“If I could have just one daypack in my life, this is my pick,” says our tester, a world-class big-mountain skier and wingsuit flyer who toted the Black Hole on a round-the-world adventure from Baffin Island to South Africa to China and beyond. “I used this pack constantly in the front- and backcountry and it was at home everywhere, from planes to hotel rooms to the side of Baffin’s Ottawa Peak.” It blends the durability and streamlined efficiency of a climber’s haulbag with a molded backpanel and padded shoulder straps that can comfortably carry loads up to 20 pounds. The lid’s U-shaped zipper provides unfettered access to the main packbag. On top, a low-profile—but surprisingly roomy—zippered pocket almost magically makes a headlamp, guidebook, and binoculars disappear; the discreet, accordion-style expandable zippered front pouch swallows wallets, boarding passes, an iPad, and maps. An interior organizer panel lets you keep small stuff like an iPod, keys, or a phone secure, and the padded laptop sleeve doubles as a hydration reservoir pocket. The 1,200-denier polyester fabric with TPU-film laminate and DWR finish thwarted every snow- and rainstorm our testers encountered. The zippers aren’t waterproof, but they’re protected by hood-like waterproof flaps.
And the material is darn tough: One pack survived more than 200 trail miles and 20,000 airline miles with far fewer signs of wear-and-tear than our tester. “Lay the Black Hole in the sand and it stays clean. Lay it in snow and it stays dry,” he proclaims. Ding: The webbing waist strap helps stabilize the load, but doesn’t provide any weight-bearing support. $149; 2 lbs. 3 oz.; 35 liters; 1 size;patagonia.com