Thursday, May 28, 2009

Stop killing yourself

If there is one blog post I ever wanted you to read and remember, this is it. I know it may sound like I'm trying to sell you something, but I'm not. I just want to help you figure out what makes you hurt all the time, so you can start feeling better like I have.

Do you feel like shit all the time, in a bunch of different ways? For example, do you regularly experience any or all of the following problems?
  • anxiety
  • depression
  • headaches
  • athlete's foot
  • toenail fungus
  • confusion
  • loss of coordination
  • "brain fog"
  • nausea
  • sinus infections, pressure, and pain
  • rashes or other skin disorders
  • unexplained pain
  • fatigue
  • tender throat
  • jaw pain
  • vision disturbances
  • numbness
  • tooth pain
  • thrush
  • yeast infections
Are you taking a million different prescription medications that all seem to hurt you more than they help you? Do you often wonder if your doctor is a total moron?

Well, maybe you have a Candida overgrowth.

Most people have never heard of Candida overgrowth, yet it's slowly killing most of us, or at least decreasing our quality of life. Most of the illnesses we all have nowadays are not illnesses at all; they are symptoms of Candida overgrowth. The drugs our doctors keep giving us only make the problem worse, especially if the drugs are antibiotics, because most prescription drugs only target symptoms, not the underlying problem.


Yes, antibiotics kill harmful bacteria inside us, but they also kill the beneficial bacteria our bodies absolutely need, which opens the door for Candida albicans, an opportunistic fungus that already lives inside everyone, to take over our bodies and make us miserable FOREVER.

After months of misery, I've been on a Candida detox diet for about a week now, and I feel tons better. I'm nowhere near healed yet, but I feel so much better physically and mentally because I stopped feeding the yeast that has taken over my body.

I created a new blog last night to chronicle my battle with Candida so people can understand what the whole process is like. If you feel like shit all the time, spend at least several hours checking into Candida and read my new Candida blog to get an idea what you might expect to experience if you attempt Candida detox. This may be the most important thing you've ever read.

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Aimless Video Evidence

Don't forget to turn out the lights

Yeah, so um, I think Aimless is done, perhaps excluding the book I've sorta been writing.

Tomorrow will mark three years since the idea for Aimless came to me, and that's just too much time to devote to something that will never be anything. Besides, I'm pretty caught up in this new anti-Candida diet and lifestyle, so I don't know if I'd be willing to hit the road again at all this year, even if NBC called me right now and offered me big bucks to do it. I've tried to make this thing grow, and some other people have helped me try to make this thing grow, but it hasn't happened and it's not going to happen.

For the first time in six or seven months, my head doesn't hurt, nor do I feel all spacey and confused, and making that problem go away for good is the most important thing in my life right now. The absence of major head pain is just the beginning, though. Now that I understand why my head hurt so bad for so long, I want to devote at least a few months to fix the problem permanently, so I can eat pizza and cereal and ice cream again without worrying that it will put me in misery.

I'll probably still write some stuff here, which may or may not be Aimless-related, but I've lost interest in killing myself to entertain no one while remaining broke. However, if you've been a regular reader of this blog for a while, you probably already know I'm going to end up changing my mind and hitting the road again, and going crazy again, and getting an endless headache again, and failing to turn this into something people know about AGAIN.

No, I don't think that's going to happen this time.

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Aimless Video Evidence

Monday, May 25, 2009

Hollywood Trucking

Sometimes when I watch TV shows (specifically on-location dramas), certain props stick out to me. Like 18-wheelers, which I've gotten to know pretty well over the last couple years.

If you spend any time around movie studios or film sets, you can't help but notice the trucks the studios use to transport equipment to on-location sets. For some reason that I can't explain, all the trucks in Hollywood are white cab-over models that all look the same regardless of which studio they're from. (Cab-overs are the trucks that are totally flat in the front. The cab is above the engine, thus "cab-over.")

You hardly ever see cab-overs on the highways anymore, but that seems to be the only kind of truck they use in "Hollywood." (I put 'Hollywood' in quotes because I've noticed the same kind of trucks near film shoots in New York, too.) Also, the trucks have very unique, specialized trailers, which makes them easy to recognize.

Every once in a while, one of these trucks shows up as a prop on a TV show, and it just bothers me a little bit. It makes the artificial world inside my TV just a little less believable to me because I know the truck isn't what it's pretending to be.

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Aimless Video Evidence

Associated Content

Update (May 30): Might want to add to this new list.

I just read what appeared to be a news article on a web site called "Associated Content." This web site looks all professional and stuff, and its name is a lot like "Associated Press," so I wondered at first if this was another news service like the AP; a news service I'd just never heard of because I don't pay much attention. However, as I read the short article about aspartame, I quickly noticed the writer had a clear agenda. I also couldn't help but notice how horribly the article was written.

As soon as I left the page, I Googled "associated content scam" just to see if there would be many hits. Oh yeah, there are tons of hits.

So I guess the lesson of this story is: You can count on me to help you sift bullshit from non-bullshit.

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Aimless Video Evidence

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Cheap transportation

Sitting in the waiting area of a doctor's office last week, I glanced to my left and noticed some magazines on the chair beside me. Lifting one of the mags to see what was beneath it, I quickly noticed another publication I'm not sure I'd ever heard of: Budget Travel. Needless to say, I left it there and quietly snickered.

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Aimless Video Evidence

Friday, May 22, 2009

Decision time

Here's an e-mail I sent to Ashley at Peacock Productions about an hour ago:

Hi Ashley,

I was just wondering if you've heard anything from whoever you've expected to hear something from, regarding my prospective involvement in this doc series thing.

You know what's more frustrating than not "making the cut"? Being kept completely in the dark for months, especially after I took only a few days to do what you asked of me.

If Peacock Productions does not want me to be a part of this hitchhiking-related doc series (or even if they do want me), then I'd really appreciate if they would let me know something. It's just common courtesy, don't you think?

If this thing is not going to happen, I want to move on with my life; y'know, get a job or something. But I can't do anything until someone from Peacock lets me know something, because you can't just walk out of a "normal" life to do something like Aimless. This refusal to communicate is making me lose interest, which is a shame because I have no doubt that I am the person y'all are looking for.

Thank you,
Ryan M. Powell

Yeah, I know it might totally piss them off and cause them to scratch me off their list (if I'm even still on it), but I don't care anymore. Everyone deserves to be treated with a certain degree of honesty and integrity, and they haven't treated me that way. So if my letter pisses them off, fuck 'em.

If I want to watch good TV, as opposed to Dateline NBC, all I have to do is think about the things I've done and the people I've met on the road. That shit is 100 times more entertaining than watching a bunch of interviews about some missing person.

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Aimless Video Evidence

Always waiting for something

Boy I wish that new backpack would hurry up and get here so I could try it out while walking on the treadmill. The wait has become frustrating, considering it's been about 10 days since the dude at Gregory told me he'd send me a replacement pack.

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Aimless Video Evidence

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Candida overgrowth

Disclaimer: My knowledge of the following topic is limited, so please do not assume I know what the hell I'm talking about here.

I've never been a fan of alternative medicine because most of it is bullshit. But then, I'm not much of a fan of doctors, either, because most of them are totally full of themselves and even more full of shit. Every time I go to a doctor, they spend 30 seconds with me, hand me a script for a medication that'll most likely do more harm than good, and then I leave without an explanation regarding what may be wrong with me.

During these past few months of constant pain in my head (not a headache), which now seems to be spreading to my respiratory and digestive systems, I've spent a lot of time scouring the internet for answers. I once came across some stuff about treatment for "Candida overgrowth," which I didn't pay much attention to. But I stumbled onto it again tonight, and I read a lot about it. Apparently "Candida overgrowth" is unrecognized as a legitimate condition by the medical establishment, thus its treatment is greeted with skepticism by doctors. But after reading the stuff tonight, all this "alternative mumbo jumbo" is beginning to make a lot of sense to me, at least with regard to the problems I've had.

Candida is a yeast that we all have in our bodies. Usually it is kept in check by proper diet and good bacteria in our bodies, but the alternative medicine people claim certain factors can help Candida get into the blood stream and run wild throughout the body. Antibiotics can kill the good bacteria that control Candida, and the overgrowth can be further fueled by a diet rich in Candida's favorite foods, like sugars and carbohydrates. As you may have guessed, the alternative method of treating this problem is to eliminate these kinds of foods from your diet, thus the Candida will have no food source of its own, and it will die off.

Now, seeing how I've been mega-obsessed with making pizza for the last 12 years--you might call me a pizza scientist--I've dealt a lot with yeast. And here's some of what I've learned about how to keep activated yeast alive: First of all, both flour and sugar provide food for the yeast, which the yeast consumes. When the yeast has eaten up all its food, all the yeast dies (unless you give it more food, like when you feed a starter).

So here's how I see what's going on inside my body and how to fix it, supposing it really is a growing Candida fungal infection: If I don't give the Candida the food it needs to survive (like pizza and candy bars), the Candida will die. It's that simple. So I'm going to make some major changes to my routine, beginning tomorrow, which means no sugar or carbs for a while, along with some other food items I'll have to 86 from my diet. So basically I'm going to be eating a lot of chicken, beef, peppers, eggs, yogurt, and garlic. NO PIZZA!

I'm also going to start drinking tons of water and walking at least several miles a day on the treadmill while carrying my backpack, because this shit is driving me nuts. I have a feeling this is the path to finally feeling better. I don't care if it is considered alternative medicine because it actually makes complete sense. But apparently the medical establishment has their heads so far up their asses that they can't see how much sense it makes.

If you have any puzzling pains and shit like that, you should check into this stuff because I suspect there are a lot of people going through this out there.

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Aimless Video Evidence

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

I think I can

We, the Republican Party, do pledge to win back our supporters by calling Democrats even more childish names than we've ever called them before. And with the assistance of the Fox News Channel, which is fair and balanced, we will tell their mommies on them because they are all doo-doo heads.

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Aimless Video Evidence

Monday, May 18, 2009

Feeling that wanderlust again

I'm starting to think about hitting the road again. If I do, though, it probably won't be until July. Every time I return home and chill out for a while after being on the road for a long time, I get a chance to digest how everything went down, and it makes me learn and evolve. Then, when I go out again, I have a new and fresh perspective, with a deeper understanding of how it all works and how to survive and what I want to do.

I love being on the road; it's the most amazing thing you could ever imagine. But as amazing and awesome as it is, it's also hard on the mind, and it only gets harder the longer you stay out. It's impossible to find a nice balance, or equilibrium, between the good and bad. You just keep going back and forth like a ping pong ball, usually multiple times a day.

I really like the movie The Astronaut Farmer because it's so similar to the story I've been trying to create.

Also, I started writing again today. Hopefully I'll be able to get refocused on that again and crank out another 100 pages over the next couple weeks or so.

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Aimless Video Evidence

Thursday, May 14, 2009


With Cast Away showing on the TV in the periphery, Tom Hanks just went nuts because he lost Wilson to the ocean. Most of y'all probably never think about how real that can be, but yes, you can do similarly crazy shit when you find yourself in an unusually lonely position like that. And you don't have to be all alone to be that lonely.

On the road I found myself incredibly lonely. With each passing second, the loneliness grew, constantly pushing me deeper into an alternate reality that no one else can really understand because no one else has ever been to this place. In time it even caused me to say and do a lot of things I never would have said or done before.

While I did meet people almost constantly, that didn't ease the loneliness because these people were all in and out of my life in an instant, creating an even more lonely experience than when I was all alone. With all these people coming in and out of your life, it's like you're no one to everyone. Conversely, you're also someone really special and unique to most of them because you're doing something they all wish they could do. But then, just as quickly as they showed up, they're gone forever. And then the next one is gone, and the next one after that is gone, and it never ends. When you're stuck in that kind of environment for long enough, it can really fuck with your head.

However, when you get back to the sane world where you know people and have a couch to relax on, you eventually become something resembling sane once again, just like Tom Hanks's character did. Not completely who you once were, but close.

Become a fan of Aimless on Facebook.

Aimless Video Evidence

Aimless on Facebook

Become a fan of Aimless on Facebook. That way, your friends will see that you are a fan, which will make them check out the Aimless page. Then if they become fans, their other friends might also become fans...

Do you get it? Yeah, it's a snowball effect. And it doesn't require you to do any work.

If you would someday like to see what this was all about, even if you think I'm a total dick, then become a fan of Aimless on Facebook. Do it as a small thank-you for the hard work and suffering that went into making the videos I have been able to show you. Do it because, like you, other people want Aimless; they just don't know about it yet.

Oh yeah... And if you have the Documentary Channel, keep an eye out for Pizza! The Movie. They've been showing it a lot lately. I'm in it (about 32 minutes in).

Aimless Video Evidence

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Partnership for a Bullshit-free America

I'm beginning to suspect this NBC stuff is just another one of those three-part series they show over and over on MSNBC, with each part focusing on a different runaway or homeless kid. Actually, that's what I suspected from the very beginning, until I let my imagination go nuts.

But if it is one of those kinds of shows, why would they ask me for a resumé? I know they don't ask runaways and heroin addicts for resumés (or headshots or videos of themselves), so why ask me for that stuff?

Sometimes I wish they had just never contacted me. I was kicking ass writing a book before they called me, but now I've totally lost focus and I really don't even care about the book anymore.

Why is it so god-damn impossible for people to be honest and straightforward anymore? (Ahem... Missy Green.) Can't anyone recognize the fact that dishonesty is by far the #1 cause of our economy's collapse? Everyone's so busy trying to rip everyone off, looking for immediate payback on risky investments, instead of just doing shit right; instead of designing cars people actually want to buy; instead of hiring good workers and paying them what they're worth.

Well, I've had enough of this dishonesty and secrecy; I've had enough of the bullshit, and I'm not playing that game anymore. From now on, I'm going to say what's really on my mind when I write new blog posts. I'm going to be brutally honest, even when I know my honest opinions will be unpopular; even when I know my honesty may piss off some clueless TV executive, because honest programming is what people want to see on TV instead of the constant barrage of idiotic, fake reality shows and docudramas that last one season or less. Yeah, they still want their American Idol and Survivor, but the also-rans need to go away forever. People are ready for real "reality," without the bullshit. Bullshit has become passé.

Even though you, the reader, may think I'm an asshole for some of the things I say on this blog, the people I meet on the road don't think I'm an asshole. Most of the people I meet on the road think I'm cool as hell and they think Aimless is cool as hell, which is precisely why I ended up in GloZell's video and on WCMH Channel 4 (and possibly as an extra in a short film called Stitches). Bottom line: If Aimless was a series, the people I meet on the road would watch it (and I meet a lot of people on the road). Additionally, if the people I meet on the road are representative of society as a whole (which they are), society as a whole would watch it, too.

Peacock Productions: If you want me to be involved with your project, freaking let me in on it so I can help you make it happen, because the Aimless concept is money in the bank and I am your #1 ally, regardless of whether you ever realize it. But if you don't want me, tell me you don't want me so I can move on with my life. Or at the very least, give me a tiny clue regarding what the show will actually be about so I can decide whether or not I even want to be a part of it. In other words: have a little integrity, eh.

That's just common courtesy, isn't it? I mean, I gave you everything you asked for after only a few days, without even knowing what you wanted from me or what it was for. After two months of waiting patiently, is it really too much for me to expect the same kind of treatment in return?

I feel like if I keep waiting for them to get back to me, I'm either never going to hear from them or they're going to end up telling me they're not interested (after about a year, of course). But if I go out and try to move on with my life, getting a regular job and shit like that, they'll end up contacting me again, asking me to hit the road for their cameras. And if that happens, I'll either have to make another abrupt about-face or I'll have to decline their invitation. So my life is a total stalemate right now, and it's very frustrating.

The funny thing is that I've been paying attention to some of Peacock's productions lately, and most of them are pretty boring and manufactured. Additionally, they cost so much more to produce than Aimless or its identical twin would cost. Something like Aimless would cost almost nothing and it would be so much more interesting than these show ideas they are obviously pulling out of their asses and running into the ground.


Aimless Video Evidence

Saturday, May 02, 2009

Review of Gregory Palisade 80/Whitney 95

The first thing I want to say is that I plan to rewrite and reorganize this review as soon as I have used my new backpack enough to reliably judge its performance. Even in its current state, though, you should find this review very helpful if you read the whole thing.

Update: September 25, 2009 - If you found this post by searching for "Gregory hipbelt" or anything like that, I want you to know Gregory has fixed the problem with the hipbelt materials. After having lived out of my replacement pack for the last couple months, the hipbelt is still in great condition, and I can tell it's going to stay that way. So if you have been hesitant to buy a Gregory pack because you've heard about the hipbelt issues, I want to assure you there is no longer a problem. And if you found this post because you have a pack with the defective part, go ahead and contact Gregory because they will go out of their way to make sure you got what you paid for. (If you don't know how to contact Gregory, just scroll down and look for the dark blue text below my May 12 update.)

Update: July 17, 2009 - I have packed and unpacked my new Whitney many times the last couple days in an effort to develop a good system of organization before I hit the road again (which I'll be doing later today). Having not even taken the pack outside yet, I already have some bad news to report: A seam near one of the upper cinch straps is coming undone due to the tension created when the strap is tightened. Have I tightened the strap too much, or is it just a poor quality seam? I don't know, but I really don't think this should be happening with a pack I haven't even used. This likely means I will rate the pack at no more than 4 of 5 stars whenever I finally write a new review.

Update: June 12, 2009 - After some confusion with shipping, my replacement pack (Whitney 95) arrived from the Gregory factory two days ago. I have packed it up with over 50 pounds of gear and laid it on the floor with the hipbelt down to simulate some of the conditions that I'm sure caused my previous hipbelt problems (mentioned in the review below). If the hipbelt material problem has in fact been resolved, I will write a new, detailed review, giving these packs 5 stars (out of a possible 5 stars). Until then, go ahead and read my original review. This review, in conjunction with the more recent updates, may help you find what you're looking for.

Update: May 12, 2009 - I received an e-mail today from Gregory's Director of Product Development. After reading my review (below), he responded to me regarding the hipbelt problems I've had, informing me that the problem "stemmed from an isolated batch of defective plastic material from one of our suppliers," which has subsequently been fixed. He also offered to send me a new pack, which I am eager to receive.

Since you probably found this page by searching for reviews that discuss the problems some people have had with Gregory's hipbelts, I think you should read the letter I received from Gregory (in blue text) before you read my review:

Hi Ryan,

John Sears here from Gregory's R&D department. Since this response became so long-winded, I thought I would spare your blog and email you personally.

I apologize for the inconvenience this belt panel caused you, and certainly thank you for your otherwise positive thoughts on the pack. Your disappointment with the defective belt panel is justified, as it is certainly not up-to-par with our quality expectations. Please allow me to shed some light on the situation, which we have already taken your advice on and fixed. The problem [with] your belt panel had stemmed from an isolated batch of defective plastic material from one of our suppliers. A variance in the material that they injection-molded this part from resulted in a small number of defective belt panel units. Although each one of these defective units has indeed broken quite quickly in the field (if not quarantined in our warehouse) the number of units that escaped our strict, multi-tiered quality inspection procedures is very limited in scale. This special HDPE compound is an engineered plastic designed to ensure that it retains its strength and flexibility through a large temperature range, and it is important to note that this issue is related to an inconsistent material supply, not the material or part design itself.

Although we have proactively communicated with our customers on this topic to make sure they were aware of this issue, we will continue to talk about this issue on our blog to make sure it is 100% transparent to customers like yourself, jredler and Jordan from your blog, and a few other REI customers that have posted reviews (as you pointed out in your post). We’ve done our absolute best to get customers brand new packs if necessary or quickly replace this component with a guaranteed part, and will continue to do so when customers contact us directly. We of course prefer that we help customers directly rather than indirectly through a retailer, as we’d like to think we have the ability to provide the best possible customer service.

My advice to anyone that is concerned with this panel on their Gregory pack is to inspect the part for visible cracks and fractures, which will be immediately apparent upon bending the plastic part. Take off the belt panel padding so the plastic panel is fully exposed, and physically bend the gray plastic panel with your hands. No need to be gentle, as this panel is a special mix of HDPE composite plastic that was specifically engineered for this application. In the off-chance that you do have a broken panel, from all my experience it will be immediately apparent after this quick inspection.

In terms of fixing the issue, I can tell you that we have changed the material supply source as well as the manufacturing location, now in the U.S., to ensure we have 100% control over this material. At any rate, if you’ve managed to read this far, I apologize for the long-winded explanation and on behalf of Gregory, sincerely apologize to you and anyone else that has had the misfortune of experiencing a breakage on this part. Please know that as we have for over thirty years, we do stand behind the quality, durability, and comfort of our packs and will continue to listen to customers like yourself to constantly strive to find new and innovative solutions to help take us all into the backcountry in comfort and confidence.

Feel free to email me or better yet, give me a call and we can jump on the phone to discuss in more detail. I’ll be happy to answer any questions for you or help out anyone from your blog with this issue. Given your seemingly great experience in the past with Gregory backpacks, and your passion for adventure, I’d hate to see you shy away from Gregory products in the future, as you are certainly one of our most valued customers. With that said, please let me know if there is an address I can send a pack to with the latest and greatest CFS waistbelt panel and adjustment configuration for your upcoming travels.

Take care and I hope wherever you are, life is treating you well,
John Sears
Gregory Mountain Products
Director of Product Development

My immediate impression from this e-mail is that the folks at Gregory want to make sure you get what you pay for when you buy their products. If, for whatever reason, you don't get what you paid for, they are willing to go out of their way to fix the problem and make you a happy customer. I am very impressed by how they've handled my situation, and once I get a chance to test my new pack, I'm sure I will recommend Gregory packs to anyone who asks for my opinion.

Revision of a review I posted on

I've changed the bulk of this review to strikethru text for at least the time being, if not permanently, because when products change, reviews should change. I chose strikethru as an alternative to deletion because I want people to know the whole story from my perspective. (That is, I don't want people to stumble onto this review and read only part of it, thus receiving only part of my story and absorbing the wrong message.)

Title: An incredible backpack with one deal-breaking flaw

Rating: 1 star (may soon become 5 stars) out of a possible 5 stars.
Pros: Comfortable; Easy To Load; Good Padding.
Cons: Difficult to reach water bottle; Possibly weak seams; Sleeping bag compartment should be larger (all very minor issues); Hipbelt reinforcement breaks with normal use.
Best Uses: Extended Hikes.
Describe Yourself: Avid Adventurer; Tramp; Hobo.
Bottom Line: No, I would not recommend this to a friend. (See "Important note" at the end of review.)

Here's the deal: If you buy the Palisade 80 (or the Whitney 95) AND ACTUALLY USE IT for more than a couple days, the plastic reinforcement behind the hipbelt will break. It might take a week or it might take a couple months, but it WILL break, no matter how much you baby it. And when that happens, you will probably be nowhere near an REI store, so you'll be stuck carrying 50+ lbs of gear on your shoulders instead of your hips.

The worst thing is that these plastic pieces are not available separately as replacement parts. The only way to get a new one is for an REI employee (or manager) to dismantle a brand new Gregory pack from their stock and transplant a new part onto your broken pack. It takes a lot of time and labor, and then you end up feeling like a jerk for asking them to take care of a problem that shouldn't exist in the first place (and wasn't their fault).

I started using my Palisade 80 in August 2008. Within a week or so (mid/late August), I noticed that the seams holding the gray material at the bottom of the pack were unraveling at every tension point. I was a little bothered by that, but I didn’t rush to REI to have it replaced. Aside from that issue, I still loved the pack because it feels great in almost every way.

But in early October, after spending a couple weeks walking from Santa Monica to Palm Springs, I woke up one morning to find half of my hipbelt totally disconnected from the frame, held on only by the tension strap and a snap. (Upon reflection, I now realize the hipbelt actually broke quite a while before this; I just didn't recognize it until it finally broke completely.)

So instead of walking any further east (into a big, empty desert), I had to try to hitch a ride back to Rancho Cucamonga, to the nearest REI store. I wanted to replace the entire backpack, but since there were no medium Palisade 80s available at any of the southern California REI stores, I accepted the store manager's offer to replace the plastic hipbelt reinforcement pieces, using parts he had to transplant from a brand new Gregory pack.

At that point, I thought maybe I was at least partially to blame for the damaged hipbelt because I sometimes sat on the sleeping bag compartment while the pack was in a horizontal position. Consequently, once I had that part replaced, I stopped putting any kind pressure on the pack whenever I laid it down. Nevertheless, it broke again less than a month later, possibly still in October. I can’t remember exactly when it broke, but I know I found my way to the Arcadia, California REI store on Election Day (November 4th?).

In Arcadia, I ended up trading in my Palisade 80 for a Whitney 95 because there still were no medium Palisade 80s available anywhere in SoCal. With this new pack, I took great caution to make sure there was never ANY weight or pressure on the hipbelt. Whenever I was not carrying the pack, I always made sure to find a way to lean the pack against something, to keep it upright, thus keeping the weight from ruining yet another hipbelt reinforcement.

But guess what: The hipbelt still broke.

Analysis, Suggestions, & Conclusion
From what I can tell, Gregory makes incredible backpacks. Their packs feel comfortable and they do what they’re supposed to do. But Gregory packs have one major design flaw that cancels out all the good qualities. Like I said before: If you actually use one of these Gregory packs how they were designed to be used, the hipbelt reinforcement pieces will break, no matter how much you baby it. It’s that simple. When this happens, it will suck big-time and it will leave you really screwed and pissed off.

I think the problem lies in the hipbelt’s adjustable angle feature (which I also don’t think is a necessary feature). The plastic simply is not strong enough to support unreinforced holes for the angle-changing mechanism. I’ve used setting 5 as well as setting 2, and I didn’t feel like either setting was any more ergonomic than the other setting. They did feel slightly different, but I could have used it either way, even though I tend to be pretty picky--obsessive-compulsive even--when it comes to comfort issues. Additionally, once the plastic part breaks, you can no longer change the angle anyway.

The multiple hipbelt angle feature needs to go. If that’s not an option, then Gregory needs to use a stronger material for the piece behind the hipbelt, and/or they need to put some kind of reinforcement around the holes.

I’m going to return my Whitney 95 for an Osprey or something whenever I get a chance because even though I think the Gregory could and should be a great pack, IT ALWAYS BREAKS, and I don’t want to deal with that anymore. Unfortunately, the nearest REI store to me is 200 miles away.

If anyone from Gregory should stumble upon this review, here is some valuable information I want to share with you: You have to fix this problem RIGHT NOW, regardless of the immediate costs. If you continue to manufacture backpacks with this flaw, you will quickly lose your reputation as the maker of the finest backpacks, most of the packs will be returned, and your business will disappear. While the hipbelt problem is the only real quality issue with your packs, it is a deal breaker. I, like most people, do not need my hipbelt to be adjustable. You absolutely must begin using a stronger material for the hipbelt reinforcement pieces, even though it will surely add a few ounces to the overall weight, because a few extra ounces is much less inconvenient than an imminently useless hipbelt. A few extra ounces is not a deal breaker. As you can see on the REI review pages, a lot of people are beginning to experience the same problem I've had. If you would like more input, feel free to contact me.

*Important note: If not for the hipbelt design flaw [defective belt panel material], I would have given each of these backpacks FIVE STARS. Aside from that problem, these are amazing backpacks.

Some other gear I may eventually review in more detail:

REI Quarter Dome T2 Tent - Totally awesome tent! Almost perfect. Tons of room (especially head room), lightweight, durable, easy to set up. You almost never need to stake out this tent. It may be 12 ounces heavier than the Big Agnes Seedhouse SL-2 (reviewed below), but the ultralight weight is the ONLY redeeming quality about the SL-2.

Big Agnes Seedhouse SL-2 Tent - Sucks. No room, not durable, too labor intensive, expensive, smells funny. This is not truly a freestanding tent; you always have to stake it out. (I returned it for a Quarter Dome and got a lot of money back. Very good move.) I have no idea why REI customers give this tent good reviews. Probably because most of them haven't used it outside of the back yard.

Vasque Breeze GTX XCR Boots - I've put 1,100 miles on these boots, and they could last another 500 miles. Reasonably lightweight. Comfortable. Good support.

Kelty Red Cloud 6650 Backpack - Huge backpack. Unfortunately the tightest hipbelt setting is not tight enough for average sized people, which means all the weight ends up on your shoulders. The hipbelt worked for me in the beginning because I had a pretty big gut when I started. But within a month or two, my gut was gone and the hipbelt was useless. I'm pretty sure the shoulder straps gave me permanent nerve damage in my hands/arms.

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