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Gear Workshop The Gear Workshop forum is for the discussion of homemade backpacking gear, gear modifications, and repairs.


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  #1  
Old 03-10-2008, 07:35 AM
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clb clb is offline
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Join Date: Feb 2008
Posts: 21
External Frame Pack (Kelty Trekker) Modifications

Reviewing the forum on external frame packs--as usual, some love them and some don't, but the main complaint is weight. I've noticed that a few people are still hauling their Kelty Trekkers.

Well, that's what I use. I've tried internal frame packs, but I get a really poor fit between them and my scoliosis (and broken/dislocated spine). So, I've put up with the weight of my external frame. The comfort is guaranteed and I can make sure all the weight is on my hips.

The snag, though, really is the weight. A typical men's Kelty Trekker is currently listed as being about 83 oz (5.2 pounds or 2.35 kilos). Well, I've gotten mine (a men's) down to 1.67 kilos (59.4 oz). Mine is a 1996 model (probably, I got it for Christmas 1996) and I'm not at all sure about the starting weights for that model. It does have an adjustable (expandable) frame and I've read that current models do not. Adjustable frames add more weight.

So, here's what I did, but I've no data on the weight loss for each item.

As soon as I got the pack, I immediately switched out the belt and shoulder straps. I used the shoulder straps from my 1989 Diamond Brand external frame pack and bought the basic belt (size small) for external frame packs from Campmor (who may still sell them). I switched the belt, because the original belt was bruising my ribs!

I also immediately cut out the internal map pocket because it didn't look like it was the sort of thing I'd find very usefull (never missed it). I removed all easy to remove tags, stickers, and brand names, leaving only the 'washing instructions' on the inside and the Kelty embroidered detail (those are exceptionally tedious to remove) on the pack flap. Finally, I cut the cord cinching the top to just right for the width of that opening.

Immediately Removed:
belt (replaced with campmor belt)
shoulder straps (replaced with straps from 1989 pack)
internal map pocket
tags & stickers
extra cord

Rather quickly, I removed the netting that's supposed to help circulation between the pack and your back. The main reasons were: 1) I couldn't keep it tight enough, 2) as I tightened it, it stretched and narrowed, and 3) the aluminum plates to hold it wide started to poke me in the back. That webbing had to go. I found that two pack straps worked perfectly, had duel use (if I ever had to carry extra stuff on the pack), and were much lighter.

Removed:
webbing, string, & aluminum spreaders (replaced with two pack straps).

At this point, I had probably removed most of the weight and was fairly close to my current weight of 1680 g.

I was pretty happy with this until I had to do some bushwacking by crawling uphill through bamboo (Fall 1998) and got all hung-up in the bamboo. Some was unavoidable, but the bit of wire that went down the pack, parallel to the frame to hold in all the pins was something I could fix. I removed the wires and replaced them with key-chain rings (not having access to standard rings for packs).

Removed:
Outside wires (replaced with key chain rings)

All this lightened things up quite a bit and I was happy with this pack until I started reading about ultralight backpacking... I also looked at the Luxury Lite packs and noticed that they were lots lighter, but was concerned about how well their belt would work with my back (i.e. probably not). Also, I'm reluctant to spend so much on a pack that might not be able to take me falling down on top of it when I slip and fall on the trail.

So, further lightening up the Kelty involved getting drastic...

By this time, the rubber pack strap holder thingys were falling apart. I've never used them anyway. So, it was way past time to remove them. It was easy to do this, because the glue was also >10 years old. I also noticed that I never used the pick-ax loop and really didn't need the pocket on the outside of my waterbottle pocket (newer models don't have this--pity!). So these got removed. The pack cover had a pocket that I had only used to carry my bug net and it could easily go elsewhere, so I removed that pocket, too. Then I started thinking about how I packed this pack and realized that I really didn't like the zipper pocket in the base of the pack for the sleeping bag. So, I cut out the divider (haven't missed it) and cut off the metal zipper pull-tabs.

Removed:
rubber pack-strap thingys
pick-ax loop
pocket outside the water-bottle pocket
pocket on pack flap
internal divider
metal zipper pull-tabs on the sleeping-bag pocket

I've never considered any pack water proof or even water resistant. To me, the purpose of the pack is to take all the scrapes, scratches, and punctures, thus protecting what's inside. So inside, everything is packed in a garbage bag (current upgrade is a huge silnylon bag from sea-to-summit).

At this time, I also looked at the fact that I've never adjusted the frame of this adjustable pack. I tried a few hikes without the top bar, but found I really used it to heave the pack around when in camp and to rest my hands when hiking downhill. I always had it at it's lowest position. This piece of aluminum had a >4-inch overlap with the rest of the pack frame. I hacksawed off 2.2 inches from each end. The adjustable frame was collapsed as far as it could go, so I sawed off almost 5 inches from each end.

Removed:
4.4 inches of aluminum tubing from top tube
about 10 inches of aluminum tubing from frame

Then, I noticed that my belt had three brass grommets and some really long webbing with which to attach the belt to the frame. So, I cut off the bottom grommets (leaving two on each side) and cut off about half the webbing for no loss of function. I also (expending a tedious half hour for a weight loss of <5 g) removed the little webbing pockets for the wire that used to be used to keep the pins from falling out.

Removed:
2 brass grommets
about 12 inches of webbing
tiny webbing pockets.

Total weight now is 1680 g (or 59.4 oz or 3.71 pounds) for almost a 1/3 drop in pack weight.

Further lightening up will:
A) involve really drastic modifications like removing remaining side pockets, the pack flap (both used frequently), or even removing the pack itself or
B) really tedious tiny things like trying zip-ties instead of pins (hmmm), replacing cord with lighter-weight cord, replacing metal&string zipper tabs with string zipper tabs (for a loss in function, I think), and removing the sleeping bag compartment zipper (which will have to be sewn up with something heavy duty like waxed cord or dental floss).

So, my 'lightened' external frame pack has lost hardly any of it's original function and comfort and load-bearing ability (when needed) and is now in the same class as many internal frame packs mentioned in this group (i.e. many of the postings here: " Big 3 Weight (3-Season)"

CL
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  #2  
Old 03-12-2008, 06:46 AM
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Rocketman Rocketman is offline
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Join Date: Jul 2006
Posts: 120
Kelty Tioga Lighweighting

I have a Kelty Tioga from the 1980's that was fairly lightweight - compared to yours - to begin with.

I removed the adjustable lifting bar and decided that one of the crossbars was unnecessary and removed it too.

Lighter hip belts and shoulder straps replaced the old ones which had hardened up in storage.

The final weight was just at 3 pounds.

I did Springer Mountain to Damascus VA on the Appalachian Trail with it.

When I was younger I had a larger Kelty pack, and it was pretty well full. I think they made mountains easier and more gentle back then. But those were gentle Sierra Nevada mountain trails, not the harsher AT types that detest level ground and gentle slopes with wide footpaths.
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  #3  
Old 03-13-2008, 11:04 PM
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JimKirk JimKirk is offline
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Join Date: Oct 2006
Location: eastern WA
Posts: 15
great ideas i'd have never thought of. now for some surgery on my old camp trails omega
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  #4  
Old 03-14-2008, 07:08 AM
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clb clb is offline
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Join Date: Feb 2008
Posts: 21
Forgot to say that I removed that spreader bar that holds hope the pack. Yes, the bar may make it easier to load and unload the pack, but the pack really is not that difficult to load and unload without the bar!

Since I forgot all about it, you can tell I've really missed it

I, too, will have to take another look at the frame to see what looks like it won't be missed if hacksawed off.

CL
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  #5  
Old 03-14-2008, 08:36 AM
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Oshkibob Oshkibob is offline
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Join Date: Jan 2008
Location: Midlands, South Carolina
Posts: 46
clb, do you have any photos of your modified pack?
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  #6  
Old 03-20-2008, 11:07 AM
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Rocketman Rocketman is offline
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Join Date: Jul 2006
Posts: 120
Quote:
Originally Posted by clb
Forgot to say that I removed that spreader bar that holds hope the pack. Yes, the bar may make it easier to load and unload the pack, but the pack really is not that difficult to load and unload without the bar!

Since I forgot all about it, you can tell I've really missed it


I replaced that function for lifting the pack with a loop of nylon webbing on the topmost remaining cross member.

Rather than first lifting the pack with the spreader bar, just grab onto the loop.

Jim
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  #7  
Old 03-23-2008, 08:02 PM
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Gizmo Gizmo is offline
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Join Date: Mar 2008
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Great ideas man. I too have scoliosis and a Kelty Trekker. I guess the 2 just go well togeather. Im looking to hike the AT once i finish college, and im sure going to consider what you've done.
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  #8  
Old 03-28-2008, 09:25 PM
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clb clb is offline
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Join Date: Feb 2008
Posts: 21
No pictures yet. I'm trying to collect some before & after weights, because I still have many of the original pieces

Here are some weights:

Top bar: 70 g (originally about 80 g)
Top part of frame: 245 g (originally 290 g)
Bottom part of frame: 290 g
I removed the spreader bar (no weights yet)

Current belt: 200 g
Current shoulder straps: 160 g
Original belt & shoulder strap system (no weights yet)


As for replacing the top bar with webbing--that's an idea. There's no way a bit of webbing is going to weigh even half as much as 70 g.
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  #9  
Old 03-29-2008, 12:50 PM
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Haclil Haclil is offline
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Join Date: Feb 2008
Location: Jerusalem, Israel
Posts: 150
I feel a bit silly getting excited about Kelty lore but here goes:

I'm still using a Kelty bought in 1967! It was, if similar, much more basic than the Trekker.

My first oddball use came to hand while riding 3rd class trains in India. The Kelty perfectly bridged the edges of 2 single seats, so whenever the opposing seat opened up I had a sort of bed!

Then began the paring down. First to go: One of the 2 interior dividers. Next I put key rings in place of the outside wires--until one got pried open by a tree branch, and I almost lost the pin far from civilization. Since then I've replaced the wires with nylon guitar strings that run the length of the pack as the wires did.

For a lifting strap I've used loops of different materials tied to the topmost crossbar. Initially I made a loop of the non-webbed strapping used on heavy cardboard boxes. Now I've got a loop of the shiny nylon that's used in edging blankets! It's very strong, lightweight, and comfy to grasp, so much so that I'm considering it for other weight-saving uses.

To get the back webbing tight I've removed the cords that run between the ends of the webbing. I've replaced them with those nylon plastic straps that self-lock when drawn tight. They don't stretch, and when the webbing does you just draw them tighter. Obviously you need pretty long plastic straps for this.

By the way, l've left the spreader bar and hung from it an unusual map pocket. It's a simply nylon sleeve with flap from a stationery store. it sits on the face of the pack but below the flap for easy access.

Now for my "killer" idea: Being sway-backed, the Kelty frame is great for me as it is for scoliosis. But what helps me even more is to thrust 2 or 3 PET water bottles twixt the back of the pack and the webbing! I find the harder cushioning provided by the bottles better than the webbing's (the bottles are not round but rectangular in profile). For the missing details just send me an email.

Maybe a bigger plus is that this solves the problem of where to put the water without losing packing space. (I generally start out the day with 4 to 6 quarts.)
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  #10  
Old 03-29-2008, 06:14 PM
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Black325xi Black325xi is offline
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Join Date: Nov 2006
Posts: 6
I have not found anything that fits me better than an external frame pack. But the weight of the kelty super tioga was a concern. So after some thought I shortened all of the straps on the pack, worth almost 6 oz. But the biggest weight savings was to remove the fabric pack, and strapped light weight stuff sacks to the frame. This cut the weight of the pack in half and gives me the capablity to change the volume of the pack by adding or reducing the number of stuff sacks. It also allows the easy movement of the weight by repositioning the sacks. Store the water bladder in a cavity between the pack and back, no more guessing how much water. Has worked very well on some short hikes. The test is coming in June with a 50 miler at the Buffalo River.

Dan
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