Possibly you could DIY an ultralight pack that’s a few ounces lighter than this, but you’d be leaving out too many essentials. The Equinox Katahdin Ultralight Backpack provides only the basics but with rugged construction and high quality materials. Unless you’re an expert you won’t get this level of workmanship by DIY. If you find the Equinox Katahdin too bulky, try the Equinox Pamola, a scaled-down version built for smaller human frames.
A reasonable load for the Katahdin’s ample storage volume of 3350 cubic inches shouldn’t exceed 35 pounds. After all, if you get this pack you were planning to go light. If you do decide to tie on a larger payload it’s possible. Although the main compartment looks skimpy in the photo, that’s because it’s cinched tight around a sleeping bag in a stuff sack, just for show. Loosen the cinch straps and the bag expands for a full load of gear. With an empty pack weight of 26 ounces it’s a solid foundation for anything from a day hike to walking the Appalachian Trail. That’s no exaggeration, since through-hikers have taken the Katahdin over the AT and come back with good things to say about it. It’s even gone to the peak of Mt. Everest.
Several good features here need a little explaining. A lot of thought went into this design and nothing has just been put together. Cinch straps are located at points which organize the load and together with the back panel replace the need for internal stays. Hip and shoulder straps take the load without distorting the side pockets. Breathable foam padding in the hip and lumbar areas make the pack more comfortable.
Making the Katahdin work well does require some ingenuity. A ground pad folded against the back of the compartment would add padding between hikers and hard spots in the load, and you’ll need to find a stable center location for an hydration bladder. Either a separate rain cover, or a poncho built to cover person and pack, will keep the gear dry; but there’s no built-in protection beyond waterproofed fabric. There’s very limited external storage, so organize your gear with the most-used items on top. If you want to tie gear on the outside of the bag you’ll need to attach loops yourself and that may interfere with the pack’s suspension concept. If you had to build in all these features to make the Katahdin work, you’d quickly be up to the weight of a different pack. Part of the trick here is to make your other gear work with the pack — which is all part of the challenge. Many of the basics like rain cover and hydration are included in heavier packs, but if you organize well, and make gear serve more than one purpose, there’s a real weight savings with the Equinox Katahdin. If you’re looking for a good foundation for the load, you won’t find anything more efficient than this.