FR - Mountainsmith Boundary Backpack - Tim Tessier
- Following please find my FR for the Mountainsmith Boundary Backpack.
The html version is in the test folder at:
The text version of the FR portion only follows:
Field Report - May 30, 2008
To date I have used the Mountainsmith Boundary for six days of hiking on
2 three-day, two-night trips. The first trip was to Mt. Rogers National
Recreation Area on a cold, foggy, rainy weekend in early April. We
hiked approximately 5 miles (8.5 km) into an Appalachian Trail shelter
on a Friday, then on Sunday we hiked out again. This was not a
tremendous number of miles but certainly a good "shakedown cruise" for a
The second trip was in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park Memorial
Day weekend. This trip involved 32 miles (52 km) of hiking in three
long days, approximately 10 stream crossings, and roughly a 1.5 mile
(2.42 km) total elevation change.
As stated earlier, this pack is smaller than what I am used to carrying.
For the past few years I have carried a 5600 cu. in. (92 L) pack. This
pack has a maximum capacity of 4800 cu. in. (79 L). What would have to
stay at home to make it all work? What changes would I have to make?
The Mt. Rogers trip was actually a better test of this than the Smokies
trip. First it was cold, nasty, weather. I needed cold weather
clothes, yet still needed to carry my tent as I didn't know if the
shelter would be available. As the weather was predicted to be wet, it
was imperative that I carry rain jacket, rain pants, and pack cover. At
40 F (4.4 C) I wanted to carry a warm sleeping bag. Warm shirt, long
underwear to sleep in, water filter, cookset, well... you get the idea.
I was able to get everything I needed into the pack, though I used every
cubic inch of space. I put the sleeping bag in the sleeping bag
compartment. Then I put the cookset , sleep mat, and other large items
in the main body of the pack. I then stuffed dry socks, and various
items of clothing into corners, shoving them down with my fingers until
the main pack body was pretty well stretched to its limit. I then took
my headlight, thin nylon rope, personal care items, etc. and put in one
side pocket. I put my water filter and gaiters in the other side
pocket. I put my map and compass in the internal "map compartment"
underneath the lid and put my first aid kit and some snacks inside the
lid itself. Finally, I attached the tent, in its stuff sack, to the
outside of the pack via the sleeping bag compression straps.
Thus loaded, the pack weighed just over 30 lbs (13.6 kg) and I was ready
to go. You will notice, however, that there is no mention of food. I
hike with my son. He carries the food. (I carry the tent, he carries
the food, that's our deal.) Had I been going solo, I would have had to
make some hard choices, probably involving simple, less bulky food, and
a simpler, less bulky cookset. Based on my experience this pack was
sufficient for a weekend in cold weather but would have been absolutely
insufficient from my perspective, for a longer period in cold weather.
I do want to take a moment to mention the hydration sleeve. There is a
sleeve on the inside of the pack that is large enough for a 2 liter
hydration bladder. There are two hydration ports, one on either side,
to allow me to pull the hose through and clip it onto a strap for
convenience. The sleeve allowed me to put my hydration bladder in "head
down" so that it would fully empty as it is being used. This operation,
however, needs to be completed before the pack is fully loaded. Once
loaded I found it nearly impossible to get the hydration bladder in. As
a matter of fact, I pulled a number of items out of the pack, put the
bladder in, then reloaded the pack in order to accomplish this task.
We arrived at Mt. Rogers in cool blustery weather for a 5 mile (8.5 km)
hike into our shelter. When I first put the pack on I immediately
noticed that it rode higher on my hips than my other pack. In all
honesty, it didn't feel worse, just different. As I walked with a 32
lb. (14.5 kg) load I noticed that the suspension system on this pack was
fully up to the job. The pack was very stable on my back. The hip
belt, though it does ride higher than I was used to, fully transferred
the weight to my legs. I found that I was well-balanced and able to
walk fully upright throughout our climb to the shelter.
All of the belts and straps stayed adjusted throughout. I was struck by
the utter lack of "fiddling" required. Once you adjust your help belt,
it stays adjusted. Same with all others. On the hip belt there is a
loop of fabric through which the belt slides for adjustment. As I carry
my digital camera in a case, suspended by a carabiner I found this to be
an ideal place to hang my camera case. It is completely out of the way,
yet ready to hand whenever I need it.
I did not feel any discomfort from the shoulder straps being farther out
on my shoulders than I am accustomed to. Again, once adjusted they
stayed adjusted for this short hike.
The trip to the Smokies gave me a much greater chance to test this pack
over some long days. This trip was in warm weather. This allowed me to
lighten my load considerably. Also, since the forecast was for a 20%
chance of rain showers or thunderstorms, we left the rain pants, and
pack covers at home. I was able to get the single-wall tent we took
inside the pack, rather than having to load it on the outside. My load,
before we left, was 20 lbs. (9.07 kg) exclusive of water. With a full
water bladder and a 1 liter Nalgene bottle full of Gatorade it was
probably closer to 24 lbs. (10.9 kg).
Again, when we first started hiking I noticed that the pack felt
different to me. However, as we got into hour number 2 then 3, this
difference completely melted away. Instead, I noticed how solid it
felt. I appreciated the fact that it didn't creak at all as I walked.
When we came to stream crossings, at times up to mid-thigh in rushing
water, I appreciated how stable this pack is.
On the second day, when we climbed over 3,000 feet (914 m) in hot
weather, I noticed that the back panel seems to ventilate very well.
Of course I was sweating, but with my old pack the sweat used to run
down my back to the point that my belt would be soaked through. On this
day, that never happened.
I also appreciated the barrel lock fasteners on the mesh "water bottle
pockets" on the outside bottom of the pack (just above the hip belt).
These fasteners meant that I could tighten the pocket around my Nalgene
bottle on one side, and around a cup that I always carry with my GPS
inside it, on the other side. This gave me a convenient place to carry
my GPS, antenna up, where I could reach around and easily grab it at any
time. This also gave me a high degree of confidence that if I slipped
and fell while crossing a stream I would still have everything when I
recovered my balance. Over time, packs without this feature tend to get
loose around water bottles as the elastic stretches out of place.
One other note... earlier I stated that I could not find the safety
whistle that was supposed to be included. a backpackgeartest.com reader
sent me a note suggesting that I look on the buckle of the sternum
strap. Sure enough, there it is, molded into the male end of the
buckle. The whistle gives a satisfying piercing cry that would be
easily detectable for quite a distance.
All in all, it is my feeling that for a summer long-weekend trip, this
pack is ideal. It is large enough without being too large. It is
stable. It is very well designed. It suited my needs very well. For
winter use, I am afraid that its utility would be limited by its size.
I am, admittedly, not an ultra-light packer. However, I found it to be
a challenge to stow all I needed for a cold weather weekend.
I have not discussed the "planet saving" aspects of this product on
purpose. My feeling is that if you can get a product that has
first-rate functionality that is also "green" that is a plus. However,
if it doesn't perform then the "green" aspect is moot because no one is
going to use it anyway. The fabric needs to stand up to use, and so
far, this one has. That being said, I'm testing the performance
aspects. The environmental savings are for someone else to judge.
Things I like about this product:
1 - The suspension system that keeps the pack stable, yet allows it to
2 - The hydration system pocket that will accommodate a 2-litre water
3 - The barrel lock fasteners on the water bottle pockets.
Things I don't like about this product:
1 - The manufacturer should do a better job of helping you get started
with inclusion of some directions etc.
2 - The size is somewhat limiting, particularly in cold weather
3 - The hip belt rides higher on your hips than others and takes some
getting used to.
I just realized that I need to add a sentence to check back in August
for my Long Term Report. I will incorporate with your other edits.
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