End Of An Era

I just listed my Osprey Kestrel 28 pack for sale. I’ve been quite attached to it while I’ve owned it, for sure. But the purchase of my trusty Deuter Airlite 22 has relegated it to the nether regions of a dark and cramped closet and, even though it holds a special spot in my personal hiking lore as being my first technical pack, it is simply time for it to go. There isn’t enough of a difference in capacity to justify keeping both 22 and 28 liter packs. For me anyway.

That, and I could use the cash to continue chasing the elusive multi-day pack.

So goodbye, Kestrel 28. Thanks for taking this fledgling hiker out of the house and getting my transition from marathoner to backpacker jumpstarted. Your place in my gear Hall of Fame is assured…

Osprey

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Tent Pitch, Foiled

A couple weeks ago I posted regarding my son-in-law’s purchase of a backpacking tent. Yesterday, we decided to make a quick run north on the AT out of Big Island to Johns Hollow Shelter to pitch it. His personal hibernation cave comes with something like 14 stakes, so he was anxious to see how it set up in a wilderness that didn’t resemble his living room.

Rain showers were expected around noon, so we set off at 9:30AM for the short, pleasant 1.75 mile jaunt.

As we cruised down the side trail to the shelter a short time later, a few random raindrops plopped on my hat. We laughed them off and, setting our packs on the picnic table, checked out the best pitching spots (there are several, as I noted in yet another earlier post).

As he opened his pack to pull out the tent, I jokingly commented to him that it would probably start raining once he got it spread out on the ground. He laughed, and strolled over to the selected spot.

And, naturally, it started to rain.

Well, he had no desire to learn a new tent pitch in the rain, so he returned it to his pack and we headed back towards the car, disappointed.

There was, however, one good thing to come out of this unexpected shower: I FINALLY got to try out the raincover for my trusty Deuter Airlite 22! Not being the masochistic sort, I always day hike on decent weather days. So, no raincover required. Needless to say, this shower provided me the opportunity for which I had been waiting. Short version: It worked as advertised. +1 for my friends in Germany.

It was a gentle rain, and we were oddly enjoying it in spite of our dry packs (he got to try out his pack cover too) and soggy bodies, so we crossed the Foot Bridge (Yep. That’s the correct spelling and capitalization) and added two miles to our hike on the other side of the James River.

James in Fog

As is ALWAYS the case, the sun broke through the clouds as we returned to the car, but we didn’t even grumble. It was, rain included, a good morning for a hike, and we made the most of it.

Next time, that tent is going up if we have to set it up in the shelter and drill stake holes in the floor.

(Just kidding, U.S. Forest Service. Juuuust kidding!)

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…