Tag Archives: backpacks

One Pack to Rule Them All – Part II – Cold Cold World Valdez…

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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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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/

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One Pack to Rule Them All – Part I…

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We don’t have TV…

And I have an hour commute…

And maybe one day my body will fuse with my pack, so I better make sure I like it….

These are all reasons I use to justify my obsession with finding the perfect pack and the insane amount of time I have spent thinking about them. To my knowledge, there is no known cure for Packophilia, unless you own a company that builds them.

I still remember my first. She was a blue, Coleman Peak 1 that I bought used when I was fourteen. She didn’t care that it was my first time or that I was a little pudgy, She was there for me in the good times and the bad.  The gentle, curves of her plastic frame and the summer escapade we shared at Philmont are still etched in my mind.

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She was faithful and true, but we grew apart as technology and my body changed. Though I will never forget her, I had to move on.

My late teens and college years saw a series of short, failed relationships, with a heartbraking theft during a trip to the Smokies. After that, I bounced from one to another, never really connecting.

I rebelled at one point, running around with a Roycraft pack frame, three sticks lashed together, until my boss caught me on the job with her. I even ran around with an “all natural” barkpack that shows back up in my foraging classes.

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When I started carrying a pack for a living, things got real. I was now influenced by my environment and lifestyle. My desires changed and no longer did I seek the robustness or novelty of my earlier years, but I now yearned for something sleeker, lighter, and tougher.  One that could handle the ups and downs of a tumultuous relationship, that would border on abuse.

I had a wandering eye and started lusting after some of the lightweight packs the thru hikers carried on the annual hippie migration north. Their packs wouldn’t be able to handle the briars, but I stole the concepts and started pulling out the frame and adding a cut down sleeping pad for emergency use.

Lightweight, tough, with a sleeping pad as part of a “virtual” frame, I though I had a pioneering love story until one day a store owner said…

“Dude… do you not know about Alpine packs?”

All those years spent modifying and tweaking, and right under my nose ice climbers had perfected the concept of a lightweight, tough frameless pack with a bivy pad. Damn… I really thought I had something special.

So I had a custom one built 5 years ago that I carried up until last week, with a brief Andininsta interlude. I will showcase those in another episode, but wanted to start with the Flash 45 because it is on a sale that may end this weekend. It’s not an alpine pack, but the result of the ultralight influence on backpacking.

At 50 liters(~ 3000 cubic inches), only 2 pounds 4 ounces, and $89, it is a smoking hot deal. http://www.rei.com/product/863031/rei-flash-45-pack-special-buy

While the Flash 45 is not the perfect pack for me, it is the perfect deal for someone looking for a lightweight, medium volume pack.

So for a tough, 2 pound, 50 liter pack $89 can’t be beat. In fact, I have been waiting for a year for it to go on sale. Pictured to the right of the pack is the 4 ounces of stuff I have cut off so far.

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I gained that back when I added my bivy pad, but I won’t hit the woods without it.

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I dropped the weight down below 2 again by pulling out the aluminum/delrin frame, but with only one compression strap on each side, it does not have the rigidity to work well frameless, based upon my one day experiment.

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I usually don’t review a piece of gear so soon after buying it, but I believe the sale will end soon and you could get stuck with the $130, lime green version.

With only a week on my back, it has already seen  off trail use, been submerged, hauled 20 pounds of corn along with my load, been rained on, snowed on, sleeted on, through briars, and a couple rhodo thicket. So far, so good, but I will give you my initial impressions.

Pro’s

  • Lightweight for it’s volume. Same weight as my CCW, but 10 more liters
  • Longer torso length than my CCW, which was my major complaint.
  • Comfortable
  • Eighty nine dollars!!

Con’s

  • Only one side compression strap
  • Elastic mesh on sides will probably may not make the cut
  • Water bottle pockets and back pocket are all interconnected
  • Black is a sucky color for the woods. It stands out. Lime green accent too. I will be spray painting it at some point.

I will do a review here in a couple months of how she is standing up under the abuse of Team 20mile.

I know she is not the “one”, and she understands that. We can still enjoy our time together and she will get to see stuff most packs only dream about. When I move on, she will be guaranteed to stay in my life as she has already proved worthy.