Brand: Columbia Sportswear Company
Model: Fast N Light Half Day
Best Hydration Pack
After two weeks of dayhikes and scrambles in Alaska and Utah, our Southwest-based tester did not want to part with this pack. It combines the standard-setting 100-ounce Omega Hydrotanium reservoir (included) with a packbag made for drinking and hiking. A separate zippered bladder compartment simplifies loading and allows easy refilling on the trail. And a semi-rigid backpanel—made of deeply-ribbed, closed-cell foam covered by soft mesh—is breathable and supportive.
“My back never sweated out on a hot, 3,000-foot climb on the Harding Icefield Trail,” he says. “And it proved exceptionally comfortable even when carrying 20 pounds of camera and cold-weather gear.” Later, during a week of guiding in Zion Canyon, our tester stuffed the simple, top-loading packbag with first-aid kits, group lunches, and emergency water. Thick shoulder straps anchored to the pack by C-shaped fittings allow the straps to cant snugly to a variety of body shapes, giving a custom-fit feel to multiple testers.
Quibbles: The top pocket is too small for lunches or bulky layers, and testers would have liked a second hipbelt pocket. $150; 2,440 cu. in.; 2 lbs. 12 oz.breathable mesh back panel, lightweight diamond fabric.