Feeling Young Again While Gear Testing the Contour 35

snechemias Member, Moderator Posts: 22

Over time, gear can become a little bit like any other sensory input that triggers a memory… seeing a particular model pack or tent I used to hike with can be a little bit like hearing a song I had forgotten about, or seeing a picture of an old friend. Suddenly I am transported back in time to when I thought rolling my jeans was cool, or the times I used to sleep on an 1/8th inch thick pad and eat nothing but pro bars on a 10 day trip.

Like most ultralight backpackers, in the past I pushed my baseweight down to the fringes of what I was comfortable with, and then slowly started to add weight back as the pieces of gear that mattered most to me became clearer, sometimes for function, sometimes for durability. While this journey was taking place I also became a much more diverse and adventurous backpacker, often plotting trips with long food carries, long water carries, auxiliary snow or rafting gear, all taking up space and adding weight to my pack. Eventually I became a backpacker who rarely used a frameless pack, when in the past I had used one almost exclusively.

I’ve never lost my love of hiking with a frameless pack though, and for the past few years I’ve been politely annoying the HMG RnD folks about getting into the frameless game. Last September I got my Contour prototype in the mail, and suddenly my pack use ratio flipped back to mostly frameless.

I’m not saying that the Contour made me young again, but it sure has made me act a little younger.

Diving right into the extremes of what a frameless might be capable of, I took it on a five night high route combining bits of Skurka’s Yosemite route with the old Roper SHR. I needed late September Sierra chilly night gear, plus the dreaded bear can. Not only was the carry great, I found myself snapping a few more pics and video with my phone or GoPro tucked into the stretchy but very secure shoulder pockets. For good measure, I put the pack construction to the test with some not made for Youtube scree descents on my backside. Turns out I very much miss talus hopping with a frameless.

I then hiked several hundred miles crossing the Mogollon Rim until I hit the New Mexico border, then turned south along the Grand Enchantment. Water is anything but plentiful in the Arizona fall after a mediocre monsoon season, so big water carries were the norm. Additionally, resupplies were well spaced on my itinerary, leading to a couple instances where 6 days of food aligned with 4 plus liters of water. The new wider shoulder straps held up well to this challenge on strings of 25 mile days. Turns out I very much miss putting in big mile days with a frameless.

Up next on the testing gauntlet was the Superstition Wilderness, where I checked a few off the beaten path canyons off my list, and poked quite a few holes in myself, but never the stretchy mesh or the side pockets. My fiancee joined in on my second round in the Superstitions, and of the two of us is by far the superior pack model. It turns out I very much miss splashing through canyons in a frameless.

Late winter found us taking the Contour through the Sierra Ancha and Hellsgate Wilderness, around a 120 miles of travel with just 30 miles of maintained single track. Definitely not a pack friendly environment, with plenty of dense narrow canyon vegetation to swim through, and plenty of weather extremes. I really like keeping my shell or rain mitts in the bottom pocket when the weather can’t make up it’s mind, which we had plenty of on this early season trip. I also felt light enough on my feet to play amateur videographer on that trip, so here you can get an idea of exactly what an HMG pack goes through in the testing phase:

Early spring I headed out into John Day River Country, where my dog and I have never turned down a big horn trail. Turns out I like acting like a big horn.

From the Sierra to the Supes to the far reaches of the Mogollon Rim, I found myself pretty thrilled with the Contour. In particular the wider shoulder straps and outside accessibility, as well as the overall finish and durability… I never had a moment where I wished something on the pack was different. I'm looking forward to many more years of acting a little less my age with this pack in the backcountry.