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Dave, you'll notice Mara signed her post GAME99, so she is one of those long-distance hikers you're seeking. Listen to what she told you.

I thruhiked in 97 with a big pack, 6200+ ci, figuring that I was a big guy who needed to carry a lot. These days I hike with a 3200 ci pack, and am a lot happier. But, then, instead of a bulky Polargard bag, I now have a high-count down bag; instead of a 5 lb tent, I now use a 2-lb bivy, instead of a thermarest long, I now use a 3/4 ultralight and a foam pad. And so on. I couldn't fit all the stuff I started out with in the pack I carry now. But, if I was going to thru again, I'd use the small pack, and strap what didn't fit inside on the outside. What you learn is that you can do without a lot of stuff. A lot of it is psychological, and it takes about a month to convince yourself that you don't need all that stuff that you were convinced you needed when you started. In fact, a lot of that stuff is just a glorified security blanket.

--Rhymin' Worm GAME '97

To make a small pack like that work, though, you've got to get stuff that packs small. At 4:38 PM -0500 6/27/01,   wrote:
>Thanks...but I truly wanted to get more detail based on lessons learned 
>from long distance hikers.  And then, read between the lines as to how I 
>might wish to adjust my current packing requirements (which probably leans 
>toward the high end) to offset for the greater endurance that will be required 
>for the hike.  I'm a pretty flexible guy.  :)
>The best sized backpack is the one that exactly fits just what you need.  
>And, I don't mean to sound flip.  I suggest that you gather all the gear you 
>are going to be carrying, with an appropriate amount of food, and then go 
>shopping for a pack.  Bring all that stuff with you and see what size pack 
>it fits in.
>If you ask an ultralight backpacker, they'll probably say 2000ci is enough.  
>A heavyweight will say 7000ci.  They are both right.  Only you know exactly 
>what you are going to be putting in that pack.
>Stitches, GAME99