By: Douglas Scott
It was my first backpacking trip of the year. It’d snowed two days earlier, but the warm April sun had melted the newly fallen powder, drying out the ground on the Yellowstone River Trail in Yellowstone National Park. The goal was a simple one- hike down to the Black Canyon of the Yellowstone, camp a night, enjoy wilderness, and hike out. This would be a quick trip, with a new wrinkle to it. I’d be taking my new Fox 5200 Backpack. I wanted to see what the Fox 5200 could handle, so I loaded it up with a week’s worth of gear for a simple overnight jaunt. I estimated it was around 35 pounds of gear, far more than I needed for a two day trip, but a good replication of what I bring when on a long backcountry trip in the Rockies.
Packing the Fox 5200
I enjoy being organized, even in the backcountry and the Fox 5200 allowed me to be extremely structured. The multiple compartments gave me the opportunity to separate gear by use and need, instead of having to rummage through it. At the base of the pack, the separated sleeping bag compartment is huge. I could easily fit my zero degree bag, sleeping pad, camp pillow, and a down jacket, with room to spare. Having all of this in one spot helped make packing easy when I was breaking down camp on a chilly morning along the river. The main compartment of the pack is deceptively huge. The more I stuffed in, the more room I seemed to have. I decided to bring my two person tent instead of my solo backpacking tent, just because I had the room. Even with my over-abundance of gear, I still had plenty of room for my camera and lenses on top of the main compartment, held tight by the adjustable drawstrings. On the top compartment, three zippered pocks, two on the outside, one inside, were the perfect spot for camera gear and snacks. The zippered side pockets were a pleasant surprise while packing. They ended up being perfect spot to store my hat and gloves, a rain jacket, and lunch for the day. I decided not to bring my three liter water bladder with me, which fits in the pack, and instead brought two 32oz Nalgene bottles. The pouches on the outside held the bottles well, staying put when I was slinging the pack on and off during breaks.
The adjustable straps on both the top and bottom of the pack are fantastic. I was able to carry my tripod on the bottom and my trekking poles on the top, giving me quick access when I needed or desired them. The rain cover was also a nice addition, and though I didn’t need it this trip, it was conveniently and already attached, located in a third pocket on the top of the pack. Had I needed space to carry more gear, the bag easily expands in both length and width by unclipping and loosening a few straps. How It Worked and Comfort Level
The pack weighs 5.5 pounds when empty, but the straps and back are comfortable enough that even loaded up, it rests evenly on my shoulders and back. Like any new pack, it wasn’t until I was actually on the trail that I needed to adjust the straps to make it fit and feel right. It took a few tries, but once I did, the weight of the pack rode well and I didn’t have any of the usual hotspots on my shoulders from shifting weight. Being able to adjust both the torso length and waist belt was a lifesaver. Mile after mile, I was waiting for an issue, but one never arose. Though my mileage was short, the route on this trip was steep and rugged. The trail lost over a thousand feet in about a mile. On the descent, the pack stayed comfortable even in the heat of the day. As I climbed out of the canyon, the sun beat down on me as I climbed out of the Yellowstone River Canyon, my back stayed cool and dry, which was another pleasant surprise.
About the Author: Douglas Scott
Douglas Scott is a storyteller, podcaster and trail runner in the west, currently residing minutes from Montana’s Absaroka-Beartooth Wilderness and a mere miles from Yellowstone. Douglas grew up in Olympic National Park and has spent the last decade writing guidebooks, exploring public lands and helping to connect others with the beauty of nature around the country.