I have had a chance to get access to a Pa’lante Packs, ‘Simple Pack’ for doing my fourth ‘initial walk around‘ video!
This is not a backpack that I have bought, nor that was given to me, I simply have had access to it for a short period of time.
I suspect almost all of you already know the vast majority of what there is to know about the Simple Pack, so probably not going to be much of anything new in this video for most of you.
You will, perhaps, see some parts of the backpack that you have not seen anybody else online share, however.
The backpack that I have had a chance to use is one made at the new company that Pa’lante Packs has started to outsource production too. So, this is not a pack made by John Z or Andrew.
For $220 bucks, the price of the Simple Pack, I expected significantly better quality control than what this particular backpack has. To be honest, I expected the QC to be pretty high, but frankly, the way that I ended the video (bottom of this article) pretty much says it all, at least for me.
A few people within the industry, cottage owners that is, that I have been talking with about this backpack have told me that they could have this pack made in the sub $100 dollar range (one told me the $80 range) and they could still make money from it – and that is even using the stupidly expensive X-Pac fabric – fabric, that I have to truthly say, is just not worth the price tag to me.
Perhaps I am just not one of those fanboys that is “wow’ed” by the X-Pac fabric, unlike so many others it seem these days. I personally tend to think that there are times when ‘too durable‘ is just that, ‘too durable‘ – and the durability of this X-Pac fabric, which granted, is hella impressive, just does not have any other viable qualities, I feel, to justify the use of it. There are a small handful of other fabrics that are lighter weight, almost as durable, one hell of a lot less expensive, significantly less stiff, are already well used, well proven, and well accepted and loved throughout the backpacking market (and I do not mean DCF!)
But all of that aside, the Quality Control of this backpack is just horrific. The worst QC of any full production backpack I have put on. I have seen alpha and beta backpacks with better QC than this backpack. As I told a buddy that I was talking with about the pack: “it looks like some kind of DIY job, not something that I would expect from a $220 pack.“
Thankfully, and of course, none of it should affect the overall durability and longevity of the backpack. It is just piss poor QC, that is all. Especially for a backpack that is priced at $220 bucks!
So what do I mean by the QC being ‘unclean‘ in the video?
The best way to explain what I mean by ‘unclean’ is to think about the different layers of the fabric. Basically:
- It seems that whoever made the backpack did not invest the few seconds to trim the edges of the fabric before laying them together.
- Than the person did a piss pour job of lining up the different layers of the fabric, before sewing it, to make sure they were all straight.
- And lastly, whenever the person went to trim off the excess fabric, after sewing the layers together, they did a really bad job of keeping the trimming straight. (something that some might say should not even be necessary, if the above two steps were done properly)
Take a look at the 9:13 mark in the video, where I hold the pack upside down (and inside out) and you can see most of these points. Below are a couple of photos:
Personal thoughts from my heart:
The real issue with me turning the backpack inside out was not to show off the QC issue, but rather to address the issue of Pa’lante Packs not having it be bonded. Most other packs at this caliber, within the cottage industry, are bonded. That is the point that I was trying to make by both turning it inside out, and spending the minute or two talking about this issue. It seems I failed to make that point properly enough so I hope that I have been able to clear up that issue.
I totally understand that Pa’lante Packs is one of the new cottage companies within the industry. Totally understand that. The three old boys (GG/MLD/SMD) have all had years to refine their packs. The two middle-age boys (Zpacks/HMG) have pretty much got their stuff figured out. It is now the age of the young boys all over again. Pa’lante Packs. Appalachian Ultralight. KS/JP, and a few other new start ups, they are all making progressional updates to their gear each rotation of their production – this is something that is really important to remember.
Maybe, hopefully, Pa’lante Packs will begin to reach the point where they (or their outsourced manufacturer, I should say) have the skillset to properly bond their backpacks, so that they can be up at the same level, the same caliber, as most of the competition for this level of a backpack.
Bottom Pocket & Other Features:
I will say that I was able to access the bottom pocket, which I really did not expect to be able to do. That was surprising and, in a strange way, rather enjoyable, as I cannot remember the last backpack that I have had where I could reach any pocket other than front pockets.
I personally think Pa’lante Packs needs to offer S-Style shoulder straps. I would also like to see narrower shoulder straps, however, I seem to recall that John Z feels wide shoulder straps are the way these smaller packs should be. While I disagree with him, I totally understand and get the point I seem to remember him saying for wider shoulder straps (broader distribution of weight on the shoulders), but, I just prefer narrow shoulder straps.
I do think they need to take the sternum strap webbing and add some thread-lines on it, turning it into a daisy-chain. It would make it have some multi purposeness too it.
QC issues aside, and the choice of fabrics aside, the Simple Pack is a backpack that absolutely has a place in the market these days for the 30 to 40 liter backpacks. While I do not see it as a stand-out within the market, it certainly has a place. This category of backpacks is seeing some massive growth right now, with new packs hitting the market every couple of months. The bottom pocket is cool, but I think the buck kind of stops there – well, at least the features, the price tag certainly does not. You could buy two backpacks in this same category of volume, from Gossamer Gear, for the price of this Simple Pack, not that I am a fan of the Robic nylon fabric. The MLD Burn, after adding shoulder strap pockets, pretty much is the same price as the Simple Pack, so that is worth keeping in mind – however, MLD has years in their development refinement. That said, if you are a fan of X-Pac fabric, that will probably cause the Simple Pack to be very near the top of the list of packs in this category. The bottom pocket is super neat, and the fact that I could reach water bottles in it, when I can never reach side pockets, was a huge plus and absolutely surprised me – I have seen others write that they have the same problem with not being able to reach side pockets say they can reach the bottom pocket, so the whole bottom pocket feature alone scores some extra brownie points. I did like the built-in shoulder strap pockets and I would love to see more pack designers move to this – the Six Moon Designs backpacks also have built-in shoulder pouches, which also include a little drawstring to help keep them closed/tighter at the top. The lack of options for s-style straps is a huge down-vote in my book. I realize that guys like Andrew Bentz and John Zahorian are not guys that use s-straps, but hopefully in the future they are willing to offer it for those that like, and those that need, them. All in all, a great backpack overall. In all of the 30-40 liter packs that I have used, I would say it is the first, maybe second, backpack in this category of packs to give any real competition to the much loved and probably top of the leader board, the MLD Burn.
Where To Buy:
You can buy the Simple Pack, when it is available, directly from the Pa’lante Packs website: http://www.palantepacks.com/store/p4/simplepack
Somebody posted my video (below) over on /r/ultralight and it got a bit of discussion. Towards the bottom of the post I posted my own comment, with some further insights into things, it is worth a read.