My Impressions: Deuter Airlite 22

Anyone who has read this blog with any regularity has heard me wax poetic about my appreciation for my first pack, the Osprey Kestrel 28. It has been a terrific daypack and weighted practice hike bag for loads around twenty pounds, and has served me faithfully since I stole it on sale for less than sixty bucks.

Then came a day hike up Sharp Top, and my lament that it was waaaay too much bag for pedestrian trips like that one. To be fair, I had sometimes felt it was overkill on my half-day AT hikes, too. So I started searching for a lighter, more “realistic” day pack. A guy at my local outfitter to whom I refer as The Deuter Guy for his love of all things Deuter turned me on to the Airlite 22. It ticked off all the boxes I had for a replacement pack: Light, good suspension, full hip belt with pockets, 18-22 liters, spot for hydration bladder if I opted for one. A raincover and/or trekking pole stowing attachments would be nice, but not mandatory (it has both). And priced around $100. It was a bit higher, but close enough to fit the budget. So I handed over my credit card and I was out the door.

The next day I drove down to Daleville for a quick shakeout on the AT:

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TL;DR version? I loved it. A very light but seemingly well-built pack. Invisible carry with nine pounds on board. The Aircomfort suspension keeps the body of the pack away from your back and, in my experience, does two things: It helps with sweat buildup, as advertised, and it also seems to aid in keeping the weight on my hips, where it belongs. As the comfort of every pack is unique to a user’s experience, YMMV. But it definitely worked for me. Here’s a lousy photo of an excellent setup:

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Note the gap between the bag and the back system. That is, if you’ll pardon the overused expression, the secret sauce.

Bonus points for my Google Pixel fitting in one of the hip belt pockets AND being easy to retrieve whenever I wanted to snap one of the pics that appeared in last week’s (and this week’s) post. And double bonus points for the mesh side pockets passing the bottle-fall-out test with my favorite CamelBak Podium 24oz. bottles (see above photo). I filled them with water, slid them in and bent all the way over, dancing like an idiot at the same time. They stayed put. Whether or not the mesh will stretch over time and they’ll slip out remains to be seen. But for now, I’m very happy with the pockets. I also found it relatively easy to grab a bottle and replace it while on the move, but I did hundreds, nay thousands of remove/replace with bottles while a marathon runner wearing a hydration belt, so I know by heart the contortions to make it happen easily. Some struggle with that, however, so again, YMMV.

Plenty of room inside the pack and in the front pocket to carry the ten essentials, extra layers, lunch, snacks, etc. Everything you could possibly want/need for a day hike. And there’s a dedicated hydration bladder pocket too, if I decide to add one later on.

I’m so impressed with this pack that I’m considering selling off my beloved Kestrel 28. In addition, I’m giving serious consideration to the Deuter Futura Vario Pro 50+10 (it features the same Aircomfort suspension system) when I FINALLY buy my “expedition” pack.

Five stars, Deuter. And five stars for the recommendation, Deuter Guy…

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From Gossamer to Granite

I’m a product over-researcher by nature. And when I say over-researcher, I mean digging out every photo and every possible end-user review of every item I’m considering, from a USB-to-HDMI cable to a car. And given that I’m going to be spending several years with my first “real” backpack (with apologies to my trusty but day hike-sized Kestrel 28) I’m tearing up the web making sure I give myself the best chance at a solid first choice.

Because of my overwhelmingly positive experience with its little brother, I was originally considering the Kestrel 48, but I was afraid I might find 48 liters too restrictive for longer hikes. I’d rather have too much space than not enough. So I did a ton of research (surprise) and settled on the Gossamer Gear Mariposa, a fine pack that checks off all the boxes on my list at a fairly reasonable price.

Then I drifted over to Philip Werner’s site, and he had posted a review of the new Granite Gear Crown 2. His impressions of the bag were extremely positive. So I asked him, knowing that he has owned/reviewed the Mariposa, which one he liked better. And he gave the edge to the Crown 2. His recommendation, based on the return policies of sellers like REI, was to order and try both, then keep the one I liked best. That sounded like wisdom to me. Ultimately, user reviews and pro-level recommendations can only take you so far. Philip himself encourages people to not just take his word for it, but to try on every pack under consideration because everyone’s needs (and fit) are different.

So in April I’ll do just that. But I’m already leaning a bit towards the new (and cheaper; money matters too) Crown 2…

 

 

Quick Hits, Volume 1

If you’re here expecting an audio file of me singing a read-through of “Walden Pond” to a banjo accompaniment, I apologize…not that kind of hits.

Instead, it’s short jabs, random thoughts regarding things that will occupy my mind and time until I kick my AT section hiking aspirations back into gear next spring:

  1. I’m looking to take both a wilderness first aid and map reading course over the winter. Philip Werner over at SectionHiker.com gave me valuable input on some places to take them. Thanks, Philip.
  2. I continue to look for the perfect pack, and lots of stuff will hit the market after the first of the year. Early on I gushed about the Kestrel 48 which, in retrospect, might be a bit small for my needs (though it’s no doubt a great pack…still love my Kestrel 28). I’m not going all-in until I see the new stuff, but I definitely need to come up with a multi-day pack by April ’17. Waiting to see the new Granite Gear…gear, and still interested in a ULA Circuit.
  3. The thought of screwing the snow baskets onto my Black Diamond trekking poles makes me want to sob.
  4. Considering going with low-cut hiking boots next year. The biggest negative I hear is that by offering lower leg support, they can lead to weak ankles. Given that I’m a trail and field runner during my non-hiking hours, that isn’t an issue for me. My ankles take some pretty nasty rollovers and keep running. But my experience with rocks and roots on the AT this year lead me to believe that a low-cut, lightweight boot would be beneficial to me. As long as I keep running those fields and trails, of course.
  5. In spite of my previously spoken aversion to doing so, I might try some winter hiking in more serene (translation: easy) environments like the carriage trails at Acadia National Park. Then again, I might not. Stay tuned.
  6. There will be hot chocolate. Lots of hot chocolate. Current favorite: Salted Caramel.

 

That’s all the hits for now. Thanks for tuning in…