First thoughts and review of the G4 backpack.
This weekend my dog Thunder and I did a quick overnight trip at Lake Spaulding with my new G4 backpack which I made from the Quest Outfitters kit. We hiked in 6 miles on Saturday, stayed overnight at Echo Lakes, got rained on a little bit at night and then hiked back out the same 6 miles on Sunday. This gave me a chance to get a feel for the pack while climbing hills, doing some cross country off trail hiking, and many many creek crossings.
First of all, I've already had 2 of the pockets tear at the upper pocket edge. It seems that the material they use for the mesh pockets will fray quite easily and even though I have ripstop pocket edges sewn in, rolled over, and sewn again, the vertical thread of the mesh pull right through the pocket edge seam. My suggestion, if you're thinking of making you own, is to do one of two things: cut the mesh half an inch larger on all sides than the pattern suggest and then roll a half inch fold all the way around and sew that to create a hemmed edge. The other suggestion would be to use some sort of adhesive seam tape on all the edges because sewing the mesh, even with a double seam, doesn't seem to bind the material.
As far as fit goes, well, it certainly feels different than my ULA circuit. But that's not really a fair comparison. With the Gossamer Gear tri-fold sit pad used as a frame stiffener it is possible to take most of the weight off of your shoulders for a short time. But only if you tighten the waist belt extremely tight. It seems that this type of pack expects the weight to bear about equally on the hips and shoulders. By the end of the 2nd day the top of my shoulders were pretty sore.
I should say that my base weight started at about 12 pounds. I then added a liter of water, food and fuel, Thunder's food and water bowls as well as his food and treats. I also brought a thin foam pad for Thunder to sleep on. The total pack weight was probably about 20 pounds. I don't think I'd want to carry much more than that until my back and shoulders get stronger and more use to the different weight distribution. The hip belt was functional and fairly comfortable. But it suffered by comparison to the ULA Circuit's hip belt which is vastly more comfortable and adjustable.
I did notice the difference in weight. The G4 is over a pound lighter than the Circuit and for the majority of the hike I really felt like I was carrying less weight and had more energy. The last 2 miles of the 2nd day really beat me up but that's probably more of a conditioning thing rather than a pack fit thing.
The pack functioned really well. There was lots of room in the main bag and the side and back pockets were amazingly huge. I did make 2 modifications though without which the pack would have suffered. First, I added vertical webbing on the shoulder straps so I could use shock corded loops to strap a water bottle to my shoulder strap. I stole this idea from my ULA Circuit. Without those loops it would be impossible to get a water bottle out of the side pockets. This was a problem that I had with my Osprey Atmos pack and at that time I considered it a fatal error. But with the shoulder strap loops the water bottle accessibility issue was solved. The other modification was the addition of a sternum strap. This just keeps the shoulder straps in place and helps with the fit.
I was surprised that I didn't miss having hip belt pockets. The ULA Circuit has huge pockets where I can put my camera, iPod, Cliff bars, gloves, etc. I just kept my camera and snacks in my pants pockets and it seemed to work out fine.
Overall, it's quite a good pack. It's simple, incredibly spacious, and it does exactly what it needs to do and no more. It's very light and fairly comfortable. I honestly think that any negative thoughts I have about this pack are due to the fact that I also have a ULA Circuit which is such a fine pack (even though it's over a pound heavier) that the G4 suffers by unfair comparison. Taken on it's own I think the G4 is a great pack which I will certainly use for quick weekend trips. But if I was to go for a longer, multiple day trip or for a longer mileage trip then I'd opt for the extra comfort of the Circuit.