Hi, I need some advice about purchasing a suitable backpack. The primary usecase is trips upto 4days in california wilderness. So, mostly dry weather and a requirement to carry bear canisters. I am trying to decide between the following three packs:
Black Diamond Element 60
Gregory Zulu 55
Granite gear Lutsen 55
I shortlisted to these because of the low-ish weight and availability under $150 online. Thanks in advance!
All three are great lightweight packs, but buying a pack is mostly about fit and comfort. Everyone is slightly different so going to your local store to get measured and fit is the best place to start.
I have a Gregory daypack that's 20+ years young, my backpacks are Osprey (Kestrel38 & Xenith88). But all 3 of the brands you mention are great, with solid experience behind their names. Two thoughts:
1. Bear canister - make sure the pack has plenty of external tie-down options to maximize your flexibility to shift the canister weight around as-needed.
2. I def agree with @REI-KarenR - a great pack is only as good as its fit to your body. Best purchased in a retail store with a knowledgable salesperson. When trying-on for fit, the pack should be weighted-down to mimic near-realistic weights and help get the shoulder harness and hipbelt adjusted properly. The store should have sandbags or similar on-hand to help. And back to the bear canister again - pick one off the shelf and see if it will also fit inside the pack - again, options.
ABSOLUTELY must go to REI get it fitted! I neglected to do this with my osprey exos 58, and it was fine, but there were a few things that bugged me, when that pack wore out, I went back to REI and put my ego in my pocket for a moment and actually listened to the young lady talk about fitting.
Tried on the new version of the exos 58, got fitted, I was sure it was incorrect (went from a large to a medium), It was SO COMFORTABLE I couldn't believe it and WENT BACK to REI to double check the fit!
Anyway, having it fitted, turned out to be a blessing...REI was right, and I was wrong!
You want your pack to be as light as possible and still be comfortable as possible, and fit your bear canister of course.
I personally recommend 58 liters or less, and pack weight no more than 2.5 lb or less. It'll be hard to keep your budget though.
At 58liters/2.5 lbs, using a full bear canister, max 7 days carry and about 10-12lbs of total canister weight (incl canister), you total weight will be about 34-37lbs (average pack wt using JMT averages), so the 2.5lb pack is border line comfortable; approach 40lbs and you'll want to look for more padding, (higher weight unfortunately)
REI member since 1979
long time backpacker
My wife and I both own this one: https://www.gossamergear.com/products/mariposa-60-lightweight-backpack (sorry, REI, I know you don't stock...)
It's the most comfortable pack I've ever owned in the 20+ years I've been backpacking. If you are new to backpacking though, you might want something with more storage options, as this is a minimalist pack and so you have to really know how to pack it and how to use the outside pockets properly.
And as everyone else says, GET FITTED! My wife wasn't fitted and was using an old pack of mine for the first few trips and was miserable and it bruised her hips. When REI fitted her and she got a new pack (older FLASH model about 10 years ago), she realized that she could be so much more comfortable on the trail and actually enjoy the hours and hours walking.