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Bags of Tricks: The Best New Daypacks
At times, it seems that an international gear conspiracy is outfitting increasingly over-built daypacks with ever more fanciful gimmicks: Think MP3-player pockets with internal routing sleeves for the headphones.
On these pages, though, you'll find such legitimate advances as spring-loaded suspension systems, insulated hydration sleeves, and ultralight construction. These features will keep you ventilated in hot weather, well watered in cold weather, and quick on your feet in all conditions.
All prices in U.S. dollars
Deuter has been selling packs in Germany for more than a century; the company hopes to find a foothold in the U.S. market by keeping our backs sweat-free.
The Deuter AC Lite keeps air flowing across the spine with something called an Aircomfort suspension system: A mesh fabric that lies against your back is stretched tight, like a trampoline, while the rest of the pack bows away, leaving a slender gap. It's ideal for long bike rides and hot-weather hikes.
2. Antigravity Technology: GoLite Speed
No backpack company embraces the fast-and-light movement more evangelically than GoLite. At 26 ounces (0.7 kilogram), the 3,150-cubic-inch (51,619-cubic-centimeter) GoLite Speed weighs less than half as much as similar-size packs. The Speed dispenses with excessive pockets, straps, and padding; further weight savings come with GoLite's proprietary SilLite fabric, a silicone-impregnated nylon that's both whispery and waterproof.
The pack isn't suited to hauling heavy loads. But anything up to 30 pounds (11.2 kilograms) can be handled in comfortand if you buy into GoLite's philosophy, that's all you really need.
3. An End to Slushies: Backcountry Access Stash BC
Sometimes it takes a small, focused company to solve a vexing design dilemma. In this case, the conundrum is how to keep your water from freezing in the narrow tube between your pack and the mouthpiece. The solution provided by the Backcountry Access Stash is to insulate the hydration-hose sleeve and build it into the left shoulder strap.
Other details on the Stash BC are similarly nailed: It's one of the few packs on the market, for instance, that let you strap your skis in diagonally so they don't slam into your legs as you hike. The zippers are waterproof, the straps are well placed, and the suspension is comfortable.
Most daypacks do more urban duty than backcountry exploration; the Jansport Tree Frog 30 can handle both. The pack is equipped with a dizzying array of slots, pouches, and pockets to accommodate workaday essentials. Off-trail details include a sleeve for a hydration bladder and a tapered profile meant to slip easily through thickets. A zip-away rain fly keeps everything dry on dreary days.
The simple suspension system is designed for a woman's frame, though it will fit men perfectly well. The 2,150-cubic-inch (35,232-cubic-centimeter) Dart Frog 35 ($100) is the official XY version.
5. A Pack for Every Back: Mystery Ranch Flip Monkey
After selling Dana Designs, backpack cult figure Dana Gleason briefly rested on his laurels, then launched a new venture focused on creating simple designs that are easy to adjust. The Mystery Ranch Flip Monkey gives new meaning to the word "adjustable": To accommodate disparate torso lengths, the main, lower compartment slides along a suspension panel and is secured with Velcro. The panel also helps the pack conform to your body as you move. It looks gimmicky, but the difference is easy to feel.
Photographs by Spencer Jones