Posts Tagged outdoors
Alternate title: OMG, I’ll never carry my ski gear in a shoulder bag ever again. Transpack specializes in backpack-style ski and snowboard boot bags, with several distinct models to choose from. What they all have in common: high quality construction, intelligent design, and comfort.
Transpack calls its design the ‘isosceles storage system’, which reminds me unpleasantly of high school geometry but, unlike my math education, turns out to be something I can actually use in the real world. What an ‘isosceles storage system means: the interior design of most Transpack bags is such that the toes of the boots meet together in the front of the pack, away from your back when you carry the load. The weight of the pack is distributed to the sides, which equals happy shoulders and neck muscles.
Go on the Transpack site, and you’ll be faced with a dizzying array of options. While they only make a few main styles of backpacks, there are several models in each category. To break it down and identify the main differences in styles, my skiing and snowboarding family and I tried out four different Transpacks. (We try to be helpful like that.)
For starters, no matter what your boot bag needs, Transpack has you well taken care of with backpack straps for an impressively comfortable carry. The question you have to ask yourself is: how big a bag do I need, how sturdy does it have to be, and where will it be traveling with me?
Transpack breakdown (clockwise from top left): Compact Pro, Sidekick, XT1, and Edge Jr.
This is the pack you need if you’re an every-weekend, all winter long kind of skier. I tested this out for myself, as I ski at least once per week all season long. The Pro comes in a standard size or a compact size, features the Isosceles Storage System (so it’s triangular shaped), and is made of super tough, treated 1680 ballistic nylon with a water resistant TPU tarpaulin bottom. You get reflective piping on the sides, a roomy central compartment for gear, side zippered pockets for ski or snowboard boots (with drainage), and many internal and external pockets, including a soft fleece-lined goggle pocket. There’s a stabilizing waist strap in addition to the shoulder straps, and a mesh padded back panel that you’d expect to see on a hiking day pack, not a boot bag. I found the compact Pro to be plenty big enough to store my helmet, my boots, gloves, two pairs of goggles, an extra shell, and all the little items that get lost in the bottom of a standard bag: sunscreen, car keys, screwdriver and binding adjustment tool, ski pass, sunglasses, and lip balm. I’d only opt for a standard for men with very large ski boots. The Pro is $119 through Transpack retailers like REI and $109 on Amazon, and comes in a variety of colors.
If you plan to use your pack a little less often (say 2-3 major ski trips per season), you can save some dough downgrading from a Pro to an XT1. The main difference: the XT1 is made of water resistant coated 600 denier polyester instead of the higher grade ballistic nylon. There’s no major difference visibly. You still get the rubberized water resistant TPU tarp bottom, and because the XT1 is one of the more popular styles, it comes in a greater variety of colors and prints. The design is the same as the Pro, including the patented Isosceles Storage System. Our 12-year-old is using the XT1, and he’s been swapping out his ski boots and snowboard boots in the boot pockets, finding that they fit both easily. You get mesh zippered size pockets and a top pocket on the outside, perfect for ski passes, keys, and other small items. Like with the Pro, helmets, gloves, and other larger items fit in the main compartment. The XT1 retails for $90 at Transpack and can be found on Amazon or Sun And Ski Sports for as low as $69. (Your other economical option is the Edge, found on Amazon for under $50.)
For kids under 10, the Edge Jr is a manageable size. We’re big fans of kids carrying their own gear, but our eight-year-old really struggled with a shoulder-strap style bag. It kept slipping off his shoulder or thumping against his legs as he navigated the parking lot. With the Edge Jr, which is pretty much identical to the XT1 but smaller, he can easily carry his bag and his skis and poles. There’s plenty of room for a kid-sized helmet, gloves, boots, and outer layer, though this bag is missing the dedicated goggle pocket. I guess Transpack (correctly) assumes that kids have already scratched their goggles beyond repair anyway. The Edge Jr is $49 at Amazon, a bit less at Paragon Sports, and comes in fun prints, like gray camo.
Transpack Sidekick and Sidekick Pro:
The sidekick is the alternative to the Isosceles Storage System style. This backpack carries boots on the outside of the pack, using a Delta strap boot system with optional, stowaway boot covers to protect boots against the elements. Personally, I prefer for my boots to be zippered into an interior dedicated pocket, but the Sidekick is perfect for my 14-year-old, who wants a more versatile bag.
How is the Sidekick different? In addition to the exterior boot carry, this bag has a traditional backpack design, complete with hydration sleeve, laptop sleeve, and an exterior zippered helmet compartment. Our teen uses his bag to and from school ski trips, so he uses the laptop sleeve to stow homework and books. He also likes that he has the option of the hydration sleeve for use as an on-mountain pack. The Sidekick Pro is made from the same ballistic nylon as the regular Pro, and the regular Sidekick sports the polyester. The pack appears pretty bulky and cumbersome loaded up with ski boots on either side and helmet strapped in the outside pocket, but in fact, my son and I were both amazed by how well the shoulder and waist straps support the weight, and how well that weight is distributed. Like the other bags, you get plenty of interior and exterior pockets to keep your gear organized. The Sidekick Pro retails for $120 through Transpack retailers or as low as $99 on Amazon, in a good variety of solid colors.
Outfitting your entire family in quality boot bags is an investment, but we don’t plan on needing to replace our Transpacks for a long time. I can’t say the same of the cheaper shoulder strap bags we’ve used in the past. A set of Transpacks might make for a great holiday gift to the whole family under the tree this year. Just saying.
My new favorite bike/hike/outdoor travel backpack! The Salomon Synapse is lightweight, refreshingly simple without compromising on features, and versatile. The 20 L size is perfect for day hikes, bike rides, and even ski days, and flattens down small enough to stash in a suitcase to be utilized mid-trip.
The best feature of the Synapse is something I’ve come to expect from Salomon: stability while you move. The hip belt, shoulder straps, and sternum straps shift with your movement, allowing a full range of motion with out the usual sliding of the pack (and sliding of contents inside). The 20 L pack is bigger than I need for trail runs, but my guess is that it would perform well even with that significant amount of body movement. For a day hike or travel day, it’s ideal.
The pack is panel-loading, and includes four pockets in addition to the main compartment: a top small-item pocket for keys, room card, or sunglasses, a hip belt zippered pocket that can stash a cell phone or small camera, an outside sleeve with a bungee strap system, a zippered outer compartment, and two water bottle pockets. You also get an internal hydration sleeve that holds a 2 L reservoir, with drink tube straps.
The back panel is lightweight and soft, with plenty of padding and ventilation. Poles can be carried on the outside via the bungee straps using rip-and-stick attachment points. The main compartment expands more than you’d think: I easily carried two rain jackets, a DSLR camera, and snacks for two people. The Synapse is going to be my go-to small-sized backpack for a long time. My only complaint: the pack is unisex, but even pulled to the smallest size, the waist belt is too big on me. This is somewhat of a non-issue, since I’d never carry a lot of weight in the Synapse, but with a full water reservoir, I found myself wishing I could cinch it tight.
Mountain Khakis calls their lightweight, packable adventure pant the Granite Creek Pant. I call it the Do All, Go Everywhere, and Look Great Doing It Pant. (Wordy, but accurate. I’m sure Mountain Khakis will be calling me shortly to rename all their other pants, too.)
The Granite Creek pant comes in men’s and women’s styles, and truly will perform for all travel situations and outdoor adventures. (By the way, we’re not Granite Creek newbies. Check out our reviews of other Granite Creek line clothing.) Unlike some trekking pants that get the job done but scream ‘outdoor excursion’, the Granite Creek looks downright casual while still featuring everything you’d need on said excursion. Both the men’s and women’s version offers a relaxed fit (women’s is called a contemporary fit), which gives you some style while still being comfortable. I’ve found all MK women’s wear to be a bit roomy; order a size down if you want a very slim fit. They are constructed of 100% brushed nylon, pack down small without wrinkling, and come to you Scotchgard treated. (Note: my husband and I took ours through the wringer on a multi-day backpack trip, and should have double-treated them with Nikwax stain guard in addition.)
The Granite Creek offers UV protection of 50, and wicks away moisture like a pro. Wear them hiking or in the rain, and keep your skin dry and your core temperature steady. As stated, the Granite Creek isn’t loud and showy with trekking pant features, but they’re there none-the-less: both men’s and women’s version offers five pockets, including a flat front and rear zip pocket, plus a cargo pocket with a hidden security compartment. Seams are triple-stitched to ensure the pants last you for years, and you get MK’s mudflap reinforced heel cuffs.
I took my Granite Creek pants on multiple travels, from an adventurous Alaska vacation to a Canadian Rockies tour via rail. My husband abused his backpacking and fishing. Both pairs enjoy frequent field trips out of the closet for everything from golf to dinner out to average work day use.
Pick up the Mountain Khakis men’s pant for $82 in four colors (see below), or opt for the convertible style with zip-off pants for just a few dollars more. The women’s Granite Creek Pant can be had for the same cost, in ash, birch, pine, or mushroom. Find both on Amazon, Backcountry or Moosejaw for a few bucks less. Need something a little more polished for everyday wear? Opt for the men’s Teton Twill Pant or the women’s Everyday Chino Pant.
Helly Hansen calls their Marstrand Packable jacket an ‘all in one, colorful, classic packable jacket’, which sums it up perfectly, making my job easier. The Marstrand Packable certainly does pack down small, but don’t get the wrong idea: this is a substantial three-season jacket. A little sister (or brother…it comes in men’s, too) of the thicker Marstrand Jacket, the Marstrand Packable is 100% polyester and includes a full hood.
It comes with zippered front pockets (with an attached carabiner in one), drawstring closure to the hood, a front zipper that comes all the way to the chin to provide protection, and elastic cuffs at the wrists to keep out damp weather. It’s not insulated, but does a great job of keeping the wind and light rain at bay. For me, the Marstrand Packable has shone during summer in Alaska (where lightweight jackets are considered summer wear), in the NW along the coast (again, where lightweight jackets are considered summer wear), and in spring and fall during ‘transitioning season’ weather. It packs into its own front pocket, and can easily be stowed in carry-on luggage or in a day pack. It’s not as lightweight as some of the most technical packable jackets out there, but I’ve been grateful for its relative bulk once I’m wearing it.
I like the look of the Marstrand Packable, too. It comes in white with navy accents or magenta with navy and white accents and sports a very classic Helly Hansen look, with nautical emblems and striping in addition to the Helly Hansen brand logo. I have the magenta and would call it closer to a classic bright pink. It retails for $140 on Helly Hansen, but you can pick one up in XS-XL on Amazon for $105.
There’s also a men’s Marstrand packable version—get it at Moosejaw.
Finding a small-frame pack for youth and young adults that performs at ‘grown up’ level can be a challenge. When our 12-year-old son Calvin outgrew his external frame child’s pack, we went in search of the next level for him. At 5′ and under 100 pounds, he wasn’t bulky enough or tall enough for an adult men’s pack, and a women’s pack simply isn’t shaped correctly for him. We landed on the Mountainsmith Youth Pursuit, which is a great stepping-stone pack between a kid and adult model.
Calvin is a serious backpacker, and the Youth Pursuit met his serious packing needs. It’s a full-featured internal frame pack with all the same technical features as its daddy, the Moutainsmith Apex, in a smaller 45 L frame package. I loved that the Pursuit hadn’t been ‘downgraded’ for youth, but rather brought youth to the next level of backpacking.
The suspension is fully adjustable via velcro, which means Calvin could get an exact fit, instead of settling for the closest notch (this also means it will grow with him, at least for a while). The bottom of the pack features a sleeping bag compartment with an internal panel that can be removed to open up the pack to a single compartment, and two very deep side pockets hold just about any type of water bottle. External zippered top side pockets and a zippered back pocket hold smaller items, such as a headlamp, snack, sunglasses, or a camera, and a sleeve for a hydration pack sits flat to the main compartment, which is top-loading, with a drawstring closure. The detachable top lid can double as a lumbar day pack and offers more room in its zippered compartment that it appears to. You get a safety whistle on the sternum strap, and the back mesh panel is decently breathable. Plenty of external loops provide space to attach extra gear.
All-in-all, the Youth Pursuit is a satisfyingly grown up pack for those in-betweeners on the trail. Calvin considers his a major upgrade from his child pack, and the price is very reasonable for such a high-quality gear expert as Mountainsmith. The Youth Pursuit retails for under $130 on Backcountry, or get it on sale at Amazon for just $99!