OSPREY ARCHEON 30
Even in a market that’s (finally) showing an appetite for green gear, the Archeon stands out. Its packbag, lining, and rain cover are 100-percent recycled from industrial scraps, and its DWR treatment is PFC-free. Plus, the 1880-denier nylon canvas—the densest material in the test— means this might just be the last daypack you ever buy (nothing’s greener than gear that doesn’t need replacing). “Thick willows and alder caused no damage,” reports one tester, who tested the Archeon’s durability on an off-trail trek in Alaska’s Wrangell Mountains. “I took another pack on a similar trip last year, and it’s wrecked.” Ding: price.
A sturdy frame sheet and two aluminum stays allow the Archeon to carry up to 25 pounds comfortably. The full-length center zip meant we never had to dig for gear, and the pack has hipbelt pockets and a toplid that fits a shell and a midlayer. Drawback: weight. “I felt the extra pounds on hikes longer than 15 miles,” notes one tester, who finished Alaska’s 20-mile Penguin Ridge Traverse with sore shoulders. $240; 4 lbs. 3 oz. (m’s); one size each, m’s and w’s
BEST FOR BIG LOADS
THULE VERSANT 60L
That camp chair you’re hesitant about taking? Go ahead, bring it along. The Versant 60L both devours gear and keeps it all at the ready, thanks to huge pockets and a large front U-zip that permits quick access to the main packbag. “It’s surprisingly roomy, and stores even more gear than you’d think,” says one tester who raved about how easy it was to load the Versant. Three enormous toplid pockets can hold as much as a small daypack, and the pack sports a hydration sleeve, two side pockets, and an articulated shoveit sleeve that expands with a zipper-and-button closure. Bonus: The detachable toplid doubles as a summit pack with a secure, cross-body carry.
A spring-steel perimeter frame transfers weight to the hips, and broad hipbelt fins, made of mesh-wrapped foam, spread the load evenly across the lower back. The result? “Lumbar support is exceptional,” reports one tester, who loaded the Versant with 38 pounds on a trip to Berry Pass in southern Alaska. Ding: Backpanel breathability is poor. $260; 3 lbs. 13 oz. (m’s); one size each, m’s and w’s
ULTIMATE DIRECTION SIGNATURE SERIES ADVENTURE VEST 5.0
Ideal for trail runners and dawn-to-dusk dayhikers, the Adventure Vest 5.0 is one of the most modular, fully-featured packs we’ve seen in this size. Tiny clips on the back and sides let you reconfigure the bungee lacing as either lashing for extra layers or as compression straps for smaller loads. The pack comes with a removable PLB pocket, and the integrated rain cover does double-duty: The waterproof flap tucks down behind the mesh backpanel when not in use to keep sweat out of your gear. (And we never got too drippy while using it for that purpose.)
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March - April 2020