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Reviews > Packs > Pack Accessories > Vaucluse Gear Pack Frame > Test Report by Coy Ray StarnesVaucluse Gear - Cool-Dry Frame (series 6)
Test series by Coy Starnes
Initial Report - March 7, 2022
Field Report: April 11, 2022
Long Term Report: June 6, 2022
I live in Northeast Alabama. I enjoy backpacking, day hikes, biking, hunting, fishing, and kayaking. I hike throughout the year and actually hike less in the hot humid months of summer. My style is slow and steady, and my gear is light. However, I will sacrifice weight for comfort and durability. A typical 3-season load for me is around 20 lb (9 kg) not counting food or water.
Initial Report: March 7, 2022
The Cool-Dry Frame is basically 2 panels of hexagons (a honeycomb pattern) separated by spacers. It is designed to offer substantial air flow between the users back and the pack itself and is designed to fit on almost any pack with 2 shoulder straps. It is made of a soft and flexible thermo-rubber that the company says is comfortable against the back and can handle day to day backpacking demands. No maximum pack weight was given. Both sides of the Cool-Dry Frame are basically six rows of three hexagons. It is a unisex design which makes sense, since the back of a male or female is shaped similarly…
The Cool-Dry Frame arrived fully assembled but did include assembly instructions. The instructions on how to separate the shoulder strap loops were not clear to me so I started pulling on them, thinking they would unsnap. I pulled pretty hard, but not wanting to rip it, I handed it over to my wife for assistance. She has better eyesight than I, not to mention smarter… and quickly determined the connection is a slide. Here is a closeup of the connection.
Other than that hiccup, everything about the Cool-Dry Frame seemed great. I was able to bend it easily, yet it didn’t want to collapse down flat. I immediately tried it on two of my backpacks. It was easy to swap between the packs, took maybe a minute tops.
Testing for fit, comfort etc.
First of all, a disclaimer. I injured my chest just 10 days prior to getting the Cool-Dry Frame. I was concerned that just putting on a pack would be difficult, I know sneezing and coughing is still very painful. Anyways, I chose to attach it to my 60L Granite Gear Vapor Trial first. This pack has no rigid frame but does have some sort of plastic frame sheet hidden inside, along with pretty substantial padding on the back and hipbelt. It is jet black, and this color, along with the close fit to my body, let's just say, it is probably the hottest wearing pack I own. I didn’t intend to put the shoulder loops on the panel next to the pack itself but somehow did. Side note: I spoke with Brice, the company owner, and he assured me that it really doesn’t matter which side is used, but rather a personal preference based on what feels best and could actually change from pack to pack. When I placed my pack on my back I did it like I normally do. The motion is hard to describe but it is how most do it. Anyways, sore shoulder an all, it went on smoothly. I noticed the Cool-Dry Frame needed pulling down a few inches and centered slightly. I just poked my thumbs inside the bottom outer hexagons and pulled straight down. After this I adjusted all my pack straps like I normally do. I was a little concerned that the bottom part would feel weird since the Cool-Dry Frame doesn't go down the full length of this backpack's back panel, but it really felt no different than it did prior to adding it. I could tell there wasn’t any padding against my back but the pack still felt extremely comfortable. Here are a couple of photos of the arrangement.
I next put it on my Ultimate Directions 35L Fastpack, which has no frame at all, and has much less padding than the Vapor Trail. The hipbelt is also just a nylon belt with no padding or pockets. I was surprised that the shoulder straps on this pack were just slightly wider than the opening they pass through on the Cool-Dry Frame. One shoulder strap was barely touching but the other side was slightly curled under where it touched the outer part of the Cool-Dry Frame. Thankfully, the shoulder straps on this pack are not padded/rigid so it was no problem. Here is a photo of the wrinkled side
However, once I shouldered the pack, I had my wife look and both straps were passing through the loops unimpeded.
I was able to take the Cool-Dry Frame on a 6 mile (9.7 km) day hike on March 7th 2022. I put it back on my Granite Gear Vapor Trail and loaded the pack with 20 lb (9 kg) of gear (including the pack), which is a typical overnight loadout weight for me. The temperature was approximately 66 F (19 C) and it was cloudy and very windy. The Cool-Dry Frame performed great. I did work up a sweat, but the back of my shirt was no wetter than the front side and the honeycomb pattern is clearly visible where the open areas didn't wet out as much as what was touching the Cool-Dry Frame. I didn't stop for any breaks during the hike and felt no discomfort the entire 2 hours I was hiking. I was a little concerned that the Cool-Dry Frame might make me feel unbalanced because it moves the pack further from my center of gravity, but honestly, it didn't. Here a few photos of my shirt after the hike.
Thoughts so far
So far the Cool-Dry Frame seems to deliver on its promise. I haven’t had a chance to really put it to the test in the hot and humid mid-summer weather Alabama (and the Southeastern US in general) is known for. I could probably use a longer Cool-Dry Frame because I have a fairly long torso. I was reading on the website that a longer version might be an option soon. However, the length on this one creates a lot of real estate on my back where air can reach. The weight is also reasonable for even an ultralight backpacker that wants to avoid a sweaty back as much as possible. Future testing will determine how the Cool-Dry Frame performs and just how effective it is at reducing sweat on my back.
Field Report: April 11, 2022
Testing Locations and Conditions
It hasn't really warmed up much since my Initial Report and in fact has been downright chilly much of the time. All testing was done on local trails I frequent several times a week. I always hiked at least 3 miles (5 km) and did 5 and 6 miles (8 to 10 km) a few times. I figure I traveled about 80 miles (129 km) total wearing the Cool-Dry Frame. The warmest hike was at 77 F (25 F) and the coolest was 46 F (8 C) but the average temperature was around 60 F (16 C). I also got injured again and lost about a week of testing. The trails I hike are steep and usually slick in the spring. I averaged right at 2 MPH (3.2 KM/H) on all my hikes. As for the injury, I was lifting a trailer tongue and strained my back.
Field Test Results
I wore my Granite Gear Vapor Trail loaded with 20 lb (9 kg) for most of my testing so far. With this pack the Cool-Dry Frame works perfect! However, I finally decided to try the Cool-Dry Frame with a day pack. I had been wearing a turkey hunting vest, but the design is not suited for the Cool-Dry Frame. I have a Camelback Ultra and it was a snug fit before putting the Cool-Dry frame under it. I tried it shortly after getting the Cool-Dry Frame and couldn't snap the belt, no matter how much I sucked in my gut. It doesn't help that the belt snaps on the far left instead of in the center. Anyways, I now have a NSV (none scale victory) to report. Today (May 11) I dug it back out to try. I have been walking a lot and could tell my pants were looser and had actually lost 2 lb since March 7. It wasn't easy but I managed to fasten the belt on the Ultra. It had rained all morning, so I had to wait until late in the afternoon to go for a hike. I did skip breakfast and had a light lunch before the hike but was able to get the Ultra on again. The Ultra has an hourglass shape so the Cool-Dry Frame is wider than the middle section of this pack.
Everything worked great for the hike. I recently bought a cheap luggage scale, and if I am reading it right, the pack with the Cool-Dry Frame attached weighs 5.56 lb (2.5 kg), so, obviously it felt better than the 20 lb (9 kg) pack I had been wearing. I had a hammock and suspension, along with two 16 oz (0.47 L) water bottles, and of course some TP...
Thoughts thus far
I am very pleased with the performance of the Cool-Dry Frame. No, it hasn't prevented me from sweating, and on the hottest days I pretty much wetted out my shirt. However, I can definitely tell my back doesn't feel as warm as it usually does when wearing a backpack. It is also very comfortable with no discernible pinching or weird rubbing.
Please check back in a couple of months for my Long Term Report. I would like to thank Backpackgeartest.org and Vaucluse Gear for this testing opportunity.
Long Term Report: June 6, 2022
Testing Locations and Conditions
I have continued to test the Cool-Dry Frame on local trails with the addition of several one to two hour bike rides. I actually missed several weeks of trail time due to catching poison oak. Then spider webs, ticks and mosquitoes took over, not to mention the poison oak, so I cut back my day hiking drastically and replaced it with bike rides. I was hoping for some really hot weather but was only able to get one ride in at 87 F (37 C) and another at 84 F (29 C). This was mainly because I like to ride earlier in the day so I had to wait for the afternoon heat for a few rides. Most of my rides were at around 70 F (21 C).
Long Term Test Results
I don't have any new information to add other than the bike riding use. The good news is, the Cool-Dry Frame worked just as well on my bike as it did when hiking. I was a little concerned that the slight curve of my back while riding might render the Cool-Dr Frame less comfortable but I really found no difference. I used the Camelback Ultra as my riding pack with the same gear I used while day hiking. I never stopped for a hammock break but I was only riding about an hour each time. I would be more likely to stop for a long rest break when mountain biking but gave that up a few years ago when I broke my collar bone.
The Cool-Dry Frame is a winner! I was a little skeptical that it could make a difference since I am prone to sweating just standing around in summer heat. I could tell it was working because my shirt directly under the Cool-Dry Frame would be a lot drier than where the shoulder straps and hip belt made direct contact with my shirt. It has always felt comfortable and I found it in no way hindered my agility, but I've never been accused of being agile... One last thought, a lot of the newer packs are designed to provide a little space between the main bag and the users back. I actually own a couple myself. However, these packs are expensive, and need a fairly sturdy and possibly heavier frame. The simple addition of a Cool-Dry Frame means that older packs and less complicated/expensive newer packs can offer the same cool ride.
This concludes my testing of the Cool-Dry Frame. I would like to thank Backpackgeartest.org and Vaucluse Gear for this testing opportunity.
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