Although I don't really care for going into Eddie Bauer stores and getting brow beat, I am a big fan of their First Ascent line of gear. I have several of their down jackets and vests and love them. My backpacking pack is a Mountainsmith Frostfire 5500. It's huge. One thing I've learned from bikepacking is that I don't need much stuff in order to survive and be very comfortable. Another thing I've learned is that you will inevitably bring more shit in order to fill a larger pack. I'd like to do some more backpacking this summer and I'm going to spend some time on 14ers as well and I've been looking at this smaller pack for a while now. This is the Alchemist 40. It's really interesting. There is an Alchemist 30 that's probably better for day hikes but I have my Osprey Talon I use on the bike and it's super comfortable and I'll use that for day hikes and summits of 14ers unless I plan on tagging multiples and spending the night out like I'll have to do over in the Collegiate Peaks. I was hoping this pack would work for overnight backpacking trips and I'm still playing around to see. So far I only have my Gore Tex bivy (the only one I totally trust) and a North Face 45 degree bag in there.
This pack is 4.5 lbs. lighter than my Mountainsmith. As the name implies, it's 40 liters. The cool thing about this pack is that it's expandable to 55 liters with just a few simple moves. It's got an internal pad that can be removed to sit on or use as a 3/4 bivy pad. I planned on buying a super light pad this year but we'll see. I generally don't need much padding but I am getting older. It can hold an ice axe which is good because I'll need that for some early season 14ers. It can also hold a fly rod tube which will be good for backpacking. Another nice thing that I was hoping for (but I had to order it sight unseen) was that the hipbelt was going to be able to securely hold my handgun. Now I don't carry often but there have been two times now where I have been out riding or hiking and stumbled upon abandoned grow camps. It's a big thing out here and it concerns me when I'm out. There is no way to carry when using my Mountainsmith other than putting it in the pack itself which makes getting to it an issue. The hipbelt isn't real huge but I think it'll be ok with a full load.
The negatives I see so far are pretty scarce. One issue is water storage. It does have water bottle pockets on it but they don't appear to be that deep and a Nalgene bottle won't stay so I'll probably have to end up using a carabiner to secure one to the hipbelt. Not ideal but I can deal. I might be able to put a bladder in the pack but it's not designed for it and there's no hole for the drink tube to come out but I can sew. Next up will be putting my stove, fuel and ti cup, water filter, hat and gloves, base layer, down jacket, and 2 days of food inside and see how it carries before I decide if I wanna keep it.