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  Gear Guide
Bags of Tricks: The Best New Daypacks
New designs lead to some of the most useful (and weirdest) packs in years.
 1. Deuter AC Lite 15
 2. GoLite Speed
 3. Backcountry Access Stash BC
 4. Jansport Tree Frog 30
 5. Mystery Ranch Flip Monkey

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

Click to Enlarge.1. No-Sweat Cycling: Deuter AC Lite 15
Price: $60
Volume: 900 cubic inches (14,748 cubic centimeters)
Telephone: +1 303 652 3102
Web: www.deuterusa.com

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
Price: $139
Weight: 26 ounces (0.7 kilogram)
Volume: 3,150 cubic inches (51,613 cubic centimeters)
Telephone: 888 546 5483 (U.S. and Canada only)
Web: www.golite.com

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 comfort—and if you buy into GoLite's philosophy, that's all you really need.

Click to Enlarge.3. An End to Slushies: Backcountry Access Stash BC
Price: $145
Telephone: +1 303 417 1345
Volume: 2,000 cubic inches (32,774 cubic centimeters)
Web: www.bcaccess.com

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.

Click to Enlarge.4. Two Worlds, One Bag: Jansport Tree Frog 30
Price: $90
Volume: 1,850 cubic inches (30,316 cubic centimeters)
Telephone: 800 558 3600 (U.S. and Canada only)
Web: www.jansport.com

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.

Click to Enlarge.5. A Pack for Every Back: Mystery Ranch Flip Monkey
Price: $119
Volume: 1,500 cubic inches (24,581 cubic centimeters)
Telephone: +1 406 388 4550
Web: www.mysteryranch.com

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.

—Ben Hewitt

Photographs by Spencer Jones

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March 2002:
In the Magazine | Excerpts | Afghan Warlord | Colossal Cave | Property-Rights Forum | Antigua Travel Guide Gear Guide: Wool | Gear Guide: Daypacks

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