Using all of my criteria (outlined here) I made a short list of packs that may work for my fastpacking experiment this summer.
The Running Specific Option
On paper, this looks like the perfect pack. The right size, shape, closure, shape, features, suspension. It is a touch heavy, but that isn’t a deal breaker for me. It has a full belt, but it is removable. This has the vest style harness, which I would like to try, but have no experience with, especially with the neat way it is rigged at the side with multiple straps. I guess those were added for stability when running. I would love to try one! They are custom fit, so despite the long-distance purchase, I wouldn’t have to worry about whether it will be the right size for me or not. Unfortunately, as will become a running theme as I move down this list, after duty, taxes, exchange, and shipping the price point is just too high for an experimental pack right now. The $250 USD would come out around $480CAD after all of the incidentals.
Ultimate Direction 30/35. I looked at the women’s version of this pack and jumped right back over to the unisex version. I am built less ‘women’s specific’ from the waist up (broad shoulders, deep rib cage, small bust), and it only came in pink. Deal breaker! Features wise, the unisex pack was pretty close to what I am looking for. The suspension is vest style, but much more rudimentary than the Sassafras. I am a bit leery of trying to fit one that I have shipped up from the US, because of the expense and difficult returns if it doesn’t work out for me.
Six Moon Designs Flight. A super interesting pack! Lots of neat features that tick a lot of my boxes, but the price/US situation killed me here again.
The Off-Label-Use Option
Packs like the MLD Core, Gossamer Gear Kumo Superlight, and the Gossamer Gear Murmur all made the short list in the pre-made, frameless, ultralight pack category. The Kumo is the clear winner out of this group for durability, features and versatility. It checks off just about every one of my requirements: pockets where I want them, the type of opening I want, the right size (28L main body, 36L with the collar full), frameless, an attachment point for my mat. It is a hair heavier than ideal, but much more versatile than the others. It might be just a touch long for me in the back though, that would be my only concern. I suspect that I could get a hold of them and work something out though if I had my heart set on it. While it is very competitive price wise compared to the others when similar features are added, it is still pretty expensive. If money was no object, this pack would be on its way to me right now! Unfortunately, at $165USD after exchange, shipping, duty, and taxes it would be nearly $300CAD. A bit too rich for a niche pack for me at the moment! You can be sure I have my eye on it for the future though. It very well could become my go-to hiking pack for all purposes guessing by that spec list.
That left me looking at packs I could pick up at my local MEC. A quick perusal of the packs that fit my needs turned up the Outdoor Research Summit Pack and the Gregory Swift. There were a few others between the MEC brand and Patagonia that were close, but they were either missing key features or were just out of my price point for now.
In the end, I decided to try the OR Summit Pack to start with! It won out over the Gregory Swift because of the roll top (vs a zipper on the Gregory), front lash points, slightly larger capacity, much lighter weight, waterproofness, and cheaper price point. It is a touch small at 28L, doesn’t have a front stretch pocket, and has no backpad at all. Because of how the lash points are organized, I figured it would be pretty easy for me to run some shock cord through them to create the functional equivalent of a stretch pocket, and at only $90 CAD it was worth a shot! And of course, because it is at MEC, I can easily return it if I find that it doesn’t carry well while running or it is too small. I can’t wait to try it out!