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Backpacker Magazine – Online Exclusive

Outdoor Retailer Roundup: BACKPACKS!

On Day 2 this reporter had one focus: backpacks.

by: Stephanie Buelow, Backpacker Reader Reporter

Arva Freerider 12
Arva Freerider 12

Packs, packs and more packs! I enjoyed Day 2 of the Outdoor Retailer Winter Market by focusing on a key ingredient to any adventure, the backpack.

The Granite Gear Aji 50 makes you want to plan a long adventure. Weighing under 3 lbs., I thought the pack would float off my back. The panel loading with a continuous zipper lets you access stuff from the top, bottom, or side. The Vapor Current is their newest suspension and features vent channels on the backpad. With a removable framesheet that saves 6 oz. and the ability to haul 35 lbs., this could be one of the lightest packs of this size at the show. Coming to stores this September for $219.

A 65+10 liter pack is for the hiker with a mission. Deuter’s Aircontact system at 65+10 liters (mens) and 60+10 liters (women’s) has a nice combination of backframe and storage features. The pack’s Aircontact system uses specific cutouts in the padding to allow the best airflow, leading to 15% less perspiration, they claim. The pack has the Variquick back adjust to help tailor to different body types. I also am a big fan of the Veriflex hipbelt design which allows the pack to move with you as you hike various grades. The pack comes with Deuter’s built-in rain cover, compression straps, daisy chains, and a U-shaped front panel. This pack is about 6 lbs. without gear, retails for $269, and will be on sale spring 2012.

Traveling towards an adventure destination or just visiting family, the Osprey Ozone is made to reduce travel stresses. The ultralight wheeled Ozone comes in three sizes (28”, 22”, 18”) and all are under 6 lbs. The Chasis frame system will help you maneuver through any airport congestion and cause heads to roll with jealousy. In stores this Fall (2012) for $199t o $249.

I couldn’t avoid the ski packs and found the updates to Black Diamond’s Avalung Alias 32L necessary to mention. First, they updated the Avalung design within the pack to reduce hose movement/discomfort. Second, they added ErgoActiv which allows the shoulder straps to move with the hiker’s body; a three-dimensional system added to the back of the hipbelt also moves with the body and has a contour aluminum frame. This pack has a sleek pack design and duel ski/snowboard holder. See these improvements in stores this Fall (2012) for $159.

The Arva Freerider 12 offers a sleek design that can be used for inbounds or side country riding. Made to fit close and have a sleek design at only 950 grams, this pack also has a special, removable safety pocket for your necessary avy gear and removable ski/board carrying straps. I also liked how the hydration sleeve will keep your hose from freezing and from getting in your way by going through the back strap. Available Fall 2012, MSRP: $170

And finally, just the basics with the CamelBak Gambler. A CamelBak hydration bladder combined with their Therminator hose-warming system and an avalanche gear pocket to holds the necessary avy shovel, probe, and beacon. Available Fall 2012 for $90.

Which packs are a must-test? Drop us a comment below.

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Reader Rating: -


Apr 03, 2012

I really like the ARVA Bags. I use a Rescuer 27. It is a great bag for carrying your rescue gear (shovel/Probe/etc.)in the winter, and I use it to carry my climbing gear in the summer. I found it in the US online at Uinta Outdoors. It even holds a 3L water bag and still has a ton of carry room. Its light weight. I have put it thru a lot of abuse and it still looks brand new. Best bpack I have seen in a long time for the price.

Ian Teague
Feb 06, 2012

Hi, I notice you haven't tested Mammut's Hero range of pack which are very functional and light at 1.7kg for 65ltrs. They have new pivot belt designs and look well made. I would also like to see reviews of BD's new Mission 50 and 75 packs as they have a new harness design and are as light.


Feb 03, 2012

Backpackers on short/long treks, need outside-on-pack pockets. We don't want to keep pawing into our packs to get small stuff all day. If Kelty took their external pack w/all it's pockets and made it w/internal support, it'd be a gold mine.

Steph BBRT*
Jan 30, 2012

Linda! the break off accessory pack is a great idea that you dont find too often. I also am a fan of easy access pockets. Any of the above packs look great enough for me to test? The Aji is super light and as a panel loading pack, Id like to see how the access into the pack changes.Let me know if there are other pack ideas! Thanks for reading.

Jan 29, 2012

Nothing worth getting excited about here, except everyone this year is worried about "air flow" which a good External Frame pack would resolve for a lot less money..But you have to remember these packs were orginally designed for climbing mountains where you want that pack close to your back and not for Trail use..So if your worried about excessive sweat on your back, choose an External frame pack, and their probably $100. cheaper....I carry the Kelty 50th Anneiversary model myself and or an Osprey Kelstrel.

Jan 27, 2012

Jan 27, 2012

Jan 26, 2012

I want to hear mostly about the ultalights...hoping someone has designed for less: leaving out the heavy pockets you can't reach...yet keeping the easy access to your entire load. And thinking about accessory mini packs along the front for small gadgets & snacks.


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