Monday, November 29, 2021

Doing Time at Michigan's Pinckney State Recreation Area


Within day-trip distance of where I grew up in Michigan is the Pinckney State Recreation Area. (I don’t know if it’s correct but all my life I have concidered the first ‘n’ as silent so I call it Pickney as in pick-your-nose)


As both a child of a Mom - and Aunt - that spent part of the short Michigan, school-free summers entertaining their passel of kids with picnic-lunch trips to the many swimming beaches, (Holy Crap that water’s cold! I can’t believe we swam in that!) and as a member of an active, out-doors oriented scout troop, I spent a great deal of my childhood here.

It’s been a long time since that enriched childhood and I don’t think I've been here since the 70's, but circumstances have left me with several extra days to fill, so I’m back now,


greeting a glorious sunrise and ready to re-quaint myself with the area.

But nope.

No swimming this trip!

Everything, the picnic tables, the racks of rental boats, and the rope-with-floats that marks the limits of the swimming area, have all been packed up for the winter. As have all the running-water facilities which are drained, winterized, and locked up tight until winter retreats again - in many long months.

 Besides, have I mentioned how cold the water stays around here year-round because there’s just not enough summer to warm it up to civilized levels? This whole swimming in northern waters thing is for – well – northerners! And now that I’ve lived over 2/3rds of my life in the south, I’m no longer one of them!

So that leaves the more civilized activity of hiking.


And there’s plenty of trail to be hiked out here. (Or cross-country-skied during the depths of snow-season which thankfully isn’t here just yet.)

Unfortunately, because of the impromptu nature of my extended stay in Michigan I haven’t done my usual planning and this late in the season finding paper maps at the trailheads just isn’t going to happen, (The map pictured in the brochure above, which I didn't find until my second day there anyway, is NOT a proper hiking map!) so I’m breaking one of my prime rules and hiking without a proper paper map today. ('Today' was November 8th)

I’m such a rebel!

Fortunately my Guia app has the area well mapped so I'm not completely without.

Which is a good thing in an area that has been glaciated into a warren of numerous short-but-steep ridges and a plethora of potholes, (Marsh, ponds, and lakes that formed where chunks of ice got left behind during the glacial retreat.) all of which soon begin to look alike.

When out walking around in this it’s easy to see why Michigan has ended up with two Initial Survey Points (The first one was lost for a while so a second, un-lost one was established.)

 But even without Guia,


the way is pretty well marked as long as I stay on the trails.


The State even makes sure that you don’t get confused by the short little feeder-trails


the locals who live around the fringes use to access the main trail system.

So I don’t hesitate to strap on my pack and get on out there,

electing to circle Crooked Lake today.

But, though I've long since lost track of Michigan hunting seasons, I kinda suspect it's bow-season and this is a popular hunting area, so I make sure I'm displaying my hunter-orange bandanna in a prominent place!

 While my feet take me one way on this near perfect, sparkly day fallen leaves lightly ride the creeks and streams another.

At one point I come across this bench which is a little more elaborate than the usual two-planker you usually see.

This one was so comfortable I settle in for an extended stay and read a book for a while.

 But there is more exploring to be done so I eventually move on.

 If you look real close here, out on the water - center left - just to the right of the big tree-trunk


you can see someone else out here enjoying the day.

There are 16 fish-able lakes within the borders of this one recreation area!

 It’s hard to imagine, but people did homestead this area.

Today this spot is known as ‘The Chimney’

 and it, along with the root-cellar, are all that remains, other than memories, of one of those early homesteads.

The days are short this time of year, as the lights that line the far side, the privately owned side, of a cove in one corner of Silver Lake remind me, so it isn't long before it’s time for me to head on back to The Sisters’ house, (to the great relief of the state employee that though I might try to illegally spend the night.) but due to circumstances I'll be back again tomorrow.

Monday, November 15, 2021

Two and a Half Seasons in Two and a Half Days


Starting out from somewhere around 30 degrees north of the equator I hit the road on a nice Summer morning. Late Summer morning. But still Summer. (first week of November)


As I climbed that long climb up the Earth’s curvature, checking off increasingly higher latitudes one degree at a time as I went, I began to see just a hint of fall color starting show. Although that might have just been me stretching my imagination towards a childhood lived in high latitudes.

After the better part of a day on the road at 65 miles per hour the cotton, bare of leaves now, was standing stark in the fields, mimicking a frost that hasn’t yet arrived.


Come the next sunrise on this rare November trip north to Michigan, I no longer needed to use my younger self’s imagination to see that the fall colors were starting to assert themselves.


And the combines were out in the dusty fields to collect the fluffy white harvest that will become tomorrow’s jeans.

By the time I’d crossed a few more of those invisible lines of latitude and sunset was painting a coda on the day’s end, the cotton was bundled up and waiting in the fields for the trip to the mill,

and spent leaves were starting to pepper the ground to either side of my myopic trek, blown, in an omage to midwestern landscape sensibility, neatly off the road by the passage of the vehicles that went before.


For a brief time the northward miles revealed Fall



showing off her finery in the best Norman Rockwellian way,

but as I sped north winter was creeping south, not quite here yet, but getting ready to lay her chilly stamp on this 43rd parallel land.

Oh, and the left-over half-season alluded to in the title?

I’m claiming that because I had to scrap ice off the windows in the parking lot of the Fort Wayne Walmart before I could set out on that last half-day of the trip.

Monday, November 8, 2021

Strapping It On or How to Wear a Backpack


OK, I can see where the title of this post could bring a wide range of images to mind, everything from feeding horses (or yourself) to enthusiastic adult play, but don't get your hopes up. Continuing on with the theme of last post's subject, this post is about properly wearing a backpack. Or at least how I wear it, proper or not.

While we have our similarities every human is different so I'm not going to skip down that yellow-brick road of ego and delusions-of-grandeur and tell you how you should be wearing your pack, but I will tell you how I wear mine in the (admittedly grandiose) hope that it might help someone else figure out how to wear their pack more efficiently.

With anything more than the most basic day-pack, which in my opinion really shouldn't be out there on anymore than a paved quarter-mile 'nature trail' anyway, or better yet, left on the shelf in the store in the first place, there are a number of adjustments to consider and unfortunately most are not a set-and-forget proposition, so understanding what each one does and how to use them all in concert is handy.

There are two sets of straps on my pack. The compression straps that stabilize the contents of the pack once it's loaded, and the suspension straps that actually hold the pack on my back and keep it from shifting around back there.

Depending on how how my pack is loaded - bulk, distribution, weight - and the season, which affects how much clothing I am wearing as well as how much personal padding I am carrying, (You know, holiday season and all - - -) these adjustments will change. So unless I've already been carrying it today, before I lift the pack off the ground I loosen all the straps involved with suspension of the pack. 

But I'm actually getting ahead of myself.  Once my pack is loaded and before I lift it to my shoulders, I snug up most of the various load-compression adjustments. (which I loosened before loading the pack)

I start with the upper-pack stabilizers, which are what the blue arrows are pointing at though they are mostly hidden now by the brain-straps. These stabilizers help pull the load in the upper part of the pack closer to my back, where it belongs.

Then I do the cordage in the middle, tightening it from the bottom up like a shoelace to pull the center of the pack in close. After that I fasten the brain down securely - the other two green arrows - so it doesn't flop and shift.

I hold off on the final set of compression straps, the ones at the red arrows that run from the lower-back of the pack, around the sides, and terminate at the rear corners of the hip-belt pockets. If I tighten these now it could affect my ability to get the waist-belt adjusted properly so I won't do them until the pack is on and the suspension adjustments are done.

It's important to note that when tightening any of these compression straps I don't gorilla them. Snug is good, tight to the point of straining doesn't improve the compression of the load all that much, it just wears out straps and stitching unnecessarily.

Now comes the suspension of the pack.

The purpose of my pack is to allow me to efficiently carry a load from one place to another with only the resources of my body.

Essentially this is an engineering issue involving the transfer of a load to ground through, in the case of the human body, a controllable articulated structural support.

The human skeleton is designed to transfer loads to ground from the pelvis down through the legs, some of the body's largest bones, and finally the feet.  In between pelvis and ground that load passes through three articulated joints that are controlled and supported by some of the largest muscles in the body.

Which brings me to step one, and arguably the most important step, of adjusting my pack on my back.

The job of the hip-belt is to transfer much of the load of the pack directly to my pelvis

To accomplish this I want the padded part of my hip-belt resting on my christa iliaca, or to get down off my high horse, the widest points of my hip-bones. Like most people, if I draw a line between these points (Not in indelible ink please!) it crosses about an inch, maybe a little less, below my bellybutton.

Some "experts" say the proper vertical positioning of the hip-belt is to have the middle of it on the hip-bones, others say it should be about a third of the way up from the bottom of the hip-belt.

Rather than taking "expert" advice as gospel each individual should find the spot that works best for them.

For me it happens to be a little below the mid-point  of the hip-belt. I find this provides padding to the skin caught between belt and pelvis but also curls the snugged up belt slightly over the top of my iliatic crests so that I'm not relying entirely on friction but also using gravity to assist in transferring the load from pack to pelvis. In other words the pack doesn't drag my pants down until I'm wearing them like a hipster since the hip-belt is partially hooked over my pelvis reducing that downward drag.

So once I fling my pack up onto my back, using the shoulder-straps at this point just to keep it from falling back to the ground, I buckle the hip-belt, hitch the pack to the right vertical position,  and yank the adjusting straps tight, and I mean tight!

The pelvis is a very strong structure so tight isn't going to hurt it and any organs trailing down that far, such as lower intestines and bladder are protected inside the pelvic 'bowl', so the only thing I'm squeezing down on is fat, which doesn't really mind being squeezed. After all, that's exactly what Spanks do when making it look like there's less of us than there is.

This pulls the wings of my hip-belt firmly around the wings of my pelvis and at the same time snugs the padding at the lower-rear part of the pack against the massive bony structure of the sacrum there at the base of my spine, which not only helps with load transfer, but also keeps the pack from shifting laterally on my back as I move, potentially throwing me off balance.

After about a quart-mile I hitch everything up and tighten the hip-belt again, usually gaining another quarter to half inch since things have settled in as I walked. I will periodically recheck the tightness as the day goes on, because as I said, this is arguably the most important adjustment to the pack suspension.

Now that the hip-belt is tightened up I can snug up those lower compression straps. These pull the lower part of the pack's load in close to my back and prevent the bottom half of the pack from lurching side to side as I move. Both good things!


Now, and only now, is it time to worry about the shoulder-straps. Since my Kestrel has torso-length as well as strap length adjustments this is initially a four-step process. But once torso-length is set it's just a three step process.

Step one:

Once the hip-belt position is established I can work on the torso-length adjustment.

What I don't want is to set that adjustment too low so that the straps wrap over the tops of my shoulders and partway down my back. But I also don't want the adjustment so high it lifts the straps completely away from my back either.

I want the straps to wrap lightly over my shoulders. With this pack that's about when the upper cross-strap (the red arrow on the right) is on top of my shoulder and the upper stabilizing strap (yellow arrow) is pretty much horizontal.

To get this finicky adjustment right I first fully loaded the pack, since if full is comfortable, half-full will be too, and went to work. I ended up making a number of attempts over many miles and several days of hiking at tweaking this adjustment before I got it just right.

Fortunately once this pesky adjustment is set I don't have to mess with it again until my spine shrinks or my hump grows. Either of which will change the distance from my pelvis to my shoulders.

At this point I wouldn't be surprised if some of you are thinking I should let the straps wrap over my shoulders farther, more like the left image, in order to spread the load over a greater area and reduce the risk of sore-spots. You have a point but here's why I don't do that.

While the pelvis and leg-bones are superb load-bearing structures, the spine is more like a slinky with water-balloons between the coils.

When it comes to load-bearing this creates two issues.

Unlike leg-bones which are rigid and can support vertical loads all by themselves, (think thick concrete column holding up the roof) the spine is designed to be flexible and relies on muscles to keep it in column, or vertical. (think multiple layers of guy-wires - muscles - holding up a tall, thin antenna tower) If I add additional load to the top of the spine it requires those muscles to use more energy in order to keep it vertical, energy which I could have used for humping myself over that last ridge-line instead.

The structure of the spine consists of a rigid element, a vertebra, stacked on top of a squishy disk, essentially a water-balloon, repeated many times. While the vertebrae themselves are bony and capable of transferring quite a bit of load, the disks - not so much - and in fact they can compress and pinch nerves or even rupture, blow-out completely, when stressed too far.

Step two:

So this brings me to the second step of adjusting my shoulder straps. Tightening them down over my shoulders.

Some people see this as the primary means of carrying a pack and the hip-belt as an accessory. Also many "experts" in those 'how to adjust your pack' videos put out by big sporting-goods chains and pack manufactures will tell you that you should be carrying 40% of the pack's weight on the shoulder-straps and 60% on the hip-belt.

Well the first group has it backwards, the hip-belt is primary and the shoulder-straps secondary, and I don't know about these so-called experts, but I don't carry a scale around with me to figure out the proper 40/60 split. Besides, because of the limitations of the human spine and the amount of hiking I do, I disagree and want as much weight on the hip-belt as I can get there. If that turns out to be a 10/90 split that's great! But I'll take what I can get.

In fact, since the internal frame of my pack is designed to transfer the load of the pack down to the hip-belt anyway, all I really need the shoulder straps to do is keep the pack from tipping backwards and slamming me down on the mat like the loser in a pro-wrestling match.

That's why, when I'm adjusting my shoulder-straps I want to feel weight on the front of my shoulder and not on the top. In fact, if you look at this photo closely you can see that my shirt is compressed under the green arrow where I want to feel the load, but from the red arrow on down my back the strap is riding lightly.

I actually fiddle with this adjustment during a hike more than any other. What I'm looking for is that point where, as my pelvis sways as I take each step (yes guys, our hips sway when we walk too!) and the hip-belt transfers that alternating, side-to-side shift to the pack's internal frame which transfers it up to the top of the pack, is to feel the pack almost, but not quite, shifting side to side against my upper back. If the shoulder-straps are too tight there's no hint of shift and that means I'm carrying too much load on my shoulders. If the straps are too loose there is actual shiftage which not only means the pack is not riding as close to my natural center of gravity as it could but might also result in chafing over the course of a long hike.

Another thing I keep in mind to ensure proper load distribution, especially then going up-hill or late in the hike when I'm tired and tend to want to stoop over into each step, is to stop leaning forward into the shoulder-straps and stand up straight instead. 

From an energy expenditure standpoint this is more efficient. Leaning forward forces my back muscles to tighten up in order to keep my spine from flopping so far forward my forehead connects with the ground. And then there's that whole compressed spine thing to consider as well since leaning forward transfers load off of my hip-belt and up onto my shoulders then back down my spine to my pelvis.

Step three:

While I'm on this photo I'll go over a sometimes obscure but very impactful step in shoulder-strap adjustment.

Just to the right of the red arrow in the photo above you can see a small strap running horizontally between the top of the shoulder-strap and the top of the pack. These are called load-adjuster straps and their job is to pull the top of the pack forward which shifts the balance point of the pack closer to my body's center of balance. The amount of shift may only be an inch, or even less, but it makes a big difference!

Unfortunately sometimes I have to be a contortionist to reach the too-short free ends of these straps, and if I over-tighten them I have to resort to taking the pack off, loosening the load-adjuster straps, and starting all over again. Very frustrating so I tighten these straps up in small increments with stretches of hiking in-between to reduce the likely-hood of overshooting the mark.

Finally! The last adjustment is the sternum-strap which is used to hold the shoulder-straps in place on the chest.

I have come across some that never use this strap, claiming it restricts their breathing, but personally I've never noticed that with a properly fitted pack.

What I do is adjust the ends of the sternum-strap up or down the shoulder-straps (On decent packs there always some way to adjust this, on the Kestrel the strap ends in a kind of semicircular claw-like fitting that rides up and down a rail or bead attached to the shoulder-strap) until they are opposite where the  outside of the shoulder-straps dive under my arms.

Because my pack is well fitted, now all I need to do is adjust the length of the sternum-strap to apply a very light cross-chest pressure to the shoulder-straps. Just enough to keep them from shifting outwards and chafing the crease under my arms as I move.


Alright, this took way too long to write about, much longer than it takes to actually do it, especially after a little practice, so now it's time to shut this damn computer down and go hiking!


Monday, November 1, 2021

Why I Switched Backpacks or Redhead RH2200 vs Osprey Kestrel 48


OK, if you have been paying attention you may have realized that I actually changed packs some time ago but I have put off talking much about it until now.

Why? Well don't you just hate those reviewers that say "This just arrived so I haven't had time to try it yet, but the packaging was nice so I'm giving it 4 stars"!?

I know, I know, we're all supposed to join hands, sway gently like the breeze 'o'er waves of grain', and repeat the mantra 'violence doesn't solve anything' to the accompaniment of a folk-guitarist - and I don't disagree. But hell! Once in a while it sure feels good to imagine reaching through the screen and slapping these useless yahoo's up side the head for wasting our time! At the very least I give a thumbs down on reviews like this then do a search on that reviewer and thumbs-down any other similar reviews of theirs I find, because if we don't actively discourage behavior like this, or any other non-productive or damaging behaviors, we are just part of the problem.

OK, rant over - for now.

Anyway, I've been using the new pack for a while now and feel like I can now talk about it from a position of authority - or at least not-total-ignorance.

I have day-hiked with my Redhead RH2200 pack for many years and have always been happy with it. And though it has begun showing signs of wear around the edges it still functions perfectly well - OK, mostly well.

True, at 2200 cubic inches or 36 liters, it's in the upper end of the range of what might be considered a day-pack, but I like a real day-pack that can handle my basic supplies, not those tiny brightly colored, T-shirt-material, wanabe impostors with no hip-belt at all, and that reach their load limit with a couple bottles of water and a sandwich! 

So why the heck have I switched to another pack?

Well they say that as you get older you start regressing towards your younger years again. So far that hasn't put me back in diapers - though there's still time! - but there are other ways to regress.

As a kid I camped out of a backpack a fair bit. When I got to working age backpacking was abandoned for day-hiking - a lot of day-hiking, but lately, ever since I've made it past those working years and into retirement, I have been slowly building up and experimenting with my backpacking gear again.

While the Redhat is a good day-pack, it is a bit on the small side for anything more than the basics of a quick overnight trip.

In the photo above my Redhat is loaded for a one-nighter and as you can see my tent, groundcloth, air-mattress, and sleeping bag all have to be bed-rolled and hung outside the pack off of the just-barely-up-to-it straps (In fact I had to modify the straps to make them long enough to reach around the bedroll.) that don't quite managed to hold the load stable but rather let it swing and sway as I hike.

The hard truth is that the Redhat, while a great day-pack, just isn't up to the rigors of backpacking.

But I'm a minimalist - yep, I'm that guy - so I only want to be carrying around a single pack in The Van, therefor a monster backpacking pack that would have enough room to carry my gear and half of someone else's but is terrible at doubling for a day-pack isn't the answer either. So after a lot of research I settled on the 48 liter Osprey Kestrel 48 as a compromise between hauling gear for backpacking yet also serving as my day-pack.

Here is a comparative photo of the 36 liter Redhat and the 48 liter Osprey.

And, at the risk of being labeled a ranter, let me pause here for another mini-rant. How could I possibly be expected to fit 24 two-liter jugs of soft-drink, or for us non-metric Americans, over a dozen one gallon milk-jugs, into that 48 liter pack!??

I don't know who the guy is that sits behind his desk and decides how big packs are - but at least he's consistent if not realistic, and that helps when trying to size a new pack. 

Anyway, for this photo I've filled out the Redhat with a lightly compressed sleeping bag, but the Kestrel is (almost) fully loaded with all my normal day-hiking gear as well as tent, air-mattress, sleeping bag, cook-gear, clothes, and food for an overnight trip.

I say almost fully loaded because when taking that comparison photo I forgot to add the hard-foam sleeping pad which weighs pretty much nothing but was way too bulky to try to fit onto the Redhat at all so always got left behind.

On the Kestrel it fits neatly into the straps designed exactly for this purpose (The center strap is just for keeping the pad rolled up when I store it under the gaucho in The Van) and stays put, nice and stable as I hike. And yeah, I'm still carrying the air-mattress inside the pack and perhaps in a future post I'll get into why I use both.

Point is, the Kestrel is large enough for a two or three day back-packing trip - and let's be realistic, I'm not a through-hiker so a few days is plenty for me - and yet still able to serve as day-pack as well, albeit a rather large one.

So enough jibber-jabber, on to the comparison:

Published specs on the Redhat RH2200 seem to be a little difficult to come by anymore since it appears to have been discontinued, but one of the first things to note is that the smaller Redhat actually weighs nearly a pound more than the larger Kestrel.

This is probably in part because the Redhat has 21 pockets and/or compartments to the Kestrel's 11. Now this might sound like the Redhat is the hand's-down winner of organization, but in my experience that's not how it works. The real-world result of cramming so many pockets and compartments into the Redhat is that many of them are not terribly useful.

For instance, both packs have hip-belt pockets on both sides. On the Redhat (left) each of these pockets is split into two separate zippered compartments, both of which are pretty limited in how much will fit into them and still zip up.

On the Kestrel there's a single pocket on each side. Even though the combined pocket-volume is pretty much the same between the two packs, the Kestrel's single larger pocket, which is holding everything you see in the Redhat's two pockets and still has some room left over, is more versatile when it comes to loading it up.

The packs also have a different approach to back-panel systems.

The Redhat, on the right uses a "breathable mesh backpanel" while the Kestrel uses a "breathable Airscape ridged foam backpanel".

To be honest I can't really tell much difference. Both ride comfortably without any hard spots and my back sweats equally as much under either one during summer hikes.

While both packs use an internal frame the Redhat uses a couple of spring-steel straps (those orange bits) while the Kestrel uses a springy but still somewhat malleable metal rod bent into a rectangular shape that roughly follows the perimeter of the green Airscape foam.

Because the spring-metal wouldn't stay where it was bent to, there was no adjusting of the vertical contour of the frame with the Redhat. it was just what it was. But with some effort I am able to (carefully!) bend the Kestrel's frame to get it to conform more closely to my back. (I have more curvature of my upper spine than the average person.)

What you can (almost, since I inadvertently cut the top off the Kestrel in this photo - bad photographer!) also tell from this photo is that the Redhat shoulder-straps are fixed to the pack and not adjustable for torso length while the Kestrel's shoulder straps are torso-length adjustable.

With the Redhat I always wore it with the shoulder straps wrapped a little farther over my shoulders and down my back than I prefer (Refer back to the first photo) in order to get the hip-belt to hit me in the right spot, which is way more important that the shoulder straps. (more on the 'right spot' for the waist-belt in a follow-up post)

The Kestrel's shoulder-straps are fixed, not to the pack itself, but to the top of a separate panel, that black panel with the white sombrero thingys on it. This panel can be slid up or down behind the backpanel then fixed in place with hook-n-loop. This is an important adjustment, especially for heavily loaded packs, and once hooked-n-looped it stays firmly in place. In fact it's actually pretty hard to get it loose to make any adjustments! Fortunately, once that adjustment is dialed in it doesn't need to be messed with anymore - unless the hump on my back gets bigger - - -

While on the subject of adjustments, though it might not seem like a big deal, the hip-belt adjustment on the two packs are different too.

With the Redhat (top) I pull the straps away from the hip-belt buckle to tighten it. With the Kestrel I pull the straps towards the buckle to tighten.

Both systems work, but it's noticeably easier to properly snug up the Kestrel's hip-belt and I feel like I have more control when doing so than I did with the Redhat.

I'm a water-bladder rather than water-bottle kind of guy. That's just what works for me.

The Redhat (left) has an internal pocket inside the main compartment just behind the backpanel for the water-bladder while the Kestrel uses a separate external pocket between the backpanel and the main pack compartment which is not only more difficult to slip the bladder into, it uses a really fiddly little strap for hanging the bladder that is, frankly, a pain in the ass!

It might seem that the external pocket of the Kestrel protects the rest of the gear better in the case of a bladder-failure, or more commonly, leakage from where the tube attaches to the bladder, but the real-world truth is that things are going to get wet either way. (I'll address that further in an upcoming post on how I pack my pack.)

Also, while the Redhat's internal bladder pocket is well protected, the external pocket of the Kestrel is prone to collecting debris when I'm pushing through dense vegetation, such as when I'm hiking the trails on the property.

With either system, internal or external, the pack has to be pretty much empty in order to slide a full bladder into it but for functionality I like the Redhat's bladder compartment better than the Kestrel's.

For reasons that I'll get into in another post, I always carry two bladders and, though there's only one in there for the photo, (two photos ago) you can see that with the Redhat both will fit neatly into the pocket side-by side.

That's just not doable with the Kestrel's pocket where there's not enough room for two bladders to fit, side-by-side, or otherwise,

so when I'm day-hiking and there's lots of free space inside the Kestrel for things to flop around in if not secured I use one of my para-cord loops to hang the second bladder inside the main compartment where its mass (Water is HEAVY!) then rides in just the right spot in the pack for comfort and stability.

Another nit-picky but noticeable difference between the two packs is the cross-strapping on the shoulder-belts.

The Redhat has this funky-shaped bit of rubberized material that was fine for slipping the bladder-tube under but much too flimsy and oddly shaped to fit or support anything else, whereas the Kestrel has a bit of webbing strap that not only holds the bladder-tube in place, but is also sturdy enough for me to hang stuff, such as my GPS (red arrow) off of rather than using the sternum-strap that runs horizontally between the two shoulder-straps like I had to do with the Redhat.

Something the Redhat didn't have at all was these two loops, one between the rear of the hip-belt side pocket and the pack body and and adjustable one up on the shoulder-strap, that I can quickly slip my hiking sticks into without removing the pack, you know, for those times when I need both hands for scrambling up a mountain on all fours. (But don't tell Mom!)

OK, there's plenty more I could talk about here but this has gone on long enough, so one final point.

Unlike the Redhat, the Kestrel has a top compartment, (yellow arrow) often called a brain, that has to be unhooked and hinged upwards in order to get access to the top-opening main compartment. Some don't like a brain on their pack because of this. I find I do like the brain, despite the fact that it sticks up and catches then funnels trail-debris down into the bladder pocket, because it does a good job of organizing and giving me access to much of my day-hiking gear that always stays with the pack.

To mitigate the access-to-the-main-compartment issue the Kestrel has a zipper down one side which, as the day heats up or cools off , lets me get to or store away my extra clothes inside the main compartment without having to undo the brain first. (red arrow)

This zipper is more useful in day-hike mode when there's plenty of extra space for stuffing than it is in backpacking mode when things are already stuffed in there pretty tight, but then again I do spend more time day-hiking than I do backpacking.

Yes, the Kestrel is a bit much for just day-hiking, especially in temperate weather when less extra clothing is called for, but, though it may look a little ridiculous, it doubles better as a day-pack than the Redhat does as a wilderness camping pack.

Now that I've had enough experience with it to confirm that the Kestrel is working for me it's probably time to get the well-used but perfectly serviceable Redhat over to the community resale shop so someone else can get some use out of it.

Next post, adjusting a pack - or at least the way I adjust my pack - to get the best ride out of it.