BY HERMES HANDON
May 31, 2007
NAME: Hermes Handon
LOCATION: Bellevue, Washington, USA
HEIGHT: 6' 1" (1.85 m)
WEIGHT: 170 lb (77.10 kg)
Backpacking Background: I've been hiking (mostly in Europe) since I
could walk but only began backpacking in 1998 when I wanted to
explore further into the wilderness and National Park areas of the
US Pacific Northwest. I have backpacked extensively in the Cascade
Range, some in the Olympics and BC Coast Range and my most recent
major expedition was the Wonderland Trail around Mount Rainier. I've
noticed a natural slowing of my pace in recent years and my doctor,
while encouraging me to continue backpacking, has strongly suggested
I lighten up!
Manufacturer: Six Moon Designs
Year of Manufacture: 2006
Manufacturer's Website: <<http://www.sixmoondesigns.com
MSRP: US$120 Shipping $10. Purchased online directly from the
Listed Weight: 13 oz (369 g)
Measured Weight: 13.1 oz (371 g)
Other details: The Essence pack is part of Six Moon
Designs "Wicked Light" series and is a frameless, front loading pack.
In addition to the main front loading container, the pack has a large
top pocket, 2 half length mesh pockets on one side and a single full
length mesh pocket on the other side. 2 hip pockets are an integral
part of the hip belt.
Overnighters were mostly on the east side of the Cascades
where conditions are dryer and snow melts away earlier in the season.
The Wonderland backpack was 93 miles (150 km) through conditions
high alpine rock to low forested valleys, gentle duff padded trails
to steep scree slopes.
Weather: From brilliant sunshine in 70F (21.11c) to driving sleet in
34F (1.11c) and
pretty much everything in between.
The bag arrived in excellent condition and the finish was very good
throughout except at the bottom left hand side where the bottom
material, side material and spindrift material meet. Here there was a
little evidence of stretching of the very light spindrift material
which seemed to extend the stitching holes slightly. I put a dab of
Silnet in this area and its counterpart on the other side (though
that side was ok) before my first use of the bag in the field. This
upped the weight of the bag by .1oz (2.83gr - the smallest difference
can detect). Subsequent inspection after extensive use indicates that
the Silnet was completely unnecessary.
I played around with various pads for use as the "frame" of the
Essence pack and settled on an older ¾ length lightweight Thermarest
emptied of air and folded in 3. I tried the ¾ length
Prolite 3 also but it did not seem to give the bag enough structure
(this is my first frameless pack).
Wearing the bag around the neighborhood allowed me to try various
packing techniques - none of which seemed to make much difference to
the comfort I felt with the pack on these short walks. My back seems
to be the perfect length for this pack.
Initial Field Test
My first overnight outing was to Bean Creek Basin which is a 5 mile
round trip. I did this as an overnighter as I was squeezing it into
an afternoon and a morning rather than one full day. I carefully
packed the bag as suggested on the Six Moon Designs site, including
one extra nights rations in case of emergency. The pack was not even
close to full and was cinched using both the bungee cord and the clip
straps on the flap. The moderately steep trail was in excellent
condition with one creek crossing and little brush or other
obstacles. The pack was extremely comfortable on the way up to the
upper basin where I set up camp and left my pack to run up Earl Peak
with just a water bottle. Next morning, with little time and a strict
deadline, I replaced the pad carefully behind the straps and just
threw everything else in and, quite frankly, probably because of the
low amount of gear, the bag didn't seem to carry any differently on
the way down. I was very happy with my initial real hike with the
pack and was kicking myself that I hadn't tried frameless sooner.
It's even more comfortable than a framed pack under my feet and lower
legs at night!
Careful inspection of the bag after the trip revealed no evidence of
strain, wear or tear.
Extended Field Test
I did several other overnighters with the Essence Pack and found it
very comfortable. But when I was doing a four nighter to the
Enchantments area of the local Alpine Lakes Wilderness, which
involves a small amount of light scrambling I reverted to my Golite
Infinity framed pack. This emphasized to me the difference in comfort
level between the two packs and I resolved to try the Essence Pack on
the next long trip which happened to be a nine day Wonderland Trail
My starting pack weight was 21lbs,1oz (9.55Kg) including one quart of
water and food for 6 days (as I had left a food and clothing cache at
the ranger station halfway around the mountain). I continued to use
the older Thermarest but testing at home showed that, at this weight,
considerable care was needed to make the pack carry comfortably. I
found the best arrangement to be to stuff my sleeping bag into the
bottom of the bag, my food and anything else fairly rigid (usually
my kitchen) into my bear pole bag (stuff sack) and put this
vertically in the center of the pack where it acts as a rigid column.
Other relatively heavy gear went at either side of the column and
lighter gear (usually cold weather clothes) centered over the food
stuff sack where they would be cinched tight when the bag was closed.
This worked excellently for carrying but was a nuisance if I needed
to get out food while on the trail as, inevitably, that meant taking
out the stuff sack which caused the items along the side to collapse
towards the center which in turn resulted in a repack. I got quite
good at remembering to leave out snacks and other day use items and,
thankfully, the Essence pack has ample outside pockets for those
items. I found it best to use the top pocket for my water bag instead
of putting it inside and using the provided port. Each of the small
net pockets had a small Gatorade bottle (empty unless I was mixing
drinks and/or had a long way to go to the next water). I carried wet
clothes and towel when necessary tied to the bungee cinch cord over
the packs flap - not very elegant but most effective.
Though there was still ample room in the pack (none of the pockets
was anywhere near capacity). The pack looked huge to me compared to
how it looked on overnighters but I soon realized that it was tiny
compared to what most people were carrying and many on the trail were
surprised that I was doing the Wonderland with such a small pack.
From the outset the pack was very comfortable and I had no aches or
pains anywhere throughout the trek. The pack was a joy to carry and
became a talking point on the trail.
On the first night I discovered a serious problem for me with the
pack. That first day was hot and I had a 2800 foot (853m) climb to
5600 ft (1707m)
followed by a steep drop to 4000ft (1219m). I sweat profusely and the
from my back went through the back panel of the pack and was absorbed
by my pad. I didn't notice the problem until I was going to sleep by
which time, my sleeping bag had gotten wet from the pad. Inspection
showed that the area of the pad facing my back was saturated and at
the lower end, all four layers had some moisture. From then on, I got
used to removing the pad from the bag as soon as I got into camp each
evening and letting it air before putting under my shelter. This
would not always be effective in the climate here but on days that
were rainy, it was also cooler so I didn't have the problem. I am
still looking for a better solution to this somewhat personal problem.
The pack was at it's heaviest after I picked up my cache on Day 5 but
I only had to lug it two miles before putting the excess in my tummy.
These two miles definitely put some strain on the pack - probably
hitting its weight limits and I thought I heard something give at the
top attachment point of one of the straps when putting on the pack
but inspection revealed no damage and the pack continues to be fine.
<<IMAGE GOES HERE. ALT TEXT = "Still very compact even after
The pack was fine in mist but I had it completely covered by my cape
anytime there was driving rain or snow so I do not know how it
performs when exposed to heavy rain.
Inspection after the trip shows no wear or tear and the Silnet I
applied doesn't seem to have stretched any so that may have just been
over cautiousness on my part.
This pack was only available in one size last year. The revised 2007
model is available in several sizes to suit various torso lengths.
Very comfortable pack - no sore spots, bruises or pressure points
even after 9 days of lugging up and down around Mt. Rainier. The
Essence has become my pack of choice for all backpack trips.
THINGS I LIKE
Light weight; extremely comfortable (for me); lot's of
space; easy access, convenient pockets; no wear signs after extensive
use, attention getting design!
THINGS I DON'T LIKE
Back panel is porous which may be a problem if,
like me, you sweat profusely through your back. A side
opening rather than top opening stuff sack may be more convenient
This report was created with the BGT Report Generator.
Copyright 2007. All rights reserved.