Temporarily back home, the goal is to obtain a new pack, do a test hike, and get back out on the trail as quickly as possible.
Thursday afternoon, I set out to my local REI to obtain a new pack. I was initially expecting to walk out with an Osprey Exos 58, having tried one on when I was checking out lightweight packs for my planned Continental Divide Trail hike, and finding it was the one I disliked the least of the available options. Tipping the scales in that direction was my noticing that REI had shoulder strap pouches that would provide a good place to put my phone, since the Exos doesn't have pockets on its hip belt. And, at roughly two pounds lighter than my Osprey Atmos 65 AG, the weight savings would be noticeable.
But, my local REI doesn’t have the Exos in stock: it’s apparently limited to certain stores, and theirs wasn't selected (which seems silly to me). But, one of the staff there pointed me at the Gregory Paragon 58. It was “only” a pound lighter than my Atmos, but it had functional hip-belt pockets, and came with a rainfly (that was noticeably lighter than the one I’d been using).
After walking around the store for 20 minutes wearing the pack loaded down with roughly 35 pounds of weight, it seemed comfortable enough, so I bought it. I also picked up a new shirt to replace the one my Atmos had ripped; a new rope for bear hangs, now that my old rope was no longer bright orange (and also a few feet shorter thanks to a mishap on the AT); and two bottles of Permethrin, since I ran out while coating my clothes before leaving.
I also started to revise my plan, and was able to slightly improve on the distribution of long days, especially thanks to getting updated information on a trail closure/reroute that had been last updated four years ago. The Tuscarora is still going to be a difficult stretch, but I’ll still make it work, somehow. Largely, I’m more worried about there being sufficient water on the trail, since a significant portion of the Tuscarora is along (dry) ridges. Fortunately, there’s been a fair amount of rain lately, so that should help a lot.
Still extremely sore from the Roller Coaster and carrying my pack fully on my shoulders part of Wednesday, and also due to rain on Friday and Saturday, I went out for a test hike with the new pack to my customary shakedown hike location, Sugarloaf Mountain. It was my second hike on the mountain in as many weeks, my last visit being a week and a half earlier when I did a test hike prior to leaving for Harpers Ferry.
Everything worked out well, and the new pack both feels lighter and, even better, feels like it fits a little better. I noticed a long list of minor nitpicks that largely sum up to “this pack is not the Atmos, so shut up, deal with it, and enjoy the weight savings.” The one major thing I don’t like is that the water bladder is entirely inside the main compartment, rather than “outside” the pack, as it was on the Atmos, so with condensation, it means the inside of the pack is never going to be dry, and I’m losing space to a water bladder that used to fit “for free” in the slightly larger Atmos.
But, if I want a smaller pack for the CDT, then this is good practice, since lighter packs also mean fewer pockets and features.
Raining today, so, going to head back tomorrow, when the forecast is for clouds, but no rain. Adjusted the plan slightly to reduce the number and length of a few long days, given my experience so far.