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[pct-l] Packs and water weights


>> While Judson's original post did not specify what he was going to use the
pack for, in my PCT hike I'm looking at potential maximum loads of 38-42
lbs, given that at times I'll be carrying 8 liters of water and 5-7 days
worth of food/fuel in addition to a 10-lb base load. This would, as I
understand it, be at the top of or exceed the rating of the Starlite, and
I'm unsure how comfortable the pack would be if loaded that heavily. <<

As with Sly, the most I ever carried on the PCT was 6 liters. You should
also note that heavy water carries aren't combined with heavy food carries,
at least none that I remember. So you won't need to carry 6 or 8 liters of
water plus 6 or more days of food simultaneously. 

On my 2000 thru-hike, I carried a poorly designed frameless pack (my own
design) through the desert. It was uncomfortable at far less weight than the
Starlite. Still with proper weight management, I was able to get through the
desert just fine. 

When looking at the max comfort weight of any pack system, you should also
factor in both the peak weight is expected and what comprises the extra
weight. In the case of carrying water, consider how rapidly the water will
be consumed, thus reducing the weight carried. Water weight will be consumed
in a short period of time. So a pack that maybe slightly uncomfortable when
you start out in the morning maybe fine by in a few hours. I doubt I ever
carried more than 30 pounds at one time on the PCT. 

If that same weight is composed of food, then it could take several days
before the weight dropped back into the comfort zone. 

The Starlite was designed specifically to support those peak times when
you're carrying extra water or food, while still remaining light. 

>> Also, I'm curious how well the Starlite (or most other packs, for that
matter) will handle 8 liters of water: Where do you put it? How balanced
(fore/aft) is the pack when carrying the water? (Will those side pockets
handle 2-liter soda bottles without them flopping around?) <<

Eventually we all come up with a workable solution for carrying excess
water. It will generally evolve as we travel the course of the trail. When
traveling through dry country, I carry 2 - 2 liter Platypus bags plus a 1
liter Gatoraid bottle. This is augmented with additional 1 liter bottles as

Personally, all my water, except for a 1 liter reserve carried in the side
pocket, it contained within the pack. Wrapped in a fleece jacket, the water
will remain reasonably cool. I use a drinking tube, run through a hydration
port, to consume most of my water. Since you can never be sure how much
water you consumed via the tube, having a dedicated reserve gives you some
margin of safety. Especially if you've got all your water in a large
Platypus or MSR type of container.

I generally keep the water relatively high and close to the back of the pack
to keep it inline with my center of gravity.

It's also good to come up with a plan on how to travel through the desert
with minimal water usage. We did so by planning our days to start early,
sometimes in the dark, hike to water in midday, hang out during the heat of
the day and cook the main meal. Wait until the cooler time then hike until

This doesn't also always work out, but it's not really that hard to do. I
think you'll find a lot of hikers you'll travel with adopt slight variations
on that scheme. There are good reasons why people in countries located in
hot climates take siestas. 

You should also note that your hiking style will change when you move from
training hikes to real thing. So techniques you use in that mode will need
to evolve. 

Good luck and have a great hike!