The second most crucial piece of gear needed for a 4-6 month AT thru hike is the pack you carry on your back (the most crucial gear item being footwear)! There are so many variables to consider when selecting a pack, and there is no clear-cut formula to follow as much of it is based on personal preference, comfort and fit.
Comfort and “lightweight” were two very important criteria for me in choosing a backpack. I know that I will rely on a good comfortable hip belt to carry as much weight as possible on my hips.
I was really drawn to the suspension systems of the Osprey packs and wanted to check out all the hype. I tried on various packs and spent countless hours doing online research and ultimately decided on the Osprey Eja 55 (size small) from REI (grateful for their very generous return policy!).
The Osprey Eja has rave reviews on its suspension system (which helps distribute the weight more evenly and comfortably) and is also more lightweight than the other Osprey packs with the same suspension system. Intentional weight savings were made from slight reductions in adjustability, the hip belt (which appears to be less padded) and the removal of 4 exterior pouches.
Weighing in at only 2 lbs 10 oz (including the top removable “brain”) I was pleased to get something so comfortable under 3 lbs. While it isn’t quite an ultralight pack, I’m happy with its sturdiness and plan to use it without the brain to shed a few more ounces.
I’m nervous about the lack of exterior accessible pockets and may add a pouch or two to the front somewhere to have access to my daily items. However, Jamie and I are thinking it might be good to carry daily protein bars and snacks in each other’s exterior pocket on the back of our packs so we can get our items out of each other’s backpack without taking off our packs. #backpackingcouplestrategy
In my preliminary gear “shakeout” hikes here in Austin, (which admittedly have been quite short, infrequent, and don’t have much elevation or technical terrain), I have found the pack to be an excellent fit. I am very pleased with the weight distribution of the suspension system and those skimpy looking hip belts are actually very comfortable!
The only complaint I have is that when I’m not using my poles, the strap that connects the shoulder strap to the bottom of the pack rubs on the inside of my arm. I’m trying to think of some workarounds to this, but haven’t figured anything out yet. I’ve noticed others complain about this issue in online reviews as well. Definitely not a deal breaker, but a slight annoyance.
As far as capacity goes, the 55L fits all of my gear and food just fine without the “brain”, although I am still tweaking what will go in the pack!
I feel confident about this piece of crucial gear and am excited to put in some longer days with my new eggplant-colored turtle shell on my back. :)