Backpack: Six Moon Designs Fusion 50
The Fusion 50 (36oz) pack was updated this year, but for a limited time you can purchase the first generation (the model I used above) at over 50% off with proceeds going to support one of the three long trails: Appalachian Trail, Pacific Crest Trail or Continental Divide Trail.
I was excited to use this pack on the CDT, not only because it is smaller in volume than the other packs I have used on long trails and I would be forced to pack less, but also because it is the result of two experienced backpackers and pack makers coming together to create one hell of a great pack. Ron Moak (Six Moon Designs) and Brian Frankle (founder of ULA packs) worked on a pack to bridge the gap between the ultralight crowd and the average backpacker, a place I fall into on the spectrum of backpackers and the weight they carry. This pack actually came in a bit under 50 liters, but the space was sufficient to carry up to 7 liters of water and 8 days of food, and held up well when I had a pair of skis strapped to the pack. I often had all three exterior pocks maxed out, and despite one instance of shoving a waterbottle into an already maxed out side pocket and splitting a few of the seams (completely my fault), the construction was bomber and held up well to the trials and tribulations of a 5+ month hike.
The pack comes with a metal stay which I ended up removing the first day of the hike (it’s malleable so it can be adjusted to each person individually) but even with that structural component gone the pack kept its shape and easily carried weights up to 5olbs (I never weighed the pack, but I’m guessing with skis, winter gear, water, and food in the San Juans it might have come to 50lbs).
The hip belt comes with roomy pockets, and I was constantly surprised at what I could fit in there: sunscreen, snacks, sunglasses, compass, emergency beacon…the list goes on. The roll-top lid was simple and easy to use (and quite water resistant…although I usually had the pack lined with a compactor bag…no rain cover) and the articulated hip belt fit my hips very well as I lost weight over the duration of the trail.
I never had to worry about this pack. It did the job and no matter how much weight I carried, was always comfortable.