The canoe world lost out big time when Ostrom Outdoors closed its doors.
Since then, paddlers have grown desperate to find a pack that matches an Ostrom—which were designed and built by Bill Ostrom in Thunder Bay, Ontario.
Here are my choices since Ostrom’s departure a couple of years back.
Dan Cooke’s packs have been labelled by a lot of paddlers as an American version of Canada’s Ostrom packs. It’s a good comparison. The design is simple—and that’s why I like it. No bells and whistles. Just a plain, comfortable, tough canoe pack made of Cordura nylon. I own the CCS Traditional; actually it’s my daughter’s pack. She loves it. It’s the CCS #3-1/2, a combination envelopes and box style design. At 3,450 cubic inches (56 litres)—it's large enough for the necessities and not too big so you just keep stuffing useless gear in simply because you can.
I have to admit that the initial reason I bought a Frost River pack is that they look darn good in photographs. After using them on trip, however, I added a few more reasons why I like them so much. Frost River packs are made of extremely rugged waxed canvas, high quality leather and solid brass hardware. They’re hand sewn in the U.S. and guaranteed for life. They also balance nicely, especially while using a tump-line. My preferred design is their Kitchen Pack. I don’t use it for the cooking gear, however. The box-style design (6,626 cubic inches/108 litres) and large side pockets provide all the room I need for my main gear. An added bonus is the detachable utensil roll, something I use to store all my odds and ends.
Two main praises given to Granite Gear by paddlers are: tough and comfortable. Durability comes from the Cordura body. The comfort comes from the foam-padded back panel and the waist and chest straps. This allows you to adjust and distribute the weight evenly. The expedition series—aptly dubbed Quetico—is my favourite. Again, a good size for regular gear. A good number of adjustable side and cover straps also allow you to store a few extra items. The pack also comes with handle straps that make it easy to load and unload into the canoe.
Eureka provides a totally waterproof pack. All the others need some sort of dry bag placed inside of it. The SS115 is my river-running bag and it hasn’t sprung a leak yet. This 115-litre bag is made out of highly durable and waterproof 600D and 1000D polyester and comes with a shoulder and hip belt. Two outside hoist handles make it easy to place it in and out of the canoe. It’s a comfortable waterproof bag—and it’s also offered at a good price. If you’re not going on major expeditions, but you're still beyond the weekend warrior, it’s a good match. It’s also Canadian.