TEST SERIES BY ROBB PRATT
December 07, 2021
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unicornv007 AT yahoo.com
Canton, Michigan, USA
5' 10" (1.80 m)
165 lb (74.80 kg)
I backpacked sporadically growing up and rediscovered it back in 2011. Since then, I've taken several weekend trips a year. I also car camp with my family roughly a dozen nights a year when we use tents unless I can convince them I might snore and it would be better for all for me to use my hammock rig. I prefer a light pack (weight without food or water under 20 pounds / 9 kg). My backpacking stomping ground is northern Michigan that has small hills and I typically camp late spring, summer and early fall months.
PRODUCT INFORMATION & SPECIFICATIONS
* Manufacturer: Hillsound Equipment
* Year of manufacture: 2021
* Website: Hillsound
* Weight as Listed:
..... 4.3 oz (122 g)
* Weight as Delivered:
..... 3.95 oz (112 g) total weight (both PackStack Pro bag and external storage bag)
..... 3.32 oz (94 g) for PackStack Pro bag
..... 0.63 oz (18 g) for external storage bag
* Dimensions as Advertised:
..... Height: 7 inches (17 cm)
..... Depth: 8 inches (20.5 cm)
..... Width: 13 inches (32.5 cm)
* Dimensions as Measured
..... Height: 8 inches (20.5 cm) when stuffed
..... Depth: 9 inches (22.9 cm)
..... Width: 13.5 inches (34.3 cm)
* MSRP: US $32.00
* Product description: The Hillsound PackStack Pro is a pack organizer that comes a variety of options such as weatherproof vs. waterproof, 40L vs 60L backpack size, and tall or short. They are designed with a crescent moon shape to eliminate the dead space in a pack and have a handle on the top for easy carrying. I received the 60L, tall waterproof version (note that the weights and dimensions above are for that one only). The waterproof PackStack Pro is made of seam-sealed Cordura fabric and has a waterproof YKK Zipper. The 60L PackStack Pro is advertised as holding up to 11.1 liters of gear. From a color standpoint, the waterproof version is only available in black while the weatherproof version comes in gray.
I received the initial package after I just returned from a long backcountry trip. Opening it up, I was surprised at how small the package was yet how large the PackStack Pro actually unwrapped into being.
From a construction standpoint, the zipper moves easily and closes completely on the far side. The stitching that is exposed on the outside is very clean with no loose threads while the inside has all the seams taped to prevent water from getting in.
|Inside Packstack - Seam Sealed|
As an added bonus, the zipper has a bright orange piece of cord attached to it to help find the zipper and make it easier to pull open or closed. While I might save a few grams removing the orange cord,, I like to be able to visually and physically find zippers easily and will leave it there.
|Close-up of Zipper|
Lastly, there is a small storage bag (half mesh and half solid material) included which I believe is intended to store the PackStack Pro when not in use. I plan on using it to hold several smaller items and toss it into the PackStack Pro or ultimately, leave the smaller storage bag home when not using the PackStack Pro.
INITIAL TEST RUN
Although I only just got back from a long trip, I'm headed out again this weekend for a short 2-nighter so I am already packing up my kit. I took the time to put both my hammock underquilt and top quilt, along with sleeping cloths inside. As down's compression ability is amazing, they did stuff easily inside though I did have to be careful when zipping the PackStack Pro shut to not wedge the zipper into the sensitive quilt material.
I also took measurements for height, depth and width after fully packed and found that my measurements showed a little larger than what was reported by Hillsound on their website. Unpacked, I believe their measurements to be true but this additional gives me some wiggle room. They fit quite easily in my ULA Circuit (67L) backpack.
|Quilts Before Packing|
|Packstack Stuffed with Quilts|
Overall, I found the PackStack Pro to be well constructed and of adequate size to contain both my underquilt and topquilt. While I only have one PackStack Pro, I can imagine how having another one or two more would make my pack very organized as well as compressing it into a shape that uses the space in my pack properly.
FIELD LOCATIONS AND CONDITIONS
* Trip (7/30 to 8/1): Manistee River Trail in Brethren, Michigan, USA for 3 days, 2 nights. Temperatures ranged from 55 to 75F (13 to 24C). The weather was overall beautiful though on the second evening, my college buddy and I were blasted with a torrential thunderstorm. The terrain was packed dirt, some sand and lots of tree roots. My pack weight started at 23 pounds (10.4 kg) and slowly reduced over the length of the trip. I hiked the entire trail of 20 miles (32 km).
* Trip (8/14 to 8/22): Car Camping Trip that explored the southwestern portion of the USA. My family and I flew into Las Vegas, Nevada with our camping gear and rented a car. From there, we drove to multiple national parks, typically hiking and sightseeing during the daytime, returning to camp in the evening to make dinner and sleep in our tent. We stayed at the Grand Canyon (Arizona) for 2 nights, Zion (Utah) for 2 nights, Mesa Verda (Colorado) for 1 night and Arches and Canyonlands (Utah) for 2 nights. For weather, it was hot with lots of sun and no rain for the first 4 days. Daytime temperatures hit close to 95F (35C) while nighttime was down around 70F (21C). The last three days, a storm front moved in which gave us a solid day of rain with so much precipitation we experienced flash flooding on the highway and had to retreat and wait for the waters to recede before continuing to our campsite. The last three days, daytime temperatures were much more comfortable around 75F (24C) and sleeping temperatures down around 45F (7C). Thankfully, the last couple of days did not have any rain.
* Trip (9/24 to 9/26) - Kensington Metro Park in Milford, Michigan, USA for 3 days, 2 nights. Temperatures ranged from 48 to 65F (9 to 18C). We had a lot of rain both before the trip and on the beginning of day 2 for several hours. This was a hike-in camp for me. My pack weight was 25 pounds (11 kg) but the distance hiked in (and out) was only 1 mile (1.6 km).
PERFORMANCE IN THE FIELD
"What an interesting storage bag! Can I see that?"
That's from my wife right before the second gear test on the Hillsound PackStack Pro but I'm getting ahead of myself.
After receiving the Hillsound PackStack Pro a few days earlier, I packed up and hit the Manistee River trail. From a packing standpoint, I was unsure exactly how to use the PackStack Pro so I opted to stuff in my bedding. I fit both my down underquilt and topquilt but it was a tight fit. I had to be careful of the zipper because I didn't want to catch it in the delicate quilt fabric. Once everything was inside, it did a wonderful job of filling the bottom space of my pack perfectly to the point that my pack seemed smaller (even though it had the same gear I normally took). This made me wish I actually had a second or third one for my other gear (hammock, clothes, etc).
I can say that I never noticed my pack being uncomfortable on the trip or feeling the weight on my back but then again, I had just returned from a long adventure with the scouts where my pack was over double the size and weight so this was expected.
At camp, the quilts unloaded easily and I found myself using the PackStack Pro as a storage bin for all the miscellaneous gear in my pack that didn't have a dedicated spot. Electronics, spare clothes, med kit, first aid kit - all got dumped from my backpack into the PackStack. If I was at home, it would have taken on the role of a "junk drawer" and done it exceedingly well.
With rain rolling in that night, I was concerned about the waterproofness of the PackStack Pro. Due to another "challenging learning opportunity" (isn't that a great phrase?), my tarp was not hung properly when one of the most intense storms I've weathered outside hit. The wind was severe enough that it drove horizontal rain coming in, which lifted up my tarp and dumped water on me and my gear. The rain, wind and lightening were bad enough that I rode the storm out in my hammock, holding down my tarp from inside instead of getting out and trying to batten things down tighter. Thankfully, the PackStack Pro did its job and none of my electronics (or anything else I stored in there) was wet. I can't say the same about my other gear. While I didn't have to quit, my friend did have to bail out his hammock that suddenly had become a bathtub. In the morning, we slogged our way home through very wet and muddy conditions.
A week later, I'm packing up for our family's southwestern trip where we planned on flying across the country with our backpacking gear and driving / camping at multiple National Parks. I'm stuffing in my sleeping bag, air mattress and even my sleeping bag liner into the Packstack Pro (no hammock this time for me) and commenting to my wife how great this little bag is as everything fit in great.
"Can I see it?" she asks. Specifically without all my stuff in it.
Suddenly, it's turned into a storage bag for all of our food on the flight down. It did a great job of containing all the snacks and dehydrated food we were bringing for the trip.
|With Permission from my Wife, Packing Up PackStack Pro|
Once down there, it's then turned into our cooking and meal kit. It held the stove, the fuel, silverware, plates, bowls, soap, condiments and various food for whatever meal was coming up. For the entire trip, it was used for this purpose and did much better job of containing random gear than any stuff sack as once the lid was unzippered, everything could be seen and sorted without having to dump it on the ground. We also appreciated the waterproofness - not from keeping liquids out, but we felt more confident that if we had a soap or fuel leak (thankfully we didn't), it would be contained inside the bag instead of getting out on our gear.
|Well Organized Camp|
|Closeup of Contents|
Toward the end of September, I used it on another trip, this time a weekend camp. Having learned some of the lessons from the previous trips, this time I opted to use the PackStack Pro as a storage bin / organizer for all of my miscellaneous small gear such as my electronics, meds, first aid kit and spare clothes. Basically, anything that wasn't my hammock, tarp, stakes or quilts went into the PackStack Pro. This worked ideally for the trip as I didn't have to rummage through multiple pockets to find things. Everything was in one place.
I greatly enjoyed using the PackStack Pro for my trips over the last few months. It worked ideally on my smaller, loose gear to organize it in one place. I've actually prepped some of my normal "always take" gear and am now storing it in the PackStack between trips as a way to speed up packing.
I think my only complaint is it is a bit heavier than a Cuban Fiber stuff sack but taking that into consideration, I wish I had another 2 or 3 of them to stack gear inside my pack.
Thank you to both BackpackGearTest.org and Hillsound for letting me take part in this test. Please check back in 2 months for the Long Term Report.
LONG-TERM TEST LOCATIONS AND CONDITIONS
* Trip (10/22 to 10/24) - Camp Teetonkah near Jackson, Michigan, USA for 3 days, 2 nights. Temperatures ranged from 31 to 55F (0 to 13C). While there was no precipitation, as it had rained earlier in the week the ground was very wet and there was a lot of standing water. This also was a base-camping event but as usual, I packed as if it was a backpacking trip and walked in from my car. My pack weight was approximately 25 pounds (11 kg).
PERFORMANCE IN THE FIELD
Over the last few months, I only had one camping trip but I feel like I have really found a home for the PackStack Pro in my kit. I have used it to hold all of my miscellaneous, loose gear. This equipment was organized in smaller, individual ziplock or storage bags, but the contents all went into the PackStack Pro which meant that I didn't have to rummage throughout my backpack looking for things and it really streamlined my packing and unpacking process.
The reason I used smaller bags inside the PackStack Pro was to keep some things separate. For example, I really didn't want my wet toothbrush mixing it up with my battery bank. Inside the PackStack Pro, I kept:
* Electronic Kit (headphones, battery bank, charging cords, cable, flashlight)
* Journal Kit (paper and pen)
* Miscellaneous Hammock Gear (Hangtime Hook, Hangle, spare tarp line)
* Repair Kit (small bottle with duct tape, tie straps, super-glue, dental floss and other cordage)
* Mess kit (small bowl and spork)
* Toiletry Kit (toothbrush, toothpaste)
* Cream Kit (hand sanitizer, bugspray, sunscreen, anti-chafing cream)
* Amusement Kit (deck of cards and dice)
* Firestarter Kit (cotton balls with petroleum jelly in a contact lens case)
* Water filter components
* Personal First Aid kit (tweezers, bandaids, alcohol wipes and antibacterial cream)
I also had a pair of cabin-camping trips where I took the PackStack Pro and used it in a similar fashion to keep small items contained.
I also finally tested the waterproofness of the PackStack Pro by dunking it directly in a lake. No water entered inside either through the seams or the zipper, giving me confidence on its ability to keep my gear dry.
I really enjoyed testing the PackStack Pro over the last 4 months. Throughout all of these trips, I really enjoyed how well it worked for me compared to just normal stuffsacks. With a flat bottom and a zipper-opening lid, I was able to set the PackStack Pro down on the ground (or in my hammock), unzip it, find what I needed and return things very easily. It helped me significantly with organization. I also greatly enjoyed how it fit into my backpack perfectly. I know my wife also really liked how well it kept our cooking kit and food contained during our summer trip.
This report was created with the BackpackGearTest.org Report Writer Version 1.
Copyright 2021. All rights reserved.
From a continued use standpoint, I will be using the PackStack Pro on future trips and likely be buying two more so that I can maximize my backpack pack space (and also ditch just using a large garbage bag to keep things dry inside).
This concludes my long-term report. I want to thank both BackpackGearTest.org and Hillsound for letting me take part in this test.
Read more reviews of Hillsound gear
Read more gear reviews by Robb Pratt