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OR Gear Trends: Pack Designs

In this report from OR Daily, we learn how distinct trends lead season's pack designs

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1. Clean Designs

Comfortable and clean. Those two words sum up backcountry ski packs being introduced this winter. You’ll not only see high-tech suspensions that carry lots of weight comfortably and protect a person in a crash, but also very clean packs free of extraneous straps and pockets. Mountain Hardwear (#26011) beefed up the suspension on its new Wayback 30 ski pack (MSRP $120) to ease the burden of large loads. “It incorporates technology that we have developed over the last few seasons, most notably our Hardwave Framesheet,” said Paige Boucher, public relations director for Mountain Hardwear. “It’s super light and has a rigid horizontal support, so the pack won’t bow out with a big load.”

Deuter’s new ski pack, the Descentor EXP 22 (MSRP $169) is not only built to carry a backcountry load, but it’s also designed to protect a person during a crash or avalanche. “It has a back protector system that was inspired by our freeride mountain bike pack,” said Christian Mason, Deuter’s director of sales and marketing. “It molds to your back and has flexible foam to keep your back from compressing.”

While packmakers have tricked out their suspension systems, they’ve created very clean pack bodies. Many packs have slots where straps can be stowed, and you’ll see few unnecessary pockets where snow and ice can gather. The basic idea is to remove anything that might hinder performance. That’s what Marmot had in mind with its new Backcountry 30 (MSRP $120), a touring pack that can haul skis or a snowboard. “It’s just very clean and simple, without a lot of extra stuff,” said Wade Woodfill, Marmot’s category merchandising manager. “There are slots to put away as many straps as possible.”

Made from Bombastic auto-airbag fabric, exclusive to The North Face, the Patrol Pack 34 has a Hinch ski/board carry, avy tools pocket, organization sleeves and backcountry essentials checklist. It has an improved skin/crampon pocket to hold bigger skins and an easy-access electronics and goggle pocket (MSRP $159).

2. Sidecountry

The market for ski and snowboard packs is growing as more lift-riders at resorts are exploring sidecountry terrain, or out-of-bounds and unpatrolled areas. “There’s definitely strong growth in the sidecountry market,” said Jon Austen, director of product development for CamelBak, adding that sidecountry packs are generally smaller than traditional backcountry haulers, but they provide enough room to hold avalanche safety gear and other essentials for off-piste travel. This year, CamelBak is offering its first sidecountry packs designed for men and women. The Tycoon for men (MSRP $99) is 1,100 cubic inches, while the Ante for women (MSRP $99) has 1,000 cubic inches of space. Austen said that both packs offer enough room to carry avalanche gear, but also have slim profiles so they can be worn comfortably on a lift. “While the typical daypacks this size extend about 9 inches away from your back, these sit about 5 inches off your back,” he noted.

Osprey has introduced three ski and snowboard packs in the Karve series, including the Karve 16 (MSRP $99) for the sidecountry. With 16 liters of cargo space, it holds skis (with a retractable cable to secure them) or a snowboard, plus a shovel, probe, skins, hydration bladder and accessories. Gareth Martins, director of marketing for Osprey, said designers tried to make the pack as bomber as possible. “We were careful to reinforce areas where the pack is hit with the edge of a board or skis,” he said. Also, to ensure that Karve packs fit a wide range of people, Osprey is offering them in small, medium and medium/large sizes.

Arc’teryx is offering three new packs in the Silo series (MSRP $99-$199), and its color schemes match the company’s Whiteline apparel, which is aimed at inbounds and resort skiers. Available in volumes of 18, 30 and 40 liters, the packs can carry skis or a snowboard, have thermo-formed back panels, hydration bladder sleeves and internal compartments for stowing avy gear.

—Marcus Woolf, ORD powered by SNEWS (

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