An off trail descent in the Alpine Lakes Wilderness
It always seems like August to October is the time of the year I find myself using a frameless pack the most: the bugs are gone, I’m carrying less auxiliary gear, and the weather is fair and stable.
This year I used that time to put the Waymark EVLV through the wringer in the Cascades, including a circuit of Mount Adams, multiple high routes in the Alpine Lakes Wilderness, and forest hikes with peak bagging around the southern Gifford Pinchot Forest. It ended up being about 250 miles of hiking in total. The pack acquitted itself well.
A lonely pass above Overcoat Lake in the Alpine Lakes Wilderness
- Solid construction with durable Ecopak EPX70 and EPX 200
- Wide comfy shoulder straps
- Easy to access side pockets
- Lycra stretch front pocket
- Easy attachment points for trekking poles and ice ax
- Pack weight is between 15 and 16 ounces, depending on size
Hellroaring Overlook on the Adams 360
I want to start by addressing a unique and potentially confusing feature of this pack, the “load shifters”. Load lifters, which most backpackers are familiar with on framed packs, attach where the frame stays terminate above the shoulders. Adjusting a load lifter on a framed pack helps dial in the desired balance of weight transfer between the shoulders and the hipbelt.
The Waymark EVLV “shifters” attach about an inch above the shoulder straps right where the extension collar of the pack begins. Adjusting it, as Waymark properly names it, will shift weight, not “lift” it.
I played around with this feature extensively, and it does impact carry, particularly when the extension collar is completely full. It seems to change where the surface area of the shoulder straps — and in turn weight — is hitting your shoulders. I found the best use of this feature to be at the end of a high-mileage day, when my shoulders began to get a little tight. Just having the pressure move slightly forward or backward on my shoulders actually helped a lot.
One way of thinking about the shifters is that they shorten the effective torso length of the pack. For someone consistently putting in high-mileage days this might be a very appealing feature, particularly once getting a handle on how different settings feel. It does create a bit more of a summit pack type of feel when completely tightened up, helpful for moments like this:
Knife edge traverse to Lemei Rock Summit, Indian Heaven Wilderness
Shifters aside, the pack carries very well up to around the typical frameless weight limit of 20ish pounds, due to some wide and cushy shoulder straps that seemed to fit my partner (female) and I equally well.
We definitely put the durability of the pack to the test, with a few failed high route ideas that resulted in many bailout miles of swimming through slide alder, willow, and other unforgiving vegetation found at 3000 to 4000 feet in Washington state.
The main body and gusset of the pack escaped completely unscathed, as did the lycra stretch mesh. The highest points of wear were the side pockets, with some abrasion, which would not be an issue under normal use.
GOOD TO KNOW
- The lycra stretch mesh holds an impressive amount of gear.
- There is a top strap that’s handy for a sit pad or stowing a fleece or rain jacket, and multiple attachment points for trekking poles or an ice ax.
- The numerous daisy chains on the shoulder straps will securely accommodate a water bottle pocket or shoulder pocket.
- Waymark also sells a webbing belt for the EVLV, and the pack has built-in buckles for the belt.
- The side pockets very securely hold two 1 liter Smartwater-style bottles.
- No drain holes in the side pockets causes water to pool up in rain
- The black color gets hot fast in direct sun, particularly alpine environments
- There’s no top down or side compression
- The fabric is highly water resistant, but the construction is not seam taped
The Waymark EVLV is a solid choice for a UL thru-hiker or a weekend warrior in peak season, providing a comfortable ride with a unique adjustment option not found on other packs. A quality build and solid but not overloaded feature set make this frameless pack competitive.