Which Backpack Is Right for You ?

Which Backpack Is Right for You ?

Posted by Kevin Timm on 30th Jul 2015

Which Pack Is Right for You ?

This year has seen us introduce several new style pack bags as well as introduce what we feel are vastly improved versions of our Lid (Multi-Lid) and Day Talon. In addition, we have added some new XPAC fabrics. While all of the packs offer exceptional load carriage and most can perform pretty much the same duty, some are better at some tasks than others. With this blog we hope to help you make the right decision (and don't worry, they all are easy to swap out, so if your needs change, just swap bags). 

Three Pack Bag Styles to Choose From: 

  • Standard Fortress Roll Top - The standard roll tops are available in a choice of fabrics and 3 pack bag sizes. These bags can come in several different fabrics, and have an optional side zipper. These style pack bags were designed to function with a floating compression panel and in our opinion work best when using one of the Talon floating compression panels. These can also use an optional top lid (Multi-Lid). 
  • Divide Series - Fully integrated , Ultralight design available in a two fabric options. These packs do not have a zipper, and compression is built into the pack bag. These can be configured to use a floating compression panel (Talon) and a lid. This pack is better for users with a shorter torso length, but can work well for longer torso's with extensions and spending a little more time during adjustment. The Divide series is designed to carry a bear can outside of the pack bag for easy access. 
  • Exposure - Available in one size, and several fabric options the exposure is a panel loader / clam shell design with an integrated rear pocket. Compression is built into the bag, and while items can be added, this pack works best stand alone as it is. 

Two Suspensions to Choose From: 

These suspensions use the same components. Switching from one to the other is easy.  

  • Unaweep - All pack bags are available. This suspension is fully integrated in to the pack bag and can only be used with a pack bag. The Unaweep is lighter , simpler and less expensive . 
  • Evolution  - Only the Standard Roll top bags are available. This suspension can be used without a pack bag, so it really is the do-all workhorse. Great for carrying odd items like a rescue litter , cooler, blinds etc. 


  • Talon Base Hydro  - a single zippered pocket with a mesh stash pocket on the inside. Very popular
  • Mesh Talon - a rugged durable mesh / draw string pocket. Great for carrying wet items / mushrooms, tents  etc
  • Talon Day - The new Day Talon has 5 chambers and a quick zip top opening with underside zippered pocket. This works well as a day pack, and can transition very easily to a top access Talon. Great for side hikes, or people that want to just put all their day gear on the backpack and go backpacking. It is simple and effective. Previous version have been popular, and we suspect users will like this version even more.  
  • Multi-Lid - A two chamber lid that can be used as a front chesty if desired. This is a very popular add on. 

Fabric Choices: 

Our suspension is built from 500D Cordura, some mesh components and EVA foam. The pack bags utilize forever waterproof XPAC material in several forms. The weight difference form our lightest to heaviest is less than a few ounces for similar configurations. XPAC fabrics are comprised of a face fabric , a waterproof laminate, and optionally an interior scrim to protect the waterproof laminate. 

Here are our fabric choices. These are all a 210 Denier face fabric so the exterior face is roughly the same and stands up well to standard backpacking, bush whacking etc but is not great for rope hauls / talus / scree 

X21 - Alpine Gray : 2 layer fabric in a very popular color. 4.4oz / sq yard 

This fabric is a 420 Denier face fabric, as such it is much better for rock abrasion than the X21 fabrics. 

X42 - Expedition Olive : 2 layer fabric in an olive green. 7.4 oz / sq yard 

These following fabrics all utilize a Cordura face fabric which has a long history of performing well in rugged use conditions. 

X33 - Rugged Multi-Cam : A 2 layer fabric , with a 330 Denier Cordura face in a popular Multi-cam pattern. This is a good hard use fabric and has a good weight to performance benefit. 6.3 oz / sq yard 

X51 - Guide Slate : A 2 layer fabric with a 500 Denier  / 10000 Denier Cordura weave. This is a very robust and durable fabric in a dark gray 9.1 oz / sq yard. 

Some users are more concerned about color while others are more concerned with durability. Make the choice the is right for you. In most packs / excluding X21 RC, the difference in a full pack configuration between lightest and heaviest fabric will be 4 -6 ounces at the most. If you spend a lot of time in the mountains, in a remote area , with few services you should probably opt for the Cordura faced fabrics or the X42 fabric. If you are do mostly standard backpacking and no rope hauls / minimal scree or slot canyons, the weight savings of lighter fabrics will make a lot of sense. 

FabricFace Fabric DenierInterior Scrim 2/3 layerWeight / Sq YdSuitable on Trail Suitable BushwhackingSuitable Rock Abrasion (Scree / Talus / Rope Hauls)
X21RC 210No /2 4.4YesGoodPoor

X33330 CorduraNo /2 6..3YesGreatVery Good 
X42420No /2 7.4YesGreatGood 
X51500 / 1000 CorduraNo /2 9.1YesGreatExcellent 

Our Observations: 

Which is the most weather resistant pack bag ? The Standard Roll tops without a side zipper, or the Divide series 

Which is best at carrying a bear can ? A standard roll top 4800 of larger with a side zip will do it, and a Divide is designed to have one strapped on the outside, both are effective, but I would probably choose the Exposure, because it would be drop dead simple to access, and carry the weighty bear can a little closer to the body in the pack bag. Strapping via the over the top strap will yield good results as well in all of the pack bags and will put the weight in a good spot but may hinder access. 

Which is the most adaptable platform ? Personally I would choose a Unaweep 4800 Roll Top and Day Talon as the combination will do almost anything I want and do it well. However, I can do most of the same stuff from a Divide and do it with less weight most of the time, I just have to reconfigure the Divide to add a Talon if I want. It is also hard to argue with the ease of access of the Exposure. For me, if I am carrying much camera gear, or want a higher level of organization, the Exposure will likely get the call.  

Decision Chart: 

Note: Some numbers are arbitrary with no scientific basis, just opinions from our use

Note: By travel, we mean living out of it , hotels , RV , car camper etc. 

PackDivide Exposure Unaweep Fortress Roll TopStandard Roll Top Evolution 
Self ContainedYesYesBetter with TalonBetter with Talon
Used as Freighter FrameNoNoNoYes
Work Well With Bear Can896 (4800 CI +)6 (4800 CI +)
Function with Top Lid 9466
Function with Talon641010
Function for Travel 51055
Photography 51055
Adaptability 64810
Torso < 15 (Short) 9444
Torso > 19 (Long) 69910
Least Weight10775
Organized Backpacker usage9999
Not so organized Backpacker usage51077
Best Frame Height 24 -26 26 -2826 -28 26 -28 
Shortest Frame Height24 262422 (likely to barrel) 

Even though we feel all the pack bags we offer work well for their intended use, we hope this overview helps you to make the right decision, even though changing bag styles is relatively easy. As always, if you have questions , please let us know, we are glad to help.