There are two paradigms in backpacking, and they are seemingly paradoxical. One is the art and ability of being “self-contained”: All your needs must be inside your backpack: tent (or any shelter), clothes, cooking and eating utensils, food, water, first aid kit, etc. Name it, your pack should have it. The other is the art and ability to “pack lite”: Everything inside your backpack must be as light and compact as possible.
Reconciling those two approaches, striking a balance between them, is one of the most exciting (and sometimes stressful) challenges in camping and climbing. By trying different approaches in various climbs, one gets the feel of what works for them. Take note there is no right or wrong paradigm; it’s a matter of personal preference.
For last month’s Mt. Apo Traverse via the Kapatagan and Kidapawan trails, I leaned more towards the “Pack Lite” approach and used a Deuter Futura Vario 40+10. Although I didn’t bring a tent with the bag, it was still a challenge to cram all that I would need in what could be a 4-day trip. I wanted to get the benefits of packing lite: less burden along a long trail, more flexibility, less strain in the back, among others.
In the end, I crammed more stuff than the ideal. But the Deuter Futura Vario had more space than expected, and was able to accommodate everything that I needed for the 4-day trip. A tent could easily be accommodated too by attaching it to the bag – s0mething I did for other climbers during the Apo climb.
Yet what really impressed me was the way the bag was designed. You can really adjust the bag according your height and torso, and the aluminum poles direct the weight straight into the hip belt, reducing the burden of the upper back and the shoulders. Best of all, the AirComfort system offers ventilation to your back; it is much easier to balance the bag even when the stuff inside the bag were hastily stuffed there. I had a very convenient time.
However, it is hard at this point to say whether the convenience I felt was due to the structure of the bag or the mere fact that I packed lite. Definitely though, hiking with the Futura Vario was quite an enjoyable experience. It rained several times during our Apo climb it passed the water test as well.
Now the question, will I switch my regular Deuter AirContact 55 + 10 for the Futura? Maybe, if only for the lesser burden on the back. But to resolve the paradox of self-containment and packing light, I would have to go for a bigger Futura Vario. The 50+10 may be the perfect size, but I’ll have to see for myself. What I can commit to at the moment is to say that the Futura Vario is a promising line of hiking packs.