Dakine Poacher 14
Best for day missions
Model: Poacher 14
Our minimalist testers loved this compact pack for small-load adventures. It has all the features you need for backcountry hot laps or fast-and-light hikes—interior sleeves that fit a standard shovel and probe (rare in a pack this size), diagonal ski and vertical snowboard carry, hydration bladder sleeve—in a package that dispenses with any extras. This design made finding the essentials (which may have included summit whiskey) a breeze on a skin up Oregon’s Tumalo Mountain. On the way down, the Poacher’s slim profile, thin hipbelt, and sternum strap kept it nestled between our shoulders. “There was no bounce or sway, even in choppy snow,” our tester says. Suspension is limited to a sewn-in framesheet, but it can handle 15 pounds.
Four-inch-wide foam shoulder straps curve away from the chest, allowing easy access to jacket pockets and a comfy fit for women. The Poacher has an insulated, zippered shoulder strap channel for a hydration hose, but it’s tricky to route tubes with large mouthpieces through it. The ski-carry strap connects with a glove-friendly, lightweight aluminum buckle that’s impossible to break (we tried).
“I needed a ski pack in the French Alps that would also work for light-load dayhikes,” one tester says. “The Poacher fit the bill, as the ski straps tuck away, leaving the packbag unfettered for year-round trail use.”