A dilemma over what pack to buy and use. Over the last few years I've used two packs. For shorter trips, carrying comfortably up to four days food, I like the OMM Villian at around 45 to 55 litres . I have been very happy with the Villian. It suits 'raids' on Munros in Scotland, traveling fast and light but carrying everything I need including the luxury of wine and whisky. Longer, more remote, trips of up to 14 days food have seen me use the Haglofs Matrix 70. A 'mid-lightweight' pack at 1.7 kgs from a traditional manufacturer and very underrated in my view. Capacity can be bumped up with some very lightweight 'Integral Designs' side pouches and these entail a carry of two weeks worth of supplies into very remote places using the Matrix. In my opinion the carry is comfortable and despite it's relative weight it's been tough enough to deal with abrasion from rock and bush.
The Matrix 70 seems to be in the process of being phased out by Haglofs. Mine has provided sterling service over five years and some heavy trips. Wear and tear means that I am a little nervous on starting a thousand mile route with it. The Matrix could do it but the Gronabandet is a good excuse for new kit.
Surprisingly there is not much choice on the UK market for a relatively lightweight but high capacity pack. I want something that can carry up to 10 days of food without me having to perform complex packing strategies every morning for two consecutive months. I am carrying more electrical gear this trip than usual, not least camera equipment and the means to keep it all running. There's plenty of mainstream brands out there for packs from 2kg up at that capacity but little choice below that.
I've looked in the main abroad, there is greater variety for large capacity packs. UK wise I considered the Villian's big brother, the 'Mountain Mover'. It looks good and there is flexibility in the sizing from 55 to 70l. I think though something set at 70 minimum is more appropriate. I have been very tempted by two other manufacturers in the English speaking world. McHale from the US look great, almost like a project that you can add to and customise over the years. Aarn are highly recommended, I thank both Roger Brown and Heather Rhodes for their advice and contacts. I am still giving serious consideration to Aarn and am working out pricing.
What I do have at the moment at home for inspection is the Golite Quest 80l. I've got another five days to decide having purchased it from 'Ultralightoutdoorgear.co.uk' (UOG). I like the look of it. It's highly 'speced' which may be not be some tastes with a few extra pockets here and there. I note though that there is concern that Golite ditched a good pack when they changed the design of the Quest in 2010. This new version is heavier by about 250 grams and some reviewers think that the old Quest was a clean and efficient pack and should not have been binned. I understand that the Quest I am considering itself may be on the way out and is not for sale anymore in the US (the Golite site would back that up, it appears they get rid of their stock at a generous discount). The question is why?
I asked 'UOG' when purchasing if they had had any complaints or returns. The answer was only one, I knew of that one in advance. The very interesting, if acerbic, blogger Tracksterman (I like his site, he takes a very good photo, well written and he is a proper hillman) was the returnee. Like me he was impressed with UOG's customer service and they refund 'no quibble' if something is not up to the job (my personal experience in the past with a disaster of a POE airmat that failed on night 2 of a week in the Fannichs/Fisherfield/Torridon). I'll give the Quest, if I keep it, a good go on two Scottish trips (one over a week) in May and see how it does. I agree with other points, the waist belt is way too big and at about a 33 inch waist (I haven't had a beer for three months!) there is a lot of spare hip belt. Other than that I quite like the design. Pockets suit me and there are enough on this pack.
I shall see. I like the flexibility in the sizing of it though. When it's not straining at 80 litres it can be neatly compressed, with some webbing, to a smaller carry. This should suit me this summer with a fairly sensible base weight but some supply loads of over a week. It's a shame Golite have withdrawn from Europe, I think if you are in the US with their direct selling you are in clover!
I need to think about this pack though. I'll let you know.
(Post Script - I had problems with the Quest, have a look at this)