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Gifted a Granite Gear Trad #4 - should I keep it?

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My darling wife, knowing my love of canoeing and not really knowing canoe gear, cast about for a Christmas present for me, "something that you wouldn't buy for yourself but that you'd like to have". Doing some research in secret, she settled upon a Granite Gear Trad #4 pack and surprised me with it. She obviously put some thought and care into picking it for me, which of course is very much appreciated.

I do 1-2 trips per year, usually 1-3 nights (I've managed one 5-nighter in the BWCA, and hope to do another extended trip like that every 5 yrs or so as my vacation balance and family obligations allow). Thus far, I've always managed just fine with my backpacking pack, lined with a Sealine dry bag or two for the essentials (sleeping bag, post-immersion layers). I usually portage in two trips, one for boat, one for pack. In 2021, I probably averaged 1-3 times per week on local waters, often before work or a half-day on weekends during much of the year, and wetted my hull in every month from Mar to Dec. So, I spend a lot more time on the water locally for short stints - packs don't enter into it except my 1-2 short overnight trips.

Is it worth keeping the portage pack over my backpack? Am I really missing out by not having a portage pack? Is there a better portage pack at a comparable price?

Or, should I return it for something I can use more frequently, like another paddle? I need another paddle like I need another hole in my head, but I do enjoy cycling through my paddle quiver frequently and comparing performance and aesthetics; I might wet 4 or 5 paddles in a given week but my packs and overnight gear stay in their tubs in the garage rafters 355 days a year.
 
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I back pack and canoe and always use a proper portage pack when in the canoe. I can’t speak to whether or not you should exchange it for something else, but if you keep it it is a good portage pack. I just gave the same pack to a friend along with a canoe as he has a couple young kids now. That pack was purchased in 2006 and abused by multiple people and other than some stains showed no wear at all. He probably won’t wear it out in his lifetime.

Barry
 
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I would keep it. Even if you only get out a couple nights a year it'll be worth it in the long run. I would also use it on daytrips for an extensive ditch kit, especially when it's cold. It's a good idea to have extra layers, extra clothes, a wool blanket and even a small tent and sleeping bag. I've never had to use my extra clothes before, but I've almost gotten windbound on more than one day trip. Plus it keeps all your stuff together and makes for one easy trip to the garage.
 
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The psychological and emotional enjoyment that a gift thoughtfully given and appreciatively received offers to both the giver and receiver may well exceed any practical value of the gift and should be considered. Only you can place a value on this.

Equipment choice is dependent on both practical performance and personal preference. Practical performance can be debated whereas personal preference is personal, you may like blue and I prefer green. Portage packs are simply very basic backpacks. They are large bags with shoulder straps that can hold many items and are easy to pack. More refined backpacks can be less versatile but more efficient for specific tasks. Your requirements should be easily met with either backpack.

I feel that you understand the practical considerations but are undecided on the matters of the hart. I would go with my HART!

John
 
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I'd keep it and make sure that my wife sees me using it.
LOL, I've only been married three times, not sure what Scratchy's stats are, but that's some sound advice right there. Thank her profusely, especially since she put thought into the gift, burn your other pack, and tell her you don't know how you were able to live without the new one.
 
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Haha wise folks here on this forum: relationship over gear is the clear consensus!

I wouldn't have even considered a return/exchange if my wife, again being the wonderful person that she is, hadn't deliberately made a comment about me being able to return it if it wasn't the right thing. Sounds like I'll have to at least give it a try though! And now if I ever want to trip with a friend who doesn't have one, I'll have a spare of one type or another.
 
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...hadn't deliberately made a comment about me being able to return it if it wasn't the right thing...

My wife is the same - but I would not pass up the opportunity to make her feel special. I would tell her that her unique perspective exposes me to options that I would have never considered on my own. And that would not be a lie.
 

Glenn MacGrady

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I'll offer a different take: If you're sure you won't use it, then its better to replace it, both for practical purposes and long term spousal relationship purposes.

First, some thoughts about other issues raised in the OP. The Granite Gear #4 seems like a very large pack and is very reasonably priced compared to the much more expensive canvas packs from Duluth or Frost River. I'm sure it could last a lifetime with proper care.

Although I've always used Duluth Packs, that's mainly because I bought them long ago and have never been a serious hiker or owned a serious backpack. I would venture to say that no serious backpacker in the world uses a canoe pack, but many serious canoeists use backpacks in canoes. It is often said that an envelope canoe pack will "fit better" in a canoe than a backpack, especially a frame backpack, but I don't think that would matter to me unless I was on trips that required lots of short portages every day, packing and unpacking the boat many times. Not living in Canada or the BWCA, I don't go on many portage heavy trips, and it sounds as if you don't either, Tsuga8.

That brings me back to the actual usage and spousal relationship question. If you don't have a use for something or simply don't like it, then you won't use it. Face the facts now rather than later. If you don't use it, your spouse will eventually, in the long term, notice that fact. I have bought many gifts for my wife that I eventually noticed she doesn't use or wear. It makes me feel as if I wasted my money.

I would have greatly preferred in those cases that she would have told me at the time, after thanking me for my thoughtfulness, that she preferred and would use a lot more some other model, color, size, etc. In the long run, she then would own a gift that she had more of an actual use or liking for, and I would have gotten greater satisfaction out of her owning the exchanged gift rather than the original gift. I believe my wife feels they same way about the unused gifts she has given me.

You say your wife knows she's not knowledgeable about canoe gear. If you really know of some canoe thing of about the same price that you would use more, maybe even from Granite Gear line of products, she's likely to be more pleased in the long run that you're more pleased in the long run to get the something else.

Of course, all folks have different relationship strokes.
 
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Good counterpoints there, Glenn.

I do actually portage a fair bit when I trip in the Adirondacks, which is nearly all of my tripping these days (along with the occasional flatwater river trip). In fact, sometimes I rely on a long portage at the beginning to get away from the crowds. I did a St Regis trip a couple years ago that did indeed have a lot of short portages carrying from one pond to another. I was in my tandem boat with my buddy, and we both used our backpacking packs to decent success. A couple times we even schlepped the canoe and the packs at the same time on the really short portages, either high overhead or just using the carry handles awkwardly on the 50 yd carries.

Marital dynamics aside, I guess my question for you all is: is a portage pack, compared to a backpack, one of those things where you try it and suddenly wonder how you survived without it all those years?

(I know a couple folks already indicated their feelings on the portage pack vs backpack after my initial post- much appreciated!)
 
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I guess my question for you all is: is a portage pack, compared to a backpack, one of those things where you try it and suddenly wonder how you survived without it all those years?

(I know a couple folks already indicated their feelings on the portage pack vs backpack after my initial post- much appreciated!)
Short answer yes, for me. But you are entering controversial territory here. There will be opinions with no "true" "correct" answer. For example:
ground sheets-use em or lose em, innie or outie?
guns-bring em or leave em home?
fish-catch and release/eat em or leave em alone?
deodorant-use it or need it?
landing-wet foot it or do the overthegearcrawl?
shelter-tent it or hammocks?
e-devices-carry em or curse em?
blue barrels-hate em or hate em?
packs-leather / canvas or petroleum products?
crocs-are they shoes, sandals or a sign you've given up?
tripping packs-canoe packs or hiking pack?
...

Your wife did some excellent research Tsuga. I like the brand, the material, the design, the size, and especially the thought behind the gift. But this is all just my opinion.
 
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Marital dynamics aside, I guess my question for you all is: is a portage pack, compared to a backpack, one of those things where you try it and suddenly wonder how you survived without it all those years?

It depends on your tripping style. I like to stay on the move, I change camp often and single portage. My internal frame backpack is compartmentalized and organized so that my essential equipment is quickly accessible and it is not necessary to remove nonessential equipment unless needed. This streamlines my activities while traveling and at camp. It also helps me keep track of my gear because I only remove the equipment that I am using.

Portage packs are usually larger, less compartmentalized and easier for a novice to pack equipment into because of the size and shape.

Your capability and tripping style will influence your preference. You may or may not suddenly wonder how you survived without a portage pack.
 
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Give it a try. I used to use a backpack too but it was so high it interfered with carrying the canoe at the same time. Your portaging methods may differ . You may be able to carry a canoe ( if the weight is reasonable) with the shorter wider portage pack.
 
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I've had a GG Trad #4 for ~5-6 years and am very happy with it. It's a big hole, and less structured than a backpack, so there's a learning curve to packing it so it takes on a shape that's both good in the boat and good on your back. For lighter loads you can cinch in the sides to make it more or less a GG Trad #3.5. I do several short 1-3 night trips and usually one 5-7 night trip a year. Really the space you need has more to do with glamping vs fast & light rather than length of trip, but even on a week long trip with an extra polyester leisure suit it's plenty of space for me. FWIW, I also went back and forth on the question of portage pack vs just use the backpack. The thing that pushed me over was being able to single carry, which is a pain with a tall backpack.
 
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I disagree with the opinion that a tall backpack makes single portaging more difficult. I single portage with a tall internal frame backpack and height has never been an issue. With my tandem canoe the carry yoke pads lay on the shoulder straps of my backpack and there is no additional contact between the canoe and pack. The tall section of my backpack also fits between the paddles with no interference.

It is possible that a backpack with a height well above your head may require you to lift the canoe higher in order to remove or place it on your shoulders or if tall enough the backpack could touch the deck of the canoe but I have never experienced or seen this. I was considering purchasing a solo canoe and had concerns with the seat and the strap carry yoke interfering with my backpack. The seat on the solo is located very near the carry yoke location and the strap yoke I was considering has 3 points of contact unlike the 2 points of contact of a traditional yoke.

Myself and every person that I trip with use traditional backpacks. It is my opinion that the biggest draw to using a portage pack for many is the ease and convenience. The large open compartment will easily accept items of various shapes and sizes and these items can often be randomly place within the space. Traditional backpacks are more space conscious and tailored to individual requirements. It is often necessary or beneficial to reconfigure or package items so that they efficiently fit inside. Once properly configured I feel that a traditional backpack is more efficient than a portage pack. The learning curve to efficiently use a traditional backpack may be considered too difficult or unnecessary in which case a portage pack is the better choice. There are practical advantages and personal preferences and only you can decide what will work best for your intended purpose.

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Glenn MacGrady

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A big reason many canoeists including me have bought traditional portage packs, especially the canvas and leather ones from Duluth, is simply tradition and aesthetics. They like the connection to history and like to look at the canvas, the leather straps and the brass roller buckles. Decide whether you are in this group or not. If you are, then that trumps everything of a more practical and comfortable nature.

My Original Duluth #3 is just a shapeless, unpadded, unstructured envelope with no pockets, loops or attachment capabilities. It's never been comfortable to carry. Once I bought my Duluth Combo Cruiser, which came with a removable pack basket, I have always used it (without the basket) instead of the Original for one simple reason—it has two large flapped side pockets, in which I now carry my silnylon tarp, folding saw, and gravity water filter system. These are things I like access to without opening the pack. The Duluth Original has been relegated for decades simply as a storage sack for canoe gear in my van.

Single portaging—what's that? I've rarely done it. When I was young and strong I could carry a 75-85 lb. tandem canoe, which is what I then had, but couldn't carry the packs at the same time. When I got light solo canoes, I began to get too old for heroic carries. It was always double portage, now triple portage. So, a backpack being "too high" for single carries, even if true, which I doubt is a universal verity, has always been irrelevant to me.

Oh, I forgot, I do have a Golite Gust frameless medium-large ultralight backpack, which worked great for short trips with minimalist and ultralight gear. I did do some short single portages with that, carrying my 30 lb. outrigger canoe on a single 59 year-old shoulder. It's also good for day hikes out of a canoe camp.

The argument that it's "too hard" to find things in a more vertical and narrow opening backpack is also unpersuasive to me. Things important to get out quick (tent, tarp, rain gear, hydration systems) are usually always put on top of any type of pack, and better yet in pockets if they fit. The same people who make this "too hard" argument for backpacks are often the same ones who are content to fish around in a heavy and uncollapsible plastic barrel, or two.

If starting anew today, and if I were portaging a lot and long distances on difficult terrain, and if I weren't mentally suffused by historical tradition, I would buy some sort of a pack with large outside pockets, grab loops, hanging/attachment loops, waist belt, sternum strap, and adjustable shoulder straps. That could be a large hiking backpack or a gussied up canoe pack—I don't care. It wouldn't be an uncomfortable, shapeless, pocketless, attachmentless, and now wildly over-priced sack with a tumpline.

But since I'm not starting anew, and have never regularly portaged frequent long distances on difficult terrain, I'm satisfied with the packs I've had. And I am significantly, though not entirely, suffused by tradition.

Finally, when one takes the first step of admitting canoe addiction ("my name is ______ and I'm a canoe-aholic"), then one can become comfortable and even proud of having too many canoes, too many paddles, too much gear and, yes why the heck not, too many packs. (Though one's spouse may never understand.)
 
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Johnny I am a solo canoeist. I have to keep the pack low to avoid colliding with the seat which is right in the way. Tandem portaging has at least 10 inches more available clearance. You indicated you had thought about that when pondering the possibility of a solo canoe. Dedicated. There is a whole lot more leeway with packing a tandem for sure.
 
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