Gear Review: Pa'lante Simple Pack

F5, F5, F5, F5, F,5, F5, F5, F5, F5, F5, F5, F5. 

Wait, did I do that right? Did I get a Simple Pack? Are they sold out yet? 

Simple Pack just over the border into WY on the CDT. 

Simple Pack just over the border into WY on the CDT. 

Yes. I got my hands on one from their third run back at the beginning of the year, and have been rocking one ever since. This year I've hiked just over 2,000 miles with both an original Simple Pack and a prototype that Andy hooked me up with for the Long Trail. If you follow the trends and 'hot' items in the hiking community, you may have seen or heard about the Pa'lante Simple Pack.

At this point, they are probably the most sought after backpacks on the market. They boast a sleek, black design, have no hip belts or frame, and clock in at just under 13oz. Right now, I believe they're offering XPac versions, but in the past have had a choice for Cuben and soon to be Dyneema. When they release a run of backpacks, they're likely to sell out within minutes. In fact, when I purchased mine, I was one of the F5'ers that I mentioned up top. I literally sat at my computer screen and refreshed over and over until they went live. I made DAMN sure that I got my hands on one of these bad boys for the CDT, and man oh man, I'm glad I did. They put up 15 backpacks that day for sale, and by the time I had my credit card info entered and submitted with a confirmation number, there were only 4 left. Not to mention, I was at work so I had my second monitor on the refresh. It was pretty clutch to be honest.

 Within 5 minutes, they had nearly sold out of the run they had just put up. Absolutely mind boggling.

Right now, the price point for one of these illustrious and illusive backpacks is at $220. 

Really, there's not much to cover about the design of the pack, as the name states, it's pretty simple. Like I said, Xpac, Cuben, or Dyneema have been and will be the options that you have for the body. It's a 40l pack, but when opened up fully, is quite large to be honest. It's much larger than it seems, thats for sure. Not only is the main body of the pack quite spacious, but the outside front mesh stretchy pocked can house quite a few items. I usually put my rain gear and any items I need often in the outside mesh. Sometimes a headlamp would go in there towards the end of the day. My cold soak jar always sat in the front mesh, along with my spoon, toiletries bag and maybe another small item that I'm forgetting right now. Since the pack has no frame, I fold my Thermarest NeoAir Xlite into the shape of the torso and slide that in first, then pack all my gear around the pad. It tends to work out pretty well and gives some rigidity to the pack. The real stand out feature of the Simple Pack is the Stretchy Bottom pocked that they designed. It's made out of a bit stronger material than the front mesh, but it still holds it's stretch and allows a FULL days worth of food or more to be kept there, opening up extra space in the main body of the pack, while allowing you to grab snacks on the go and avoid long breaks. There's no question that they were the first to innovate this design, but a few other companies have started a similar pattern now and it's beginning to catch on. Some of the smaller features include a little cinch cord on the top side of the pack. I've used it pretty frequently to keep a trekking pole in place, but my most common use has been cinching my wet/recently washed in a stream socks to the pack for the day to dry. To top off the list of amazing features on this pack, there is a stretchy shoulder pocket on each of the shoulder straps providing ample amount of space for your phone, and anything else you might need on the fly. The last thing to really catch my eye and make the pack top notch is the simple roll top with two snaps that shuts the weather out. Such a minimal and easy design, but it works incredibly flawlessly. 

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Ah yes, weather. Weather has to be one of the biggest concerns for anyone making, or using gear. The elements can be brutal, especially on the CDT and in other harsh climates, but my main concern always comes back to how the piece of gear will hold up against the conditions that a thru hike can throw at you. As far as a weather resistant pack goes, I was mainly concerned with how the material would repel water, as well as hold up to hail and extended periods of harsh weather. I line my pack with a trash compactor bag regardless of what I carry, so I wasn't too concerned, but was genuinely curious on how it would hold up, and let me tell ya, it did pretty well. My first heavy rainstorm lasted for about an hour or so, and after it cleared and the sun came out, I opened the Simple Pack and expected water to be inside, but I was wrong. The material was damp on the inside, but nothing was soaked. The trash compactor bag felt a tad damp on the outside, but other than that, we were in the clear. Over the course of the rest of the miles I hiked this year, the material kept out the elements without any problem, and I never once had wet gear or a soaked pack. Although the seams are not taped or sealed, it holds up well without any problems.

With about 1,700 miles on my original Simple Pack, I noticed that the material used for the shoulder straps wasn't nearly as strong and reinforced as it should have been (and is now, they fixed the issue). I started getting a small tear on one of the shoulder straps where it was connect to the main body, and a small tear formed in the corner of the water bottle pocked on the left side. These two minor issues have both been addressed and fixed in all of their recent runs of the pack, but really, it wasn't a devastating blow to the pack and was easily fixed to begin with. Speaking of water bottle pockets, both of the pockets are able to hold 2 1L Smart Water bottles, or anything comparable in size. I wouldn't recommend stretching them as far as they can go, but they definitely have room. 

Final Thoughts:

Overall, the pack itself has one of the best designs I've ever seen, if not the best. It seems to have everything you need, and nothing you don't. It's designed for the true minimalist UL hiker and really is a top of the line pack. I personally wouldn't recommend this pack for someone with more than a 10b base weight (everything but food and water). The lack of hip belts and a frame require you to have a light load, otherwise your shoulders will definitely be under more stress than they should be. For the price, I think it stands out as a bit pricier than some brands like Gossamer Gear and Mountain Laurel Designs, but more affordable, and lighter than the likes of Hyperlite Mountain Gear or Zpacks. It's a tried and true piece that's been on the market for less than a year with thousands of miles put on their packs already. John and Andy are making seriously good packs that are going to be around for a long time. It doesn't look like they're stopping their innovating anytime soon, so when you see that post on IG announcing another run, you better get to refreshing.