Appalachian Ultralight Thru-hiker’s pack Medium Term Review

Hey all, I think the winter season is done here in beautiful and sunny Colorado, so I wanted to take the time to review the Appalachian Ultralight Thru Hiker’s pack with an eye towards the medium term.

First off, I’m selling my ULA CDT. So that should tell you something.

Appalachian Ultralight
The Appalachian Ultralight out on a 10 degree night.

First I find that the pack can comfortably hold upwards of 25 pounds! That’s on the higher side for a frameless pack. On this trip, I had packed heavy on purpose, and included a car camping 0 degree full synthetic sleeping bag. It weighs in at 5 lbs. Plus my Whisperlite with a full bottle of fuel and this 3 pound tent and the pack held 26 lbs with food and water comfortably.  Not that the CDT didn’t, but one of the real selling points here is the customizable nature of Cody’s packs.

Appalachian Ultralight
A better lit pic from an warmer day.

The elastic straps on the back are supremely useful. From stowing your poles, to a wrap for a wet tarp or tent, I haven’t had an outing where I haven’t used them. The back pocket I thought would be too small but it’s plenty big. The straps are comfy for even long days.

The Thru-Hiker’s pack on a cold winter morning.

That said I do have couple things I wish were changed.

  1. The sternum strap is hard to unclasp. A single line with big knots would be easier.
  2. The compression lines on the side are in the side pockets, I would prefer them on the outside. Really this is just a preference. But if you put loose things in those pockets the strings can get very caught up in them.
  3. Hip belt pockets. I miss them and I have sewn my own that can go on any belt. I should note that Cody will put a pair on if you ask him.
  4. I wish it had one of the new under pockets. That would probably eliminate the need for hip belt pockets.

Criticism aside this is a great pack that I would (and have) recommend to any of my friends, or passersby.

Is the BeFree a better filter than the Saywer?


EDIT: In a recent trip, the BeFree totally stopped filtering even though it was clean and well taken care of. I cannot endorse this filter, as a few others have had this same problem, so I know it’s not just me.

Long story short, maybe in the next iteration.

I recently purchased two Katadyn BeFree filters from REI when they were on sale, thinking that hey, they might be cool and they are only $20 at the time.


I have been a fan of gravity filters for a while due to the set it and forget it factor, but the flow of cheap ones left me with something to be desired for quick stops, and the high cost of the Platypus Gravity left me saying no thanks.  So I have been using the BeFree, modified pretty heavily, but it works soo well. EDIT: No it doesn’t.

First some practicalities.

  • The BeFree filters do not use standard threading like the Sawyer line does. I dislike this. The bottle openings are much bigger and allow for a high flow rate to but the filter, enhancing its already amazing flow rate, but it can’t use any other bottles than the soft bottle it comes with. So you can either use this with the soft bottle, or try to find something that the filter portion can fit on. I didn’t find anything, and I went to King Soopers one day to just try it out. NOTHING fit. And I tried everything, even pancake mix bottles. So that is an issue if you are wanting to hook it up to some smart water bottles or to use it as an inline filter. If that’s the case, you should just stick with the Sawyer which fits nearly everything. EDIT: it fits on a Hydrapak Seeker Water Bottle. Which is an issue because if the bottle pops, leaks or is damaged in any way you are hosed until you can order a new one.
  • The next issue is that damn soft bottle. I get that it’s supposed to be easier to carry, and it can pack down small but I just hate them. They are good on some running vests where they need to conform to a certain shape that doesn’t work for a rigid bottle. But for backpacking, I hate them.
  • Third I don’t really get the idea here. When on a run there aren’t really times when I need to stop to refill my water supply, and for most trail runners I imagine this is true. Ultra Runners might need it to go light and just refill as needed, but even then a bladder would work better I think. If you are running 50 miles unsupported and on your own, most runners carry what they need.

Why I like the BeFree:

  • Using the BeFree after the Squeeze is night and day. It’s like just pouring water from the bottle.
  • When it’s dirty just put some clean water in the bag and shake it. BAM! It’s clean again. So the need to back flush is gone. Thus no need to carry a syringe. There really is no need anyway, just use a Smartwater bottle cap. The blue one with the flip lid.
  • The entire filter is exposed to the water, verses just the end in a Sawyer. This makes it able to filter faster due to the greater surface area and easier to clean as well.

So I modified it this way:

  • I cut the hard top of the soft bottle off and set it aside.
  • I had a dry sack from Mountain Hardware that is now discontinued (but this will work) and I cut a 1.5” line in the bottom.
  • Then I pulled the bag through the hard top of the bottle and screwed the filter on.

It works so well.

EDIT: It worked well until I tried it with some lake water. It didn’t perform then. The filter clogged and wouldn’t let more than a trickle out. It was filtering much slower than the Sawyer.