawstring for dumping all of your big items into; two zippered side
      pockets that are useful for smaller items such as bug repellent; and
      two mesh pockets that are intentioned by Equinox for water bottles,
      but can be used for anything that will not slide through mesh.

      Specifically: This pack integrates many interesting features. Below, I
      will go through them one by one, describing them, and giving my
      initial impression of them.
      Materials: From what I can tell, this pack is made from four different
      fabrics. The back panel is made from a stiff nylon mesh material that
      kind of resembles the mesh that can be found on American "Trucker
      Hats." I called Equinox to get more information about this material,
      but without doing some research (which I didn't want to ask them to
      do) they weren't able to tell me much more about this material than
      the fact that it is nylon, and that so far they have not had a single
      return because of it. I find it to be a pretty unusual material
      choice, but I am interested to see how well it helps to ventilate my
      back. To me, it seems plenty strong for the job, so long as a rip in
      it doesn't get started. Hopefully, I won't actually get to see what
      happens when it gets ripped.

      The main body of the pack is made from 38 g/m2 (1.1 oz/yd2) silicone
      impregnated ripstop nylon (also known as silnylon). This material is a
      semi-transparent slippery material that is actually kind of crinkly
      like a thick trash bag. If you look at the left picture above, you can
      see some stripes showing in the material. This is my bed pillow that
      I stuffed in it to fill it out a bit for the picture, but it helps to
      illustrate the way that you can see items inside the pack, through the
      material. Interestingly, the blue color of this pack exactly matches
      the blue color of the silnylon that I used to make some stuff sacks
      and my tarp. For once (out of sheer coincidence) I am traveling in
      style. In my experiences with the tarp and stuff sacks, this material
      is very hard to work with, but very strong and surprisingly durable. I
      know it looks thin and weak, but in all of my experiences with it, it
      has proved to be a pretty amazing material. My other pack, the Granite
      Gear Vapor Trail is made from a heavier weight of the material, and it
      has held up beautifully, even when I was thrashing through some pretty
      tough areas.

      The third material that the pack is made from is 70 denier 38 g/m2
      (1.1 oz/yd2) urethane coated ripstop nylon. This material is used on
      the bottom (see picture at right) and sides exclusively, and Equinox
      tells me it is pretty waterproof, but that the urethane coating that
      is put on it is rather thin (in order to save weight), and that under
      pressure, it is capable of leaking a little bit.

      At the bottom of the backside of the pack, in the lumbar region, there
      is a thin pad, that Equinox tells me is made from 6.4 mm (1/4 in)
      closed cell foam enveloped in polyester Coolmax fabric (see picture
      above). However, at the top of the lumbar pad, the edge of this
      material is left raw rather than hemmed (perhaps to avoid creating an
      uncomfortable ridge in the wearer's back), and from what I can tell,
      this material looks like much thinner foam, more approximately 1.6 mm
      (1/16 in) thick. In addition to covering the lumbar region, the
      Coolmax material is also on the inside surface of the hipbelt. This is
      a very soft material, and until I actually talked with an Equinox
      representative, I was actually concerned that for some reason Equinox
      had decided that cotton was the best material for this area. This
      material also seems kind of unusual to me, but, having never had an
      ultralight pack before, it could just be something I have never seen.
      I am interested in seeing just how well it wicks the sweat off my
      back, as well as how well it holds up.

      The other three materials that this pack is made from are nylon strap
      (here there and everywhere), flexible nylon mesh for the water bottle
      pockets, and nylon plastic for all of the buckles and cinches. One
      interesting thing that I noticed about the plastic buckles is that all
      excess material in them has been left out during the injection molding
      process. If you look at the picture at left of the hip buckle, you
      will see what I mean. I can't be sure whether it is intentional or
      not, but rather than choosing buckles that are filled in like in
      almost all other packs I have seen, Equinox has chosen buckles that
      shave some excess weight.

      Main Compartment: As with many packs, the main compartment of this
      pack runs vertically down the center of it from top to bottom. At the
      top, it is closed as in a stuff stuff sack, forming a pucker of sorts
      (see picture at left). In the picture, if you look closely, you will
      see that my hydration tube is coming out of the pucker. This is
      because in order to use a hydration bladder with this pack, it must be
      placed directly inside the main compartment itself. One thing about
      the main compartment that I have noticed is that it is by no means
      waterproof. In addition to having the opening at the top, it also has
      the mesh back panel that allows both my sweat, and any water that hits
      it from the sky to pass right through.

      Zippered Pockets: The two zippered pockets in the pack are on either
      side of the main compartment at the top of the urethane coated ripstop
      nylon that runs up and down the sides. Their openings start at the top
      of the pack and run down the pocket 19 cm (7.5 in), opening from top
      to bottom (see picture at left). Because the pockets go from the top
      of the pack to the middle compression strap, a distance of 29 cm (11.5
      in), and the zippers are not this long, if the zipper becomes
      accidentally unzipped, most of the items in the pockets probably will
      not fall out (immediately anyway). The one problem I have already
      encountered with this pockets is that because the top compression
      straps are attached to them halfway down, they cannot hold items that
      are very thick without squishing them when the strap is tightened. For
      example, if I fill them up with a bottle of DEET, my plastic compass
      and some stakes and then tighten the strap, the stakes will get
      smashed into the DEET and the compass, potentially creating all kinds
      of navigational and messy problems.

      Something that is pretty interesting about these pockets though is
      that the top strap runs under them, and is attached to them halfway
      down with a bar tack. In this configuration, a 12.7 cm (5 in) loop is
      created under the pocket. I have yet to devise a clever way to put
      this to use, but I have a feeling that I will come up with something
      once I get this pack on the trail.

      Mesh Pockets: The two mesh pockets on this pack are located below the
      center compression strap, and are big enough to fit a 1 L (32 fl oz)
      Nalgene bottle pretty nicely. At their top, they have an elastic cinch
      strap that is used to keep whatever the wearer puts in them from
      falling out. In my initial loading of them, I have found them to be
      rather convenient holders for my little stuff sack of miscellanea on
      one side, and for my fuel bottle and a small water bottle on the other
      (see the left photo at top). One word of warning about them though: If
      you put small or skinny things in them, these items will fall out
      through the mesh.

      The Straps: This pack has quite an assortment of straps. As can be
      seen in the photo at top, there are three straps that run around the
      pack in order to compress it as much as possible. Each of these is
      attached at the back panel of the pack, and runs all the way around
      it, with a clip in the middle that can be cinched down. The bottom two
      go over the urethane coated nylon sides, but the top one actually goes
      under them so that it does not interfere with the zippered pockets.

      The shoulder straps are made from a combination of the urethane coated
      nylon on the outside, and the Coolmax lined foam padding on the
      inside. They are about 2 cm (.5 in) thick, and seem pretty comfy from
      the get go. They have the standard "S Curve" design, and are attached
      to the mesh with 2.64 cm (1 in) strap, which I can only assume helps
      to divide the load on the stitching so that it does not pull out.
      Going down the front side of the shoulder straps is a length of strap,
      onto which is laced the sternum strap. Something that I feel they are
      missing is the D-ring that is usually there. I usually use this to
      keep the tube of my hydration system at hand, but without them, I have
      to strap the tube with a small hook and loop strap (see the right hand
      picture above).

      The hip stabilizer straps are quite a pleasure. Rather than the usual
      straps that run directly from the waist belt to the pack, this pack
      has a system in which by tightening one strap, the wearer is able to
      bring the pack much closer to their back, and especially their lumbar
      region (see picture at right). With past packs, I have always noticed
      that the hip stabilizer strap just didn't seem to do all that much,
      but at this point, I am amazed with this pack's system. When I tighten
      it up, I can feel the pack getting closer to my back, and I can
      actually feel the lumbar region becoming more comfortable. With it
      adjusted properly, I feel that I will actually be able to take more
      weight on my hips than I could with other internally framed packs.

      The hip belt of the pack slides under the lumbar bad, and attaches
      with hook and loop fasteners. Thus, it is an optional hip belt, that
      can be adjusted vertically to create accomodate a range of torso
      lengths. With my giant torso, I have it adjusted down as far as it
      will go, creating a distance of 44.5 cm (17.5 in) between its vertical
      center and where the shoulder straps attach to the pack (the minimum
      this measurement could be is 38.1 cm [15 in]). The hip belt is
      constructed much like the shoulder straps with the Coolmax lining on
      the inside and the urethane coated nylon towards the outside. The big
      difference in construction is that the hip belt is made from thicker
      foam, which Equinox tells me are two different densities.

      The Seams and Overall Construction: At this point, I feel confident in
      saying that the seams and construction of this pack are sturdy. Many
      of the seams are doubled up for strength, and in many places,
      strapping has been sewn down to spread the load of the stitching over
      a wider area. On the other hand, many of the materials out of which
      this pack is constructed have been chosen with weight in mind, meaning
      that many of them are not the strongest options, but rather ones that
      are intended merely to be strong enough. Testing will be the judge of
      how well these materials hold up.
      [back to top]

      5. Initial Impressions:
      When this pack arrived in my PO box, I was quite elated. Not only was
      this my first big BGT test, but it was also my first ultralight pack,
      and boy was it pretty. Once I got it home, I filled it up with a bunch
      of gear and tried it on. The fit was awesome, but admittedly, I didn't
      have much weight in it, and these things can be quite deceptive when
      you're comfortably at home playing with gear vs. when you are out on
      the trail all day. My field report will definitely report on this
      subject in more depth.

      One thing I did notice while I had the pack on was that it seemed to
      interfere a little bit with my arm motion. It could well have been the
      way that I had the pack loaded, but it seemed to be a rather wide pack
      compared with the other ones that I have. I am very interested in
      seeing if it is something that annoys me in the future, or if it was
      just something that I noticed, but that I'll get used to without too
      much trouble.

      Something that has already annoyed me is that I cannot reach the
      zippered pockets while the pack is on. Because I almost never take of
      my pack while hiking, if that is the case, this severely limits the
      usability of the pockets to holding only those things that I will need
      in camp, but not while on the trail. I can however, reach the mesh
      pockets, so I can put anything I need on the trail into them.
      [back to top]

      6. Plans for Further Testing:
      There are a number of things that interest me about this pack that I
      want to get more information about during testing. There are two
      things in particular that really raise red flags in my mind. The first
      is the near lack of padding on the back of the pack. I have heard a
      couple of different schools of thought on how to load ultralight
      frameless packs comfortably, and I want to see which one works best
      for me. Of the two that I had heard the first was to load it up with a
      Z-Rest sleeping pad along the back of it to form a pad as well as a
      frame, and then to load the rest of the pack and strap it down into a
      cylinder. The second way was to take a rollable sleeping pad, and form
      a tube inside the pack into which all the other gear is thrown. Once
      it is in there, again, you strap it down, creating a structured pack
      of sorts. I have already tried the first of these two methods with
      this pack, and it proved to be very comfortable in the living room. I
      want to try out each of these, and see how well they work in the
      field. Also, in addition to those two loading methods, I'd like to see
      how comfortable the pack is without the hip belt altogether. On one of
      my upcoming trips, I plan on removing the belt and hiking along to see
      how well it works. I have never tried this, and I feel like my
      shoulders will probably crumble if I do, but time will tell.

      The second thing that is raising a red flag in my mind is ease with
      which water can enter this pack. Every other pack I have ever seen has
      some level of impermeability to water, but this one has mesh panels
      that are exposed to the rain as well as a hole in the top that opens
      up to them. I usually use waterproof stuff sacks inside my pack in
      case it leaks, but I'd rather not have to rely on them too much.

      Something else that I have noticed about this pack is that it lacks an
      ice ax loop and D rings on the shoudler straps. It seems like there
      must be a way to attach an ice ax to a pack without it puncturing the
      pack or falling off, but I cannot immediately figure this out on this
      pack. I am going to see what I can do though. There must be some way
      to do it.
      [back to top]

      7. Current Conclusions:
      My current conclusions about this pack can be summed up by the word
      "interest." I am interested in seeing how comfortable it can be, and I
      am interested in seeing how waterproof it is. I am interested in if it
      will hold up to regular use, and I am interested in seeing how best to
      load it. Never have I had such an experimental pack. The field testing
      should prove to be very interesting.
      [back to top]
    • Shane Steinkamp
      ... Cool. What s next? Are you gonna cure cancer? ;) Shane
      Message 2 of 5 , Jun 1, 2004
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        > Well, at long last, I have done the following:
        > 1. Graduated from college.
        > 2. Trained for work.
        > 3. Conquered my viris problem.
        > 4. Moved to Berkeley
        > 5. Gotten my new computer set up.
        > AND
        > 6. Written my Initial Review.

        Cool. What's next? Are you gonna cure cancer? ;)

        Shane
      • Michael Lissner
        ... ### Only time will tell...I probably need to do some studying before then... -mike
        Message 3 of 5 , Jun 1, 2004
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          --- In BackpackGearTest@yahoogroups.com, "Shane Steinkamp"
          <shane@t...> wrote:
          > > Well, at long last, I have done the following:
          > > 1. Graduated from college.
          > > 2. Trained for work.
          > > 3. Conquered my viris problem.
          > > 4. Moved to Berkeley
          > > 5. Gotten my new computer set up.
          > > AND
          > > 6. Written my Initial Review.
          >
          > Cool. What's next? Are you gonna cure cancer? ;)
          >
          > Shane

          ###

          Only time will tell...I probably need to do some studying before then...

          -mike
        • Cora
          Thanks, Mike. I am glad things are finally working out and settling down for you. I hope Berkeley is treating you well. It seems like you ve done a lot of
          Message 4 of 5 , Jun 1, 2004
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            Thanks, Mike.
            I am glad things are finally working out and settling
            down for you. I hope Berkeley is treating you well.
            It seems like you've done a lot of great research for
            this IR, good work. My Edits and Comments follow.
            -Cora

            > Advertised Weight: 264 g (22 oz)*

            Edit: 22 oz is not 264 g

            > Measured Weight: ?????????????????**

            Edit: Please actually put a weight here for upload :)

            > the Equinox web-site, the weight is not given. On
            > the Campmor
            > web-site, the weight is given as 709 g (25 oz). On
            > backcountrygear.com, it's given as 567 g (20 oz).
            > The weight I have
            > listed above is what Equinox put on their hang tag
            > which came with the
            > pack.

            Comment: BGT tends to try to stay away from mentioning
            vendors in this way. Equinox shouldn't need to be
            held accountable for the errors of their retailers,
            and so just putting the advertised weight on the hang
            tag would be sufficient.

            > five pockets in all: One central pocket that opens
            > at the top with a
            > drawstring for dumping all of your big items into;

            Edit: Bringing the style over from owner review
            editing, the word "you" and all derivatives should not
            be used in reviews. It has been viewed to be
            equivalent to projecting. You can simply replace all
            the uses of it with "me", "my" and derivatives. Of
            course, when you are telling your reader to look at
            pictures and whatnot, it's fine; just avoid it in
            telling the reader what they should/n't do with gear.

            > My other
            > pack, the Granite
            > Gear Vapor Trail is made from a heavier weight of
            > the material, and it
            > has held up beautifully,

            Comment: This is getting sort of close to a shoot-out.
            Perhaps consider saying simply that you have another
            pack with similar, heavier material and that it has
            done fine?

            > material also seems kind of unusual to me, but,
            > having never had an
            > ultralight pack before, it could just be something I
            > have never seen.

            Comment: Just a note (don't want to impinge on style),
            but you just mentioned above that you use the Vapor
            Trail, which is pretty lightweight. I sure did a
            double take when you said you never owned such a pack.

            > and some stakes and then tighten the strap, the
            > stakes will get
            > smashed into the DEET and the compass, potentially
            > creating all kinds
            > of navigational and messy problems.

            Comment: I didn't quite catch this... did you
            actually experiment with DEET and stakes, or are you
            projecting?

            > about them though: If
            > you put small or skinny things in them, these items
            > will fall out
            > through the mesh.

            Edit: Another case of the dreaded "you"...

            > can be adjusted vertically to create accomodate a

            Edit: ...accommodate...

            > ice ax loop and D rings on the shoudler straps. It

            Edit: ...shoulder...
          • Michael Lissner
            See responses below... ... ####I wondered about this when I included it. It s fixed in the new version. ... ###After having written a few owner reviews, I have
            Message 5 of 5 , Jun 2, 2004
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              See responses below...

              --- In BackpackGearTest@yahoogroups.com, Cora <cahhmc@y...> wrote:
              > Thanks, Mike.
              > I am glad things are finally working out and settling
              > down for you. I hope Berkeley is treating you well.

              ####It is indeed. Very well in fact. I do love the summertime.

              > It seems like you've done a lot of great research for
              > this IR, good work. My Edits and Comments follow.
              > -Cora
              >
              > > Advertised Weight: 264 g (22 oz)*
              >
              > Edit: 22 oz is not 264 g

              ####Fair enough...
              >
              > > Measured Weight: ?????????????????**
              >
              > Edit: Please actually put a weight here for upload :)
              >
              ###Yup.

              > > the Equinox web-site, the weight is not given. On
              > > the Campmor
              > > web-site, the weight is given as 709 g (25 oz). On
              > > backcountrygear.com, it's given as 567 g (20 oz).
              > > The weight I have
              > > listed above is what Equinox put on their hang tag
              > > which came with the
              > > pack.
              >
              > Comment: BGT tends to try to stay away from mentioning
              > vendors in this way. Equinox shouldn't need to be
              > held accountable for the errors of their retailers,
              > and so just putting the advertised weight on the hang
              > tag would be sufficient.
              >
              ####I wondered about this when I included it. It's fixed in the new
              version.

              > > five pockets in all: One central pocket that opens
              > > at the top with a
              > > drawstring for dumping all of your big items into;
              >
              > Edit: Bringing the style over from owner review
              > editing, the word "you" and all derivatives should not
              > be used in reviews. It has been viewed to be
              > equivalent to projecting. You can simply replace all
              > the uses of it with "me", "my" and derivatives. Of
              > course, when you are telling your reader to look at
              > pictures and whatnot, it's fine; just avoid it in
              > telling the reader what they should/n't do with gear.
              >
              ###After having written a few owner reviews, I have the you/your fears
              well engrained in my mind, so I knew I was breaking rules when I wrote
              this. I thought I might be able to get away with it since it is so far
              removed from real projecting. Ah well. It's been fixed.

              > > My other
              > > pack, the Granite
              > > Gear Vapor Trail is made from a heavier weight of
              > > the material, and it
              > > has held up beautifully,
              >
              > Comment: This is getting sort of close to a shoot-out.
              > Perhaps consider saying simply that you have another
              > pack with similar, heavier material and that it has
              > done fine?
              >
              > > material also seems kind of unusual to me, but,
              > > having never had an
              > > ultralight pack before, it could just be something I
              > > have never seen.
              >
              > Comment: Just a note (don't want to impinge on style),
              > but you just mentioned above that you use the Vapor
              > Trail, which is pretty lightweight. I sure did a
              > double take when you said you never owned such a pack.
              >
              ###Since I no longer say that my other pack is a GG Vapor Trail (b/c
              of the comment you made above), this isn't as much of a problem, but
              from what I understand, an ultralight pack usually weighs in at closer
              to one pound, whereas the Vapor Trail weighs in at 2, a lightweight pack.

              > > and some stakes and then tighten the strap, the
              > > stakes will get
              > > smashed into the DEET and the compass, potentially
              > > creating all kinds
              > > of navigational and messy problems.
              >
              > Comment: I didn't quite catch this... did you
              > actually experiment with DEET and stakes, or are you
              > projecting?
              >
              ###I guess I am projecting, but only in so much as I would do if I
              were to say that a knife can cut the material. I'll make it more
              obvious nonetheless.

              > > about them though: If
              > > you put small or skinny things in them, these items
              > > will fall out
              > > through the mesh.
              >
              > Edit: Another case of the dreaded "you"...

              ###Noted.

              >
              > > can be adjusted vertically to create accomodate a
              >
              > Edit: ...accommodate...
              >
              ###Noted

              > > ice ax loop and D rings on the shoudler straps. It
              >
              > Edit: ...shoulder..

              Thanks for the edits. I am glad they got to me tonight, as tomorrow I
              am headed out to test the pack. The file should be uploaded tomorrow,
              once I have weighed the pack.

              -mike
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