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Zero Impact Challenge

Is it possible to build a backpack that doesn't contribute to global warming? Not yet, but five pioneering companies gave it one helluva try. (Cue standing ovation.)

GoLite Jam2rc
In sustainable design and manufacturing, less is definitely more. That philosophy, which already pervades GoLite’s line, makes this sub-two-pounder light on your back–and the planet.

All of GoLite’s packs are streamlined. But the Jam2rc takes simplicity to a new level by applying the three rules cited above to the company’s existing Jam pack. Designers skipped the framesheet and kept the 3,100-cubic-inch packbag clean, yet still managed to include a hydration compartment, two water-bottle pockets, and a large zippered front pouch. Except for the zipper, thread, and backpanel foam, this prototype uses recycled materials. Interestingly, that makes it 7 ounces heavier than the regular Jam, though it also feels more abrasion-resistant. The pack worked best with loads of 20 pounds or less; the minimalist frame and hipbelt favor hikers with hardy shoulders or modest mileage goals. $100 (projected price); 1 lb. 13 oz.; golite.com

JanSport Leandro
With this prototype, JanSport lays the groundwork for entering one new market–renewable outdoor gear–and revisiting another it helped create: all-purpose ultralight packs.

Another poster child for simplicity: This tapered, top-loading packbag has only two deep water-bottle pockets, four stylishly small side-compression straps, two ice-axe loops, and a hydration sleeve. That’s it. And although JanSport is not yet ready to launch the Leandro, it’s already developing a strategy for reclaiming packs at the end of their useful lives. The materials here are 64% recyclable and 23% biodegradeable, which means the company can take the packs back and repurpose them (it intends to). Testers appreciated the moderately supportive framesheet (made from biodegradeable PLA), the deep side pockets, and the elegance of the Leandro’s roll-top closure. The color may be too bright for some, but it makes finding stuff inside easy. $120 (projected price); 1 lb. 13 oz.; jansport.com

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