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Gear Review: Backpacks

Posted by Rachel Wendling at Jul 06, 2017 03:23 PM |
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The WTA gear team has been hard at work getting ready for prime hiking season. Here are four packs that we’ve tried out recently, to fit a wide range of hiking needs.

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Photo by Andrew Shepherd.

The WTA gear team has been hard at work getting ready for prime hiking season. Here are four packs that we’ve tried out recently, to fit a wide range of hiking needs.

DEUTER KID COMFORT AIR

KidComfortAir_GraniteEmerald.jpgIf you’re planning on hiking with young kids, a comfortable, safe and easy-to-use kid carrier is essential. The Deuter Kid Comfort Air checks each of those boxes. With its adjustable lumbar support and padded straps, people of all heights and frames can trade off  carrying the kid without swapping packs. The mesh lining and child-seat position allow better air fl ow and therefore keep both kiddo and adult cooler. Kids ride comfortably and safely with a five-point harness, foot rests and a washable chin or head rest for drooling babies. The pack even has a kickstand that keeps it stable and upright when you take it off —outstandingly useful if your kiddo falls asleep on the hike. The Comfort Air offers plenty of storage for a sack lunch and all those kid necessities, yet it also packs down nice and compact. With all these features, the pack weighs in at only 6 pounds. Once a child can sit up unassisted and hold up their head, they’re big enough to begin using the Kid Comfort Air. They can keep using it until they reach 45 pounds. For extra protection from the elements for your kid, consider buying the attachable sun roof and rain cover ($29). backcountry.com, $239.

ArielAG55_S17_Side_PicanteRed.jpgOSPREY AETHER/ARIEL AG 55

If you’re in the market for a backpack that can fit a full week of supplies, this Osprey might be what you’re looking for. Constructed of a 3.5-millimeter LightWire peripheral frame and suspended mesh back panels, this pack is both comfortable and lightweight. It has a removable lid that doubles as a daypack, zippered sleeping bag compartment and removable attachments for extra gear. It has a J-shaped zipper on the front panel to access the main compartment, as well as both internal and external functional pockets. With models for both men (Aether) and women (Ariel) and extensive adjustment options, it’s almost guaranteed to work for you. Order your size based on torso length; if the included heat-moldable hip belt and harness don’t fit correctly, you can order different sizes and interchange them for a more customizable fit. Make sure to load the pack up before making a final judgment. Its weight-distribution strategy and mesh panels feel strange when empty but really work well once you use the pack as it was intended. ospreypacks.com, $290.

ACTTrail28SL_MapPocket.jpgDEUTER ACT TRAIL 28 SL

While each person has their own preferences, testers found this women’s pack pretty close to perfect. The ACT 28 is somehow big enough for quick overnights, yet still small enough to comfortably use around town. An internal pocket is compatible with a 3-liter hydration reservoir but can also be used as a laptop sleeve. Pockets are exactly where you would look for them, making it a very intuitive pack to use. It even has a U-shaped, two-way front zipper that allows for direct access to all your gear in the main compartment. No more unloading the whole pack to grab something from the bottom! This pack is designed for a woman’s frame and our testers found it quite comfortable. While the hipbelt is not padded, the thin rubbery mesh is well designed and allows for proper weight distribution without adding extra weight. The hip belt folds fl at and can be tucked behind the back frame to stow out of the way when not in use. The pack also includes a packable nylon raincover. backcountry.com, $129.

mariposa.jpgGOSSAMER GEAR MARIPOSA

Our tester, a Pacific Crest Trail section hiker, made the jump to a Gossamer Gear Mariposa in 2016— and is never going back. The Mariposa’s pack body and hip belt are interchangeable, for a custom fit; the medium body and medium belt come in at 32.7 ounces. Its volume is 60 liters, and it will carry a bear canister vertically in the interior. The max load is 30 pounds; you might be able to push that a little, say on a long dry stretch, but it’s much better to stay within the recommended weight. The Mariposa has seven external pockets. On the left, there is a full-length pocket, where our tester carried a tent, poles and umbrella. The right side has two smaller pockets, arranged vertically—conveniently placed to carry water if you prefer to not use the hydration sleeve. On the front, there is a huge mesh pocket, extremely useful for wet items. The hip belt has two large pockets, which are positioned toward the buckle for easy access: the perfect spot to store snacks and a small camera or a phone.  There’s also a fl at pocket on the lid and an internal hydration sleeve. gossamergear.com. $225, $45 for hipbelt, if desired.

This article originally appeared in the July+August 2017 issue of Washington Trails Magazine. Support trails as a member of WTA to get your one-year subscription to the magazine.