Author Topic: Duluth Packs VS Frost River.... opinions and advice? Looking to downsize.  (Read 10185 times)

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Offline icentropy

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Hi all, on the topic of packs, last winter when i switched from a down bag to wool blankets I needed to get a larger pack. Well my wife was sweet enough to get me a Duluth Bushcrafter for our anniversary. I got it and have used it a few times over the winter. I normally use much smaller packs and this one just seemed way too long for my torso length. I didn't like the way the bottom sagged when it wasn't packed full and the sides were cinched up (seriously who doesn't put a way to cinch the bottom?). I took it to a local canvas seamstress and had her remove the cheesy plastic cinch buckles on the side and replace them and the straps with metal D rings that i could run cordage through to cinch them up. Also had her add Drings to the bottom of the pack to cinch that up and have mounting points if a guy wanted to strap something to the bottom.

Well after all that I still can't get comfortable with this size of pack. I've been looking at the Frost River Isle Royal Jr. packs and I think that might be the perfect size for me. I prefer to have a smaller pack and strap the bedroll to the outside than have everything inside the pack. I don't live in an area where we get lots of rain so getting my gear wet isn't really a big concern. On top of that, even though I needed more room than my small pack (which some might consider tiny) This is just too much room for me and I'd have it fully cinched up pretty much all the time.

So Question 1: can anyone give me their opinion on Frost River packs? I'm especially interested in hearing from someone that has had or has at least seen Duluth and Frost River packs and could tell me how they compare to each other?

Question 2: anyone with a Frost River Isle Royal Jr. want to trade to a bigger pack? Mine is the Duluth Bushcrafter in waxed canvas, have some extras that'll go with it and also has the mods i mentioned above.
Leather, wood, steel, wool, waxed canvas, beer, coffee, venison, a hunk of sharp aged cheddar and a bowl of good pipe tobacco. Everyday is a blessing.

Offline vallehombre

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I have a Frost River Isle Royal bushcraft pack and while cavernous and somewhat heavy it is very well made. The larger size comes with a waist belt that works well for both support and handling load shifting and the sides can be cinched down a bit. The straps offer a reasonable range of adjustment depending on the load volume. The two outside pockets are ample for my uses.  Like all packs of similar design, the manner in which it is loaded is crucial if carrying it more than a few hundred yards. Three years of steady  normal use and it shows no wear. I appreciate the old school look and virtues, the high quality and fair value. If this style is your thing it works very well.

In my case I have been seriously considering going back to a small to midsize external frame pack. For me it seems moderate to heavy loads are more easily carried. A consideration when traversing geezerdom.

Offline icentropy

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I have a Frost River Isle Royal bushcraft pack and while cavernous and somewhat heavy it is very well made. The larger size comes with a waist belt that works well for both support and handling load shifting and the sides can be cinched down a bit. The straps offer a reasonable range of adjustment depending on the load volume. The two outside pockets are ample for my uses.  Like all packs of similar design, the manner in which it is loaded is crucial if carrying it more than a few hundred yards. Three years of steady  normal use and it shows no wear. I appreciate the old school look and virtues, the high quality and fair value. If this style is your thing it works very well.

In my case I have been seriously considering going back to a small to midsize external frame pack. For me it seems moderate to heavy loads are more easily carried. A consideration when traversing geezerdom.

Yes I've definitely noticed external frame (or even internal frame ones) are much better at locating the weight at your hips instead of the shoulders. I am pretty much a wuss when it comes to packing heavy weight, I like to feel like I'm wandering the woods not like a pack mule. My background is with with ultralight backpacking in my 20s. Now I don't do any backpacking but mostly weekend trips into the woods for fishing, hunting or just general bushcrafting but I still use a lot of the old ultralight habits. I still choose my gear carefully to minimize weight and bulk and I can carry everything i need in a pack light enough to not need a hip belt. I also like having my mora and my handgun at my hip so hip belts get in the way.

I think the Isle Royal is similar in height to the Bushcrafter and that's my main issue with the bushcrafter. My torso is too short and the bottom of the pack hits my butt which isn't uncomfortable just irritating. I think for someone even an inch or two taller or with a longer torso than me it'd be fine. I suppose it wasn't designed with short guys in mind.
Leather, wood, steel, wool, waxed canvas, beer, coffee, venison, a hunk of sharp aged cheddar and a bowl of good pipe tobacco. Everyday is a blessing.

Offline Moe M.

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 Packs can be a pain in my ways,  if and when you can find one that you are truly comfortable with consider yourself blessed,  I've had many packs over many years and I think I'm finally through searching for the right one.
 I have to admit a bias, so let's get that out of the way first,  I'm a traditionalist (old fart), I don't like thin nylon packs, especially those that are neon colored,  I've tried military packs including the Alice pack, I don't care for the external frame,  my personal feeling is that they were built to carry varied and heavy gear and to take a beating,  they weren't built with the comfort of the carrier in mind.
 I got my first pack when I joined the Boy Scouts, it was a no nonsense canvas pack that held what ever a kid needed and not much more,  It wasn't the most comfortable,  but when you're a kid and it's all you have you use it,  what I did like about it was that it looked like an outdoor Ruck, it didn't look like a girls school bag,  I still feel the same way today.
 So there you have it,  my bias is for canvas packs,  waxed canvas is even better,  I had a Duluth pack and was disappointed in the way it was made the minute I took it out of the box and sent it right back to Duluth for a refund,  I have to be honest here, Duluth makes a good pack,  better than most,  but not as good as others,  and certainly not as good overall as Frost River,  I'm on my forth Frost River pack,  my first was their Back Pack, it was a bit too small, I sent it back and traded for their Summit pack,  the problem with both was no matter how you pack them they end up round like a ball and move around on your back when you move through the brush.
 Frost River customer service is the best,  they were patient and went out of their way to be helpful,  next I bought their Sojorn pack, it's a box type pack,  much more comfortable for me than the others but a bit too big for a Day Pack and too small a week long trip.
 I've now setted on two packs,  a Frost River box type "Scout pack", Frost River calls it their Book Bag,  it's small enough to be a comfortable Day Pack,  loaded my weighs about 10 pounds and I can carry it all day and not know that it's there,  my other pack is an LL Bean Traditional Continental Ruck bag,  it's waxed Canvas, has a leather bottom and straps, the top has a built in pocket,  the inside is one big pocket but also has a small front zippered pocket and a full sleeve type pocket at the back,  the back is padded and has a net material covering to keep you from sweating,  it has two external side pockets that will hold Nylgene type bottles,  a large external front pocket, and two leather strap tie downs one the sides for other gear such as an axe or shovel,  it has D-rings at the bottom for tying on a tarp or bedroll,  and the carry straps are wide and thickly padded for comfortable carry,  it also has a waste strap to steady the pack.
 The Frost River Isle Royal Sr. and Jr. in my opinion are much too big for general bushcraft needs,  the Jr. especially can be found on the trade blanket of many outdoor forums because people buy them and find them too big and heavy for a general duty bag for day trips or over night and weekend outtings.
 The LL Bean waxed canvas Continental Ruck is a good medium sized bag for the bush bum who takes day trips but also likes to do three day weekends or can stretch it into a week long event once in a while.
 Quality wise I'll take Frost River over Duluth any time,  cost vs. value again goes to Frost River,  although, I love my LL Bean Continental Ruck,  LL Beans free shipping and no questions asked life time warranty is something to consider,  if a leather strap breaks or some stitches let go, send it back and LL Bean will fix it or replace it free of charge,  most of the time you'll get a new one in exchange,  ask me how I know.   ;D
« Last Edit: May 04, 2016, 03:07:24 PM by Moe M. »
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Offline icentropy

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Packs can be a pain in my ways,  if and when you can find one that you are truly comfortable with consider yourself blessed,  I've had many packs over many years and I think I'm finally through searching for the right one.
 I have to admit a bias, so let's get that out of the way first,  I'm a traditionalist (old fart), I don't like thin nylon packs, especially those that are neon colored,  I've tried military packs including the Alice pack, I don't care for the external frame,  my personal feeling is that they were built to carry varied and heavy gear and to take a beating,  they weren't built with the comfort of the carrier in mind.
 I got my first pack when I joined the Boy Scouts, it was a no nonsense canvas pack that held what ever a kid needed and not much more,  It wasn't the most comfortable,  but when you're a kid and it's all you have you use it,  what I did like about it was that it looked like an outdoor Ruck, it didn't look like a girls school bag,  I still feel the same way today.
 So there you have it,  my bias is for canvas packs,  waxed canvas is even better,  I had a Duluth pack and was disappointed in the way it was made the minute I took it out of the box and sent it right back to Duluth for a refund,  I have to be honest here, Duluth makes a good pack,  better than most,  but not as good as others,  and certainly not as good overall as Frost River,  I'm on my forth Frost River pack,  my first was their Back Pack, it was a bit too small, I sent it back and traded for their Summit pack,  the problem with both was no matter how you pack them they end up round like a ball and move around on your back when you move through the brush.
 Frost River customer service is the best,  they were patient and went out of their way to be helpful,  next I bought their Sojorn pack, it's a box type pack,  much more comfortable for me than the others but a bit too big for a Day Pack and too small a week long trip.
 I've now setted on two packs,  a Frost River box type "Scout pack", Frost River calls it their Book Bag,  it's small enough to be a comfortable Day Pack,  loaded my weighs about 10 pounds and I can carry it all day and not know that it's there,  my other pack is an LL Bean Traditional Continental Ruck bag,  it's waxed Canvas, has a leather bottom and straps, the top has a built in pocket,  the inside is one big pocket but also has a small front zippered pocket and a full sleeve type pocket at the back,  the back is padded and has a net material covering to keep you from sweating,  it has two external side pockets that will hold Nylgene type bottles,  a large external front pocket, and two leather strap tie downs one the sides for other gear such as an axe or shovel,  it has D-rings at the bottom for tying on a tarp or bedroll,  and the carry straps are wide and thickly padded for comfortable carry,  it also has a waste strap to steady the pack.
 The Frost River Isle Royal Sr. and Jr. in my opinion are much too big for general bushcraft needs,  the Jr. especially can be found on the trade blanket of many outdoor forums because people buy them and find them too big and heavy for a general duty bag for day trips or over night and weekend outtings.
 The LL Bean waxed canvas Continental Ruck is a good medium sized bag for the bush bum who takes day trips but also likes to do three day weekends or can stretch it into a week long event once in a while.
 Quality wise I'll take Frost River over Duluth any time,  cost vs. value again goes to Frost River,  although, I love my LL Bean Continental Ruck,  LL Beans free shipping and no questions asked life time warranty is something to consider,  if a leather strap breaks or some stitches let go, send it back and LL Bean will fix it or replace it free of charge,  most of the time you'll get a new one in exchange,  ask me how I know.   ;D

Yup, everything you wrote sounds spot on. I'm still on the search and I hope my next pack (Frost River Isle Royal Jr) will be the perfect solution for a winter pack. I use a small Italian Rucksack that has about 1000cc of storage for April thru September so i have my small pack figure out fine. Bonus is those can be snatched up still for $20-40. Made of good canvas that is easy to wax. Hoping the FR Jr. will be the perfect size for winter when I carry extra clothing and bedding. I really like the look of the Duluth and Frost River packs. I like Filson's stuff as well but seems expensive for what you get. Duluth is also pricier but still cheaper than an equivalent Filson pack. The LL bean bag is nice but not nearly as nice as the others and their site says "imported". I know we can't always buy US made and honestly I'm not all about US made but I do try to support craftsmen and women whenever I can and anytime I fork over good money. I like to think somewhere a hardworking and talented craftsman/woman took time and effort to make my pack (or my coat for that matter) and it wasn't just pumped out of a factory in China. I can't afford to buy all US made stuff but little by little I am switching over one item at a time as I can afford it.
Leather, wood, steel, wool, waxed canvas, beer, coffee, venison, a hunk of sharp aged cheddar and a bowl of good pipe tobacco. Everyday is a blessing.

Offline Moe M.

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  I'm sure you'll be quite happy with any Frost River product that you purchase,  and their customer service is superb,  if you get your bag and find that it's too big or too small or doesn't fit right a phone call to their office or showroom will get you advice and a replacement pack if that what you need,  as long as it's not used.
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Offline icentropy

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The Frost River Isle Royal Sr. and Jr. in my opinion are much too big for general bushcraft needs,  the Jr. especially can be found on the trade blanket of many outdoor forums because people buy them and find them too big and heavy for a general duty bag for day trips or over night and weekend outtings.

Moe could you point me in the direction of some of those outdoor forums? I've sold my Duluth pack and am now on the hunt for a Isle Royale Jr. pack :D
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Offline Unknown

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Nothing wrong with your choice with the newly made models. I applaud it because it makes work for folks doing real craftsman type trades, but I will put a plug in for the small, all canvas Swiss surplus pack. Saw one on eBay for $60 , no straps, didn't check the shipping.

I have a leather bottom one too, but to me it's a truck sack, unnecessarily heavy. This one is most like the Summit so it probably does have the pocketry you desire. With a bread bag on it, I think it's close to what you describe.

Ice, I think it'd be cool for you to add some pics or make a trip report, I for one would like to see more details on your UL canvas style.
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Offline icentropy

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Nothing wrong with your choice with the newly made models. I applaud it because it makes work for folks doing real craftsman type trades, but I will put a plug in for the small, all canvas Swiss surplus pack. Saw one on eBay for $60 , no straps, didn't check the shipping.

I have a leather bottom one too, but to me it's a truck sack, unnecessarily heavy. This one is most like the Summit so it probably does have the pocketry you desire. With a bread bag on it, I think it's close to what you describe.

Ice, I think it'd be cool for you to add some pics or make a trip report, I for one would like to see more details on your UL canvas style.

I've heard great stuff about those swiss "salt and pepper" canvas packs. I know a leather guy that swears they're the best packs ever made (he's swiss). Someday I'll pick one up just to see what all the hubbub is about but to be honest I think they're kinda ugly :D It might seem trite but I like asthetically pleaseing things. Form doesn't always have to follow function. Sometimes they can walk hand in hand.

I really need to start documenting more. Honestly I almost always forget to even take a camera with me when I head out the door. We get zero cell reception anywhere around my home or the forest i typically find myself in so I'm not in the habit of taking it along. I'll at least do a thread on what i carry and how i pack it.
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Offline Unknown

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I understand the desire for a particular aesthetic. S&P is kinda ugly in a way. "Form follows function" is a misquote and overused. I dont believe it is even true.

Hopefully you will get some encouragement from more than just me and you will remember to document
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Offline woodsrunner

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ive owned many frostriver packs including the isle royal jr...the frost river packs are made from 18 ounce canvas the duluth from 15 ounce.
the frost river packs use a double bottom an all thier larger packs to inlude the isle royale jr...not sure that duluth does.
tha FR packs are quite a bit less expensive than are the duluth packs.

I have since purged myself of those expensive packs...but admit that if i were to have kept one, it would have been the isle royal jr.
 these days my packs are military surplus from several different countrys militarys...my favorite is my 1942 jungle pack built specifically for use in the pacific...great bag!...i think i gave 20.00 bucks for it twenty five years ago and its still going strong...seems ive come full circle.
if you have the coin and dig traditional...you can't go wrong with frost fiver bags...atb...woods
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Online wolfy

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Dave, just a FYI......Duluth will make their bags in 18 oz. canvas upon request.  I had them make my #3 Shell Bag in 18 oz.   Their big #3 Duluth Packs which used to be the standard 'go-to' pack in canoe country all have double bottoms, but I know nothing about the rest of their canvas pack line. :shrug:
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Offline icentropy

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...my favorite is my 1942 jungle pack built specifically for use in the pacific...great bag!...i think i gave 20.00 bucks for it twenty five years ago and its still going strong...seems ive come full circle.

Hi Woods, is one of these the one you're talking about?



Leather, wood, steel, wool, waxed canvas, beer, coffee, venison, a hunk of sharp aged cheddar and a bowl of good pipe tobacco. Everyday is a blessing.

Offline woodsrunner

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Dave, just a FYI......Duluth will make their bags in 18 oz. canvas upon request.  I had them make my #3 Shell Bag in 18 oz.   Their big #3 Duluth Packs which used to be the standard 'go-to' pack in canoe country all have double bottoms, but I know nothing about the rest of their canvas pack line. :shrug:
Craig, good to know...i think my dad had an old number #3?...not really sure...but it was a Duluth pack with simple leather straps which included a tumpline...thanks amigo!...dave
...my favorite is my 1942 jungle pack built specifically for use in the pacific...great bag!...i think i gave 20.00 bucks for it twenty five years ago and its still going strong...seems ive come full circle.

Hi Woods, is one of these the one you're talking about?






Ice....yup, the top one is the same as my pack...the bottom pack is their mountain pack issued to the tenth mountain division.

In 1943 they came out with a larger version of the jungle pack which was used in the european theater, it was designated the "1943 Field Pack"...the only real difference between the two was that the 1943 could carry more gear for colder climates.
The jungle pack design was a vast improvement over the M1928, which was similar to the M1910 used during WW1
in the later part of WW2 they changed yet again to the M1944 and M1945 two pack system...consisting of a small knapsack that could be worn in battle and lower detachable Cargo pack for carrying duffel...anyhow...t hats all i know from reading up on them...atb...woods
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Offline icentropy

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Ice....yup, the top one is the same as my pack...the bottom pack is their mountain pack issued to the tenth mountain division.

In 1943 they came out with a larger version of the jungle pack which was used in the european theater, it was designated the "1943 Field Pack"...the only real difference between the two was that the 1943 could carry more gear for colder climates.
The jungle pack design was a vast improvement over the M1928, which was similar to the M1910 used during WW1
in the later part of WW2 they changed yet again to the M1944 and M1945 two pack system...consisting of a small knapsack that could be worn in battle and lower detachable Cargo pack for carrying duffel...anyhow...t hats all i know from reading up on them...atb...woods

When I looked up M1942 all I got was the Mountain pack. Haven't been able to find a jungle pack. Any idea what it's designation was?
Leather, wood, steel, wool, waxed canvas, beer, coffee, venison, a hunk of sharp aged cheddar and a bowl of good pipe tobacco. Everyday is a blessing.

Offline woodsrunner

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that was it...just google WW2 U.S. Army 1942 Jungle pack...it was generally referred to by the quartermaster as "1942 Jungle Pack" or just jungle pack...some guy on you tube did a video on them...Link:

heres another link: http://www.usmilitariaforum.com/forums/index.php?showtopic=1059
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