Posts Tagged backpacks
It used to be that I’d only see die-hard cyclists and backpackers using hydration packs. Then I started seeing them more often on casual hikers and skiers. In the past year however, they’re suddenly everywhere. If you’re wondering which one is right for you, or just what all the hype is about, you’re not alone. I was wondering the same thing, so I tried out four packs from three brands for a little compare and contrast. All the hydration packs below include the pack itself, plus a water reservoir and tube with drinking nozzle. They vary in terms of size and storage, and all sell their water reservoir systems separately if you want to adapt it to a pack you already own.
Platypus Tokul XC:
The Platypus Tokul comes in three sizes for both men and women: 3L, 5L, and 8L. The smaller two sizes include a 2L reservoir, and the 8L includes a 3L reservoir. The pack itself has the most storage capacity of any of the systems we tried. You get a roomy internal gear pocket, plus a mesh stuff pocket on the outside. We easily fit an extra layer of clothing in the pack, plus snacks and necessities like car keys. The pack is comfortable, includes a chest strap, and feels streamlined while on. The hydration system includes a bite-valve with tube, and for us is the most easily adaptable with our current gear: we already use the Platypus GravityWorks filtration system while backpacking, and we can easily switch out reservoirs and tubing. The reservoir is designed with a zip-top (much like a zip lock baggie) which is then secured with an additional slide lock clip, but to fill the bag requires using one hand to hold open the mouth. Not ideal, but not a deal-breaker, either. The tubing is secured to either shoulder strap of the pack with loops and a clip, which works reasonably well. We used the 8L Tokul on both day hikes and downhill ski days, and found it a solid fit, especially while hiking. The reservoir fits in it’s own compartment, and while it’s not terribly difficult to load it while full, it’s not a walk in the park, either. It does take some sliding and shifting. Once in the pack, however, it does not slosh around. I appreciate that the Tokul 8L is just big enough not to need an additional pack for storage.
If you need a much bigger hydration pack, we also tried out the Platypus Sprinter XT with 35L of space and hydration. The reservoir is identical to that of the Tokul, but the storage capabilities are extensive. The pack opens wide at the top, but includes compression straps on the side to tighten things down when you have less gear. Find it at Cascade Designs or Moosejaw for $159 in Raven or Lava. For $20 less there’s a 25L version.
The Osprey Verve for women comes in 5L, 9L, and 13L. There’s also the men’s equivalent to this pack, the Viper. I tested the 5L, but you can also check out a past review of a larger Verve. The Verve and Viper have less storage room than the Tokul, but more compartments to separate your stuff and a flatter, more streamlined look. I found the pack design to be superior: you get Osprey’s AirScape back panel to wick away moisture and provide some air flow, plus the hydration hose is secured with not only a sleeve down the shoulder strap, but a handy magnet that holds it in place. I found I appreciated this feature more than I anticipated. There’s a chest strap as well as a hip belt, and a front pocket and shoulder pocket as well. The reservoir has a vastly different design than that of the Platypus, and it really just comes down to preference. To fill the Osprey, you open a large valve and hold the reservoir flat under the water stream. There’s a sturdy handle by which to hold it and load it back into the pack (in its own compartment, of course). I found it easier to load than the Platypus, but less adaptable with the rest of my gear. If you already have an Osprey backpack however, it’s a breeze to transfer the Verve hydration system to a large pack.
The Camelbak Kicker is a great option for kids. Camelbak advertises it for kids five years and up, but I’d say 6-10. It has a 1.5L hydration system, which, when filled, is heavier than you’d think. The pack fit our eight-year-old perfectly; he zipped around several ski resorts with it on his back without a problem, and carried on it on quite a challenging hike. At five years old, it may have been too heavy, and the pack itself was too small for our 12-year-old. You get quite a nice storage compartment with this pack, big enough to carry an extra pair of gloves, a light jacket or outer layer, or a hat and snacks. The hose is insulated, and the bite valve is easy for kids to manipulate. The reservoir is designed similarly to the Osprey: you fill after unlocking a large valve in the center. It’s less easy to slide back into the reservoir sleeve than the Osprey, but not impossible for a child to do him or herself. There’s a chest strap and the shoulder straps are adjustable. All in all, this is a kids’ pack that boasts all the features of an adult pack, which is what we look for. For $50 at Camelbak or Zappos, or as low as $35 on Amazon, you can pick from blue or pink.
When you’re biking or hiking and don’t need a huge pack along with you, the choices can get a little less technical. Even if you’re lightening the load, hikers and cyclists still care about hydration and pack structure. The Osprey Raven pack is ideal for women looking for a smaller-scale way to haul things around.
The Raven is offered in three sizes: 6, 10 and 14 liters. I’ve got the 14, mainly because I was worried about getting something smaller and then later realizing that I needed more space. But I still haven’t gone on an outing when I’ve filled the entire thing, so perhaps the 10 would have been, as Goldilocks said, “just right.”
Why is it women’s pack? The torso sizing, waist belt and shoulder straps are all sized specifically for a woman’s frame. Other features include a lower compression strap for better load stabilization, an ErgoPull hipbelt (that is easy to adjust) and direct access hydration sleeve that makes it easy to slide your water supply in and out (Osprey 3-liter reservoir included).
Additionally, the main compartment is wide—useful for getting to everything you’ve packed. Organizational dividers let you keep from having to look frantically for that one thing you need, which always seems to fall to the bottom. Zippered hip belt pockets, stretch mesh side pockets and a slash pocket allow you to pack the most-used items within easy reach while you’re riding or hiking.
The 10- and 14-liter versions include a roll-up tool pouch that stores in a lower zip compartment. On the front of the pack: a blinker light attachment and a way to quickly secure your helmet when it’s not on your head.
I’ve used the Raven pack for quick bike rides to the gym, longer rides in the mountains and day hiking trips. With plenty of outdoor activities planned for the summer, I’m planning to bring it along on a number of my travels, as well.
The 10-liter Osprey Raven Pack lists for $119 at REI and comes in clover green or iris purple. It’s also available on backcountry.com and Amazon for about the same price. The other two sizes of the pack are also available.
Even if you don’t listen to all the scaremongering TV news and your relatives’ warnings about all the dangers “out there” in other countries, some precautions can help you hold onto your belongings. Pacsafe is the leader in making bags that are super-tough to steal things from and this Venturesafe G2 one is a great all-around travel daypack.
This 25-liter pack will hold most of what you’re going to need for the day: camera, jacket, water bottle, notebook—and old-school guidebook and new-school tablet. Heck, it’ll hold a 15-inch Macbook if you want (though there’s not much padding). Plus the chargers of course. The RFID-Safe pocket that Pacsafe is getting into all its new products will shield your passport info and those chip-based credit cards that are finally showing up on U.S. shores.
The magic with any bag from this company though is all the built-in features that keep prying fingers away from that nice camera, phone, or iPad you’re carrying around. This daypack weighs one pound, nine ounces, but it has the eXomesh wire skeleton built in that make the bag nearly impossible to do a slash-and-grab on. Thieves also can’t just slash the strap and run or hop a motorbike with your bag in hand: there’s stainless steel wire going through the straps that will stop a knife dead. And they can’t unhook those straps either without doing a little twist move on the security hooks.
Speaking of security hooks, there are a couple hidden away that you can hook your keys to, plus the zippers can lock in two ways: a TSA lock through the small holes or a little cable lock through the larger ones.
Naturally the fabric itself is tough, water resistant, and will wipe clean. The straps come with a limited waist strap and a sternum strap if your load gets heavy. The pack is hydration equipped, with a flap for the tube to go through at the top.
Last, you get a turtle-shell style padded back that will let some air move between your back and the daypack. I would have liked a few more pouches and pockets on the inside of the small flap, but maybe I’ve just gotten spoiled by the bigger ones I’ve used like the Deuter Giga Office.
Nobody can top Pacsafe when it comes to discouraging theft, however, so this Venturesafe 25L G2 daypack is worth the $130 list if you’re planning on routinely walking around Rome, Barcelona, or Saigon with a grand or more of electronics slung over your shoulder.
Whether you’re a flashpacker or a business traveler that wants to keep the load light, this Digi Hauler convertible backpack by Eagle Creek could be your ultimate carry-on.
As a laptop or tablet has become as common for travelers to carry as a toiletry kit, and legacy airlines do their best to make you pay up to check a bag, a carry-on bag that can hold your clothes and your electronics is now vital. While some rolling bags have a laptop pocket, those wheels subtract vital space you could be using for packing, plus they add a lot of weight. The lightest rollaboard bag I’ve used is a 6.8-pound one from Delsey I’ll be reviewing later. This one without wheels comes in under two pounds—and has a higher cargo capacity.
So unless you’re a 98-pound-weakling and can’t carry your bag, this Digi Hauler allows you to pack more and be more mobile, especially in places where you can’t wheel your bag down a sidewalk. This one works as a backpack or you can stuff away the straps and use the grab handles for a suitcase/duffle bag. It holds 44 liters, or 2700 cubic inches. Probably not enough for a year-long round-the-world journey for all but the lightest packers, but plenty for a week’s vacation or long weekend break. All you need, with no baggage fees to pay. (Unless you’re on Spirit Air, Ryanair, or Allegiant that is.) That’s the same capacity, by the way, of the much-loved Tom Bihn Aeronaut I’ve used on countless trips.
This Eagle Creek one is considerably lighter than that one, but thanks to thinner ripstop nylon fabric. I’m not really worried about the durability. I have yet to wear out any Eagle Creek bag ever, over a period of close to 20 years now, so the lifetime warranty is not just a marketing ploy. The laptop section doesn’t have much padding, so you might want to put your computer in a sleeve, but it sits right next to your back instead of being accessible to thieves on the other side. There’s also a hook at the top for locking the zipper in place.
There are three other pockets: one on the front flap, a mesh one inside the flap, and a lined side one that can be used for a water bottle. All the zippers have pulls that are easy to grip and there are external compression straps to hold everything in place. It comes in three colors, all with reflective areas for safety.
Want one for $10? Our sister site, the Cheapest Destinations Blog, is participating in the annual Passports with Purpose charity drive to raise money with Water.org to build wells in rural Haiti. You can bid a $10 donation on this item that Eagle Creek so generously donated and you could score. (Open to North America recipients only.)
Want to bid on some other things to improve your odds? Perceptive Travel is giving away a weekend getaway in Texas and our contributor Amy Whitley pulled in a stay at a Ritz Carlton in California. But you ladies might be more interested in what our blogger Jill Robinson put up: a nice merino wool Realfleece 260 jacket from Icebreaker.
There are probably a dozen other things you’ll drool over. Visit the Passports with Purpose donation page before December 11 to see the whole list and try to win.
Sometimes, it seems like there’s a different daypack for every day of the week—for an entire year. Some are better for certain types of hiking or trekking, but I’ve found a great all-arounder in the Kelty Women’s Redwing 40.
The pack isn’t new. It’s a tried-and-true classic Kelty design, but has recently gotten a facelift. One of the things I like the most about is that it balances the need for a variety of organization pockets with a super-roomy main compartment. I feel like I have plenty of ways to stash items I need to keep separately, in a place I’ll (mostly) remember where I put them. And then, I still have tons of room in the big compartment.
The 41-liter pack’s suspension system is tailored for a women’s frame, and includes a LightBeam aluminum stay, plus well-padded shoulder straps and waist belt. The back panel wicks moisture away from you, and is ventilated as well, so you don’t have to bathe in perspiration on those warm hiking days.
Aside from all the awesome pockets, the pack is hydration compatible (you need to provide the water container, however) and includes side compression straps and ice-ax loops. I was initially skeptical of the big carry handle on the front of the pack, until using it and realized it’s much more handy than carrying the pack around by the top loop.
I’ve been wearing the Redwing 40 around the floor of the gigantic, and sometimes overwhelming, Outdoor Retailer Summer Market show in Salt Lake City this week. I’m on my feet here all day, and having the pack along has been a great help.
Considering that I’ve lamented girly colors in travel gear in Practical Travel Gear reviews in the part, I think it’s worth noting that my Redwing 40 is the bright turquoise (called “jewel”) color. See? I can do color.