Last weekend I said that I wanted to pull all of my cold weather gear together and try to pack it in my SMD Starlite too see how well it all fit. I never got around to doing it last weekend, but I did it yesterday. Well, working in the comfort and relative warmth of my living room I was able to cram everything into or on the pack, but it was tough. And I didn’t have 3 to 5 days of food in the food sack, either. There is no way this was going to be practical packing and unpacking every day for weeks on the trail. So now the question is: what to do?

I could just use my Kelty Super Tioga, which is a load carrying monster of a frame pack. It will easily swallow everything I need to carry, but that pack weighs 6 1/2 pounds with nothing in it! There has to be some solution that will fall somewhere in between the 30 oz of my Starlite and the 104 oz of the Kelty.

So I spent some time last night and this morning looking at packs online, then Jodi and I took a trip to our local REI to touch and play with the packs they had there. Two packs caught my eye; the first is the Osprey Aether 70 (, which in a size large weighs 4 lb 12 oz and offers 4400 cu. in. I also liked one of the Gregory packs, it offered similar volume and what seemed to be more convenient outside pockets, but it weighed 1 lb 2oz more than the Osprey, and with that weight it was approaching the weight of my trusty old Kelty frame pack, so I decided on the Osprey.

Now REI was offering the Osprey at full retail price, $259, and I knew I could get it substantially cheaper elsewhere. Usually the staff at REI is very attentive and someone would come over and ask if we needed any help, but that didn’t happen today so I didn’t feel like I owed REI this sale due to them investing time in me, so I felt no compunction about coming back home and ordering the pack from an online retailer for $60 less than REI charged.

So now I am waiting for the pack to arrive sometime this week, and I’ll go through the exercise again and see if I can fit everything in this new, larger pack. From the bit I played with the pack at REI I think it will be a very comfortable pack to carry, so I hope it is a good match for the volume of cold weather gear I will be carrying for the first weeks of my hike. Yeah, it’s pretty warm in Atlanta by mid_March, but the trail is in the mountains of northern Georgia, between 4,000′ and 5,000′, and the weather there definitely offers up a taste of winter.

Once the weather warms up and I am through the high mountain areas, I will have Jodi send me my light-weight summer sleeping bag and I will send some of my heavy clothes and my winter bag home. At that time I will decide whether I want to continue using the Osprey backpack, or whether I will switch back to my SMD Starlite for the summer.

I am also still waiting for the current 2009 edition of Appalachian Pages (,and once that arrives I can finalize my tentative schedule and decide where I am going to have Jodi send me food resupply packages, and decide little details like which maps need to be sent in which mail drops.

Well, there are now 51 days left until I fly to Atlanta, and 52 days until I start up the Approach Trail.