The other day, I sat down to start my fire for lunch and I gasped in horror when I discovered that the fatwood stick that I have been carrying for 2 years was missing out of the mesh pocket of the Flash 45!!
Fatwood is easy to come by in my area, but having started hundreds of meals with this stick, I was a little heart broken. My successful day on the front lines of the War on Swine had taken a sour turn and I cursed the open top mesh pockets of the Flash 45 for my loss and swore to break out Ole Faithful the next day.
Well, when I got picked up that afternoon, I found my beloved fatwood stick in the bottom of the pack cabinet on the boat. Relieved, I still decided to switch back to Ole Faithful, my custom built Cold Cold World Valdez pack, for a little while.
Back in 2010, I found Cold Cold World packs through an online search of alpine packs. It seemed like a perfect fit when I found out that Randy, the owner of CCW, was willing to customize.
So I started off with the Valdez, his 40 liter pack. http://coldcoldworldpacks.com/valdez.htm
I wouldn’t be climbing, so I asked to ditch the ice axe loops, daisy chains, ski slots, and crampon straps. In their place, I added a front pocket for my ticket book, a real hip belt with MOLLE compatible webbing, and MOLLE webbing on the sides, both low and high. Nowadays the pocket carries my radio, a saw, and my fatwood stick. The webbing holds my water bottle pouch and a roly poly pouch that I usually stuff with tinder, but can add another water bottle if needed.
One of my favorite aspects of this pack are the compression straps, seen here compressing two different loads. This, along with the slim profile, allow me to crawl through some hellacious rhododenron and laurel thickets, lovingly referred to as “Rhodo” and “Laurel Hells”. The 500 D Cordura has held up great under the abuse of daily work. The color scheme of coyote and olive drab blends in well, without being overtly camo for family vacations and other travels.
At 2 pounds 4 ounces empty, I stuff a 4 ounce bivy pad in the designated sleeve and still have a lightweight, ultra tough pack that can double as a lower body bivy bag with the storm collar extended and a 3/4 closed cell pad.
The top lid has two pockets, one on top and one underneath. It is removable and I had two loops sewn on to allow use as a fanny pack if needed.
The Valdez is extremely well built and has a few finer touches, like the yellow lining of the pockets for better visibility while searching for contents and the reverse adjustment of the shoulder straps.
My only gripe would be that the torso length is a little short for my frame. This isn’t by accident, as the pack is designed for climbers wearing a harness. This worked out great when I was wearing a duty belt, but I no longer need that feature since I am only toting a rifle. With heavier loads ~ 30 pounds, this means it can be a little heavy on the shoulders, but my typical load is 15 – 20 pounds, and it handles that well.
I love this pack so much, that when my wife tried to take it to Florida last month, I gave her my “only one ever built” and “if something happened to it, it couldn’t be replaced” speech. Luckily, she caved under the pressure and took one of my other packs.
That story is only partially true. My buddy Jake, a LE Ranger in Yosemite, also had one built after mine. Jake’s pack has seen some cool stuff too and hopefully he will weigh in his experiences in the comment section. In fact when you read this Jake, send me a pic of your pack with El Cap in the background or something else cool.
Is the CCW Valdez the “One”? It is pretty damn close for my needs. All I need is some high tech fabric, 10 more liters of space, and some integrated water bottle holders.
The search continues…
Part 1 of “One Pack to Rule Them All” – https://bigpigblog.com/2015/01/31/one-pack-to-rule-them-all-part-i/