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Rated 5 out of
Ideal ultralite packFirst, a word of caution: you have to keep your total pack weight at or under 20 pounds; above that, the pack hangs on your shoulders like a tired 3-year-old. I'm carrying 13 or 14 pounds for a weekend, which leaves me enough capacity to carry a couple of extra quarts of water to a dry camp without overwhelming the suspension. Sizing is a bit on the small side: I have about at 20.5" torso - just at the intersection of the regular and long sizes. For me, the long was the better fit. For longer trips, with extra food or cold weather clothing, I switch to the more robust Granite Gear Crown VC 60.
I liked the original Virga, but felt it was limited by the lack of a padded hipbelt. Finally, they added one, and now it's perfect. The pack is simplicity itself. The three stretch pockets swallow all the stuff I need during the day: snack, lunch, water bottle, water filter, map and compass, and toilet kit. If I've got wet rain gear or tent, I can put them in the long stretch pocket on the back to dry while I walk. I really don't miss the lid pocket or hipbelt pockets, and really like the dry bag-style closure. The load lifters are a functional addition, keeping the load pulled in toward your back and, with the proper improvised frame, do help transfer the load to your hips where the lightly padded hipbelt can support the weight. I take one of two approaches to adding a framesheet.
Method 1: This is the simpler method. I use 4 sections of a Z-Lite pad, folded 2-wide, as a frame. I run it along the back panel of the pack (conveniently colored orange as a pattern), putting the top of the pad at the level of the load lifter attachment point. I lock it in place with my sleeping bag, put my food and stove high and close to my back, and then fill ill in around it with clothing, tent, and inflatable sleeping pad. In camp, the frame becomes a sit pad.
Method 2: This is more complicated, but provides more comfort and versatility. I use my inflatable pad (72" Z-Lite) and a Compack chair kit as a frame. I insert the pad into the chair, with the valve sticking up above the top opening a couple of inches, and the foot of the pad extending out the bottom opening. Then I fold the bottom half over the top of the chair, and fold the chair in half. Then I fold each long side in toward the middle, until until I have a rectangle roughly the size of the orange back panel. I slide it down the back panel (chair stays on the inner side of the pack), lock it in place with sleeping bag, and pack as described in Method 1. Then the finishing touch: I inflate the pad with two or three breaths to stiffen the frame and expand it into the pack to solidify the load. When I get to camp, I don't even have to take the pad out of the chair: I inflate it about half full and use it as a chair in camp (folded in half, or allowing the bottom to unfold and turn it into a lounge chair. Then, when I'm ready for bed, I just unclip the straps on the side of the chair, finish inflating it, lay it flat, and go to bed. I never have to take it out of the chair. Next morning, I just let the air out, and pack up.
Pure simplicity, pure comfort, pure function: if you're into ulralight, this is your pack.