Top 40: Packs

1. Mountain Hardwear SummitRocket 30
The Summit Rocket is flimsy in a good way, with just enough design and padding in the harness to keep it comfortable without loading you down. This pack feels more like a day pack than the Sierra Designs Summit Sack, but our tester liked the multi-functionality of this bag, thanks to the removable frame sheet. Keep the plate in the bag, and you’ve got enough support to haul all your gear on a long day hike. Lose the removable frame sheet and you’ve got a legit lightweight sack that you can stuff into a larger bag for short excursions without all your gear. I found myself wanting a couple of compression straps to keep the load tight, but you can’t have everything in a single bag. 16 ounces.

3. Keen Springer Backseat Pack
Not enough room in your daypack for a camp chair to enjoy the summit vista? Keen has solved this common problem with this combo of the two in the Springer Backseat Pack. While the back of the bag drops into instant comfort, the inside holds enough for a long day on the trail, as well as a three-liter hydration reservoir.

3. Sierra Designs Summit Sack
This super light weight bag (12 ounces, 1300 cubic inches) has a couple of day pack features, like an external pocket, key loop, and waist belt, but make no mistake, this is a minimalist sack meant for fast and light excursions from basecamp. Stuff a couple of extra layers, lunch, water, and a map into the bag and leave the rest of your gear in your tent and you’re good to go. The roll top closure is a bit more cumbersome than a typical zipper, but the pack felt good on our backs and was snug enough to handle a light jog in order to double time it back to camp before nightfall. It stuffs easily into a multi-day pack on its own, or use it to keep your clothes organized, or as your sleeping stuff sack.

4. Camelbak Molokai
The Molokai is a hands-free hydration vest, specifically designed for stand-up paddleboarding. A wide, accessible opening lets you fill the two-liter reservoir quickly without the annoying bladder unloading, while easily adjusted tension straps on the harness enable a snug fit. There are also generous cargo pockets for keeping essential quick stash items close. Available in early 2012.

5. Showers Pass Veleau
Carrying water on your back is so last year. The Showers Pass Veleau puts the bladder on the back of your seat, freeing your back to, well, be free. Strap the bladder to the seat post, then run the drinking tube over your bike’s top tube with a series of magnets. After you take a sip, drop the tube and a drawstring and magnets secure it back in place on the top tube. The system is easy to use, once it’s attached to your bike. But the set up is a bit cumbersome, so don’t expect to move the bladder quickly from bike to bike. Our tester liked the storage pocket that was included on the bladder. But mountain bikers beware: the bladder juts out pretty far from the back of the seat, so you won’t be able to “sink” below the seat on a steep downhill.

6. Geigerrig 500
You could go on sucking water from your hydration bladder like you’ve been doing for the last decade or so, or you could evolve to Geigerrig’s pressurized hydration bladder, which delivers a jet stream of water, thanks to the pressurized air chamber. Pump air into the bladder, squeeze the nozzle, and watch water shoot out. Okay, sucking water from a hose isn’t that difficult, but it’s nice to be able to share water with ride mates and dogs without sharing spit. Even better is the inline water filtration option, which allows you to fill your bladder directly from a stream without having to worry about purifying. The pack itself is built from bomb-proof ballistic rip-stop nylon, and has some nice details like a dedicated iPod/iPhone pocket. Being able to turn the bladder inside out and wash it in the dishwasher is also a brilliant touch.

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