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My Dream Portage Pack: A portage pack prototype idea

dream portage pack

For the most part, my needs for a portage pack are met with Cooke Custom Sewing hybrid portage packs. We have an Explorer, a Ruck and two Pioneers. But, there’s a missing pack that I haven’t been able to find on the market. That’s a lightweight, smallish portage pack for light and fast solo trips utilizing single portages. A trip like my Following the Winchell Expedition trip.

I’ve tried all kinds of different packs for this style of trip, and so far my favorite is the Explorer, but it’s just a bit too big. I’ve also tried using a lightweight hiking backpack, but those don’t work because they end up being too high, and when single portaging the pack hits the seat of a solo canoe.

portage pack in the BWCA
Cooke Custom Sewing Explorer Portage Pack

For my dream pack, I imagine taking a Cooke Custom Sewing pack that’s about the size of the youth Adventurer pack and mashing it up with a Hyperlight Mountain Gear pack and packing system.

The pack itself would be about 2,800 cubic inches plus the outside pockets. That would measure about 21-22 inches high, 15 inches wide and 9 inches deep. It could have a roll top closure system or it could have a roll top closure system with a flap. If it has a flap, the flap has to be able to hold a life vest on the front of the pack for longer portages. I usually wear my vest on shorter portages. If it doesn’t have a flap, then it should have a big pocket that can fit a life vest for portages. The flap should have a zippered pocket for stuff you need during the day, such as bug spray, sun screen, snacks. It should be big enough to stuff a map when needed. The zipper should be near were the shoulder straps connect to the pack, so when you put it in the canoe with the shoulder straps up, you can turn around and unzip the flap. The pocket should only be half the flap size. If there’s no flap, then the zippered pocket could be on one side of the pack. The other side would have a pocket big enough for a water bottle. The pack should be made of Dyneema and weight about 2 pounds.

The straps should be contoured, modern and comfortable. The waist belt should be the same. I’m good with having a frame as long as it doesn’t interfere with wearing a life vest while portaging. I’m good with it not having a frame as long as it can carry the weight that I’m likely to carry — up to 40 pounds max.

It should probably have grab handles on several sides to help get it in and out of the canoe.

A lightweight Granite Gear pack. It’s just a bit too tall and hits the canoe’s seat when portaging.

This pack should be part of a system. The stuff sacks should be zippered and designed to perfectly fit into the shape of the pack. They would be made from Dyneema, seam sealed and have a waterproof zip. While they probably wouldn’t be 100% waterproof, they’d be near it. Then there would be a smaller version that’s taller but only half as wide as the pack. If you really want to get crazy, there would be a bear bag with a roll top designed to fit perfectly into the pack up against the spine. The pack could also accommodate the bigger Bear Vault food container.

To pack this dream portage pack, you put the big zippered stuff sack on the bottom. It would hold your sleeping bag, sleeping pad and maybe some sleep clothing and such. The next layer would by the half zippered stuff sacks for clothing, cook gear, tent fly and canopy or whatever you want to fit there. Then the food would go in against your spine and more zippered stuff sacks would fit in front of that to push the weight of the food against your spine where it is more stable.

I drew it up. You probably can’t read my messy writing, but here it is.

drawing of prototype portage pack
drawing of prototype portage pack

That’s what I want. I want something like this. It could vary just a little or it could vary a lot. But it needs to be able to do a light and fast canoe trip.

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