Best Technical Commuter Bag: Gear freaks who want a purpose-built cycling bag that’s also good for a day hike would do well with the Osprey Spin, which has thoughtful features to prep efficiently for a commute. There’s a top stash pocket, a helmet attachment, a main compartment with laptop/tablet/folder sleeves, dedicated U-lock storage, a blinker attachment, expansion bellows and a slick rain cover for when the rain comes — and it usually does.
From easy day hikes to multi-day treks, a good pack on your back can make carrying a load a joy (relatively speaking), especially if you draw the short straw and have to carry the extra beer on a five day expedition through Zion National Park. The perfect pack is a simple one: it carries everything you need and nothing you don’t. In practice, this is much harder than it seems and involves careful planning and design. Beware of the old trap. If you have the space, you’ll try to fill it with something. Whether you’re throwing gear together for a short hike to your favorite fly fishing spot or taking a month-long stroll down the Continental Divide, less is more. With that in mind, we’ve picked the best backpacks to put a few miles on this season. Features like load distributing-straps, rainflys and easy access to hydration all made the cut. Heavy materials, unneeded space, and dead weight? Not so much.
The Gear for Rainier
Kit: Climbing Mount Rainier
When you’re carrying everything you need on a round-trip totaling 18,000 vertical feet, you’re going to ask a lot of your backpack. It needs to swallow up at least 70 liters of mixed gear but still be easily and quickly accessible; it needs to provide lash points for tools like an ice axe, crampons and trekking poles. Oh yeah, and it’s gotta wear like it’s not even there. The Xenith 75 does all of this well. The black hole interior easily held multiple clothing layers, a sleeping bag and food while zip pockets on the outside held smaller stuff like sunscreen and extra gloves. A large mesh pocket on the back provided the perfect place to stow a climbing helmet for the approach hike and quick release lash points and loops transported an ice axe and crampons during the long hike up to high camp. The hip belt is heat-moldable, allowing for a custom fit, and its integrated zip pockets were perfect for energy gel stowage. Our only wish was for a removable waterproof liner for the rain at lower elevations, which would have been more elegant than a plastic garbage bag.
We took the Meridian west to California from the Windy City and ran it through less than savory cab rides, copious groping from TSA, high-speed runs through two airports and trips up and down the west coast with all kinds of clothing and gear.
The myriad carry options including retractable pull handle, comfy carry handles on the top and side, and fully padded backpack straps and corresponding hip belt make this a truly versatile piece of luggage, plus it truly looks like it can handle whatever comes at it. The beefy polyurethane wheels and the Osprey High Road Chassis with ample base clearance provided confidence while bouncing the Meridian off jagged escalator steps and even some fairly rocky paths. When we had to move fast, the backpack straps deployed quickly and had someone given true chase, we would’ve been ready.