On a spring ascent of Mount Shasta last week, a crew of GearJunkie editors and product testers scaled the 14,179-foot stratovolcano on a Peaks for Peace charity climb. Some serious product testing took place along the way, including a look at new packs, skis, a split-board, and a few “technical” sombreros to block the sun. Oh, and don’t miss the acro-yoga session on the summit ridge, where our YogaSlackers friends boost into a few crazy poses with their crampons still on!
I am pretty excited about this new pack from Osprey (the Syncro 15). In fact, that is an understatement (which Mtn Papa could verify because he has to listen to me rave about it every time we go biking….daily…)
The Osprey Syncro 15 is capable of holding 100 fluid ounces, which is plenty to supply myself (and my kids) throughout our days running around town. The pack is built with mountain bikers (and hikers) in mind and has some added features catered especially to that crowd. However, as a biking (and hiking) mom, I love the features for what I do too. Water is readily available, I am able to keep my important personal items (phone, wallet, keys, etc.) on my person, and I hardly notice it is there.
The Osprey Syncro 15 is available at REI for $109 (though it certainly is also sold other places – Amazon.com, Moosejaw, etc.) Additionally, the “15” (meaning 15 liters) is the middle size. The Syncro 20 and Syncro 10 are also available (again, the numbers relate to the capacity in Liters.)
I’d come with a group of 13 outdoor enthusiasts on the invite of Osprey Packs to the remote reaches of Gravel Canyon. For the trip, we would wind through a dozen miles of twisting, boulder-strewn slickrock, slots, and washes — an excellent venue to test gear and experience wilds few people ever see.
The trip started when we dropped into a side slot near the main maw of Gravel Canyon. Immediately, with my body pushed between a constriction, I realized the trip would entail a lot of thrashing, grinding against rocks, and moving through terrain not always friendly to gear.
The initial tight entrance gave way to mile after mile of technical maneuvers as we got into the meat of the descent. Stemming, climbing, crawling, rappelling, scrambling up and down, spread-leg chimney moves — all were required to traverse down and through the inner reaches of the canyon. In between the technical canyon moves we followed scant trails, stretches of gravel, washes, slickrock, and sand.
Our route, a common descent through Gravel Canyon, is rated Canyon 3B III, meaning technical climbing skills are required. Fortunately, our visit in mid-April coincided with spectacular weather and little threat of rain, which can quickly add danger to a canyon descent, where flash floods can start, well, in a flash.
On my back, I carried a 60-liter pack, the Aether 60 from Osprey, loaded with camping and canyoneering gear plus some photo equipment. Our guide also had me haul food and four liters of red wine for the group — we were balancing adventure with a bit of luxury on this trip, no doubt!
If walking or hiking is her favorite sport, she can take her little one along in the newly designed Osprey Poco Premium Kid Carrier ($299). Osprey sent me a Poco carrier to try, and I was amazed at how lightweight and comfortable it was to use, even on two-hour hikes. The pack weighs under eight pounds and the supersupportive hip straps make carrying a toddler easy and back pain free. The back mesh panel prevents getting all sweaty and the torso length can be easily adjusted with a quick slide up or down in case dad wants to have a turn carrying the kiddo.
There are tons of compartments all over the pack — I love the phone pocket on the shoulder strap. Two other awesome features are the removable day pack to keep snacks and extra layers and the built-in sun shade that also protects in light rain. It comes in three colors and if you want to see the pack and if you want to see the pack in action, watch this video.
When you’re carrying a heavy pack on a hot day, a breeze across your sweaty back can feel like a plunge into a cool swimming hole. That may be the first thing you notice about the Atmos 65 (which also comes in a 50-liter version; the women’s packs are the Aura 65 and 50): the ventilated mesh back panel keeps the pack off of your back, allowing for excellent airflow. But you get more than just a cool back with the Atmos and Aura packs—you get high-end fit and organization. I carried up to about 55 pounds (including more than 20 pounds of water) in the Atmos 65 backpacking with my wife and school-age kids for three days down Spring Canyon in Utah’s Capitol Reef National Park; and on a family trip to a backcountry yurt, skiing three miles in and three back out with about 35 pounds in the pack, while pulling a sled loaded with at least 60 pounds of gear and food attached to the backpack with carabiners. (Note: I’m not recommending the Atmos as a ski pack or for pulling a sled, and it’s not designed for either purpose; I just used it for that because I was testing it out and it worked well enough.)
For starters, the hipbelt is luxurious, thanks to foam that has good cushion and support under a heavy load. The length of the hipbelt’s padding can be adjusted while wearing it, for a more precise wrap around the hipbones. The adjustable harness—uncommon in a pack that’s available in multiple sizes—gives you three inches (7.5 cm) of latitude to dial in the torso fit. Mesh shoulder straps are nicely padded and breathe a little. I also like this pack’s organization for bigger loads and longer backpacking trips: two big front pockets; two spacious hipbelt pockets; a removable lid pocket; a sleeping bag compartment with its own zipper access, and, of course, a hydration sleeve and port. One small caveat: Be careful about not putting too much weight in the front pockets, or the pack will pull against your shoulders. But load it wisely and this pack carries 50 to 55 pounds with impressive comfort for a model that weighs in under three and a half pounds.