I used this pack for over 500 miles on the AT in 2007 & 2008. I love the fit and carry. I don't know if they have resolved this issue, but in 2007 there were a number of hikers on the AT that had the long seams on the front of the pack fail. I watched mine closely, and when I began to see signs of stress contacted GG. They were quick to get another pack out to me and I've had no further issues. I have no desire to use another pack, and if something happened to this one I would replace it with another GG VT. I have the optional lid: it did not work for me, it was bothersome and prevented me from compressing the load the way I like (I like my pack cinched down TIGHT). What I ended up wit in stead was a rectangluar piece of a foam cut from a discarded ridgerest pad. I would place items I may need to get at during the day in a small stuff sack on top, followed by my folded rain jacket, then the piece of foam (which was used as a sit-upon), the extension collar was then tightened around the edges of the foam pad, and the compression straps cinched to hold it all in place. It made rest stops a breeze. I also used the optional hip pockets, and 1 strap pocket. The hip pockets tended to get in my way (I'm short, 5'2"), but the strap pocket was great. I kept my camera and an energy bar there. I guess if you were using the side pockets for water bottles they wouldn't work well, but I used a hydration bladder, and it worked out great. I also developed a system for loading my gear (which I think any long distance hiker would do), and really liked the stretchy side pockets. I carried my tent poles in 1 side, under the compression strap, and my small fuel bottle on the other side (it fit entirely inside the pocket).