The big ugly
I’ve been using a Paradox Unaweep 3900 in VX42 since last fall, which is the first pack in years I’ve used that I didn’t make. Much has already been said about the Unaweep’s brilliance, but once you’ve made a pack or two, it’s impossible to just leave things as is.
The goal was to utilize the Unaweep’s near-perfect harness design, but in a slightly slimmer, more flexible package optimized for the canyon country hiking that I most often do. This means a decent bit of scrambling, narrow spots, and bushwacking in canyon bottoms. While the Unaweep moves more like a internal framed pack than other externals, it’s still rather stiff and wide for my usual needs.
Fabric is X50 from Dimension-Polyant, which is 500d cordura, x-ply, .5 PET layer. 7.9 oz/sq yd. I’m a big Cordura fan and this stuff is great. It’s reasonably pliable and should be a decent bit more abrasion resistant than VX42, which I haven’t been terribly impressed with. It could be made even better by removing the x ply yarn, which does nothing but add stiffness and weight in this heavy of a fabric. Some colors other than black Multicam would be welcome as well.
I used .16″x.5″ 7075 aluminum for the stays. It cannot be emphasized enough how differently 7075 behaves compared to 6061. In addition to being much stronger, you can bend 7075 quite a lot and it just springs back to it’s previous shape. 6061 stays as you bend it.
Hipbelt attachment to the frame is the same as the Unaweep, although the attachment points are about 5.5″ apart compared to ~12″ on the Unaweep. At least on my skinny frame this allows quite a bit better wrap. After using the external-style hipbelt attachment I can’t imagine making or buying anything else. You have to have a bottom crosspiece but I’d wager it still ends up lighter than wing style belts because you don’t need a lumbar pad, hipbelt stiffeners, reinforcement to the belt connection, etc.
Stay sleeves are all on the outside of the pack, which makes removal for other pack bags easier and allows for much easier sealing from the inside.
Bottom compression strap can be placed over side pocket to keep it nice and tight (above) or under/inside the pocket to be out of the way (below).
This is achieved by not sewing the entire side of the pocket; it’s just bartacked with the daisy chain.
Dimensions are about 11.5″ across the back, 34″ circumference for the lower part tapering to 38″at the top. Weight is 3 lb on the nose plus about 5 oz for the front compression pocket.
It’s first outing was a week long trip down in the Pollywog Bench area and it performed flawlessly. Starting out with 7 days of not particularly light food, full packrafting gear and a six-pack of Tecate felt fantastic. It won’t haul out an elk as comfortably as the Unaweep, but for loads up to 40-50 lb I can’t imagine much improvement. It carries a more typical 20-30 lb more comfortably than I’ve ever experienced.
Like the Unaweep, it should make a great platform for future projects.