The problem with 11-year-old gear testers is they write comments like this: “The hipbelt pouches are the perfect size for almond M&Ms.” Gee thanks, Austin. Really technical stuff there, buddy.
Of course, there were other ways we could tell that Osprey’s new Ace, Jib (pictured), and Imp represent a sea change in comfort, features, and durability among youth backpacks. For one, the usual complaints–”Dad, my shoulders hurt”–virtually disappeared. Our kids actually volunteered to take more weight. And we were able to tackle more demanding terrain, including several rugged multiday routes in the Grand Canyon that would have been dangerous–even impossible–with less stable packs.
Credit a suspension and frame sized for narrower hips, shoulders, and backs, and a harness that wraps as snugly as grown-up Ospreys. Torso length adjusts on the fly to fit everyone from pint-size 8-year-olds to women with medium torsos.
The clincher: features every bit as good as we expect on most adult packs. Kids get a hydration sleeve, water-bottle pockets, lashing/compression straps, an integrated raincover, rugged fabrics, and a pear-shaped packbag wide enough for a small 0°F sleeping bag. ospreypacks.com