What is it that separates a great pack from a good one? Streamline design, versatility, the right measure of features and none of the unessential, complex add-ons that just add weight and increase the chance of mechanical failure while on the trail. Admittedly, what a thru-hiker needs to break the AT land speed record and what makes a weekend warrior happy varies considerably–no pack can do everything perfectly. But the Stratos 24 comes damn close, targeting that sweet spot for people who discover hiking—and know it’ll become a growing obsession throughout their lifetime. The bag features Osprey’s spectacular AirSpeed suspension; the pack rests against your back on a mesh trampoline, while the pack contents are elevated on a curved platform. The space between the main compartment and your back create a veritable tornado of cooling air, from your waist to your shoulders. It’s one of the most comfortably harness systems we’ve tested. The single-panel top-load main pocket boasts 24 liters of storage (size medium), and is secured with dual nylon buckles. Mesh pockets on either side of the pack, on both sides of the hip belt, and on the left shoulder strap (perfect for sunglasses) expand storage options. The hydration-compatible pack also has two smaller pockets, one on the top for quick-grab items like food or a camera, and another tucked in over the top of the harness, complete with a key clip. And remember what we said about versatility? The Stratos has it in spades, including a removable rain fly and secure ice axe and trekking pole loops–ideal for when the novice hiker suddenly graduates the next level of gear nirvana.
Some backpackers like to have a designated spot for every little item. The Atmos (and the women’s Aura) is ideal for the hyper-organized. After a five-day trip through the mountains of central Chile, our tester reported, “The big, top-loading main compartment swallowed my bag, clothes, food, and tent, while tons of pockets let me lay out everything for quick access during the day. Two lid pockets held my headlamp and beanie; the stretchy shove-it pouch fit my big puffy jacket; a pair of long, zippered pockets stashed my mini-crampons and gloves; and two hipbelt pockets held lip balm and sunscreen.”
There’s also an accessible sleeping bag compartment and two stretchy side pockets for water bottles. The suspension (adjustable from 17 to 21 inches), with an alloy frame, cross struts, and a tensioned mesh trampoline, negates pack sway with up to 50 pounds and kept testers’ backs cool during heavy exertion in hot weather. The hipbelt has strategically placed cutouts that create exceptional wrap around the hips and lower back for great load transfer and stability. The effective compression—two V-shaped straps on either side of the pack—adds extra stability. $239; 3 lbs. 9 oz.; 65 liters; ospreypacks.com
After reading Sal Ruibal’s Dirty Words: The Short Arm of the Law, I got to thinking of the contents of my own pack. What I always carry, what I should carry and why I carry what I carry. Here’s what I’m packing right now:
1. Osprey Zealot 16 – This pack is loaded with nice features like its rollout tool pouch, clamshell-style main pocket, rigid-framed reservoir and a chest pocket that’s the perfect size for fitting an iPhone. My only complaint is, sometimes the ends shoulder straps poke into my sides a little bit.
ReSource Series by Osprey Packs – A comfortable and well-built daypack is a necessity for travelers, and Osprey, long known for its commitment to ethical manufacturing and renewable energy, has a line of shoulder packs and backpacks made from nearly 100 percent recycled materials, designed and built with rugged travel in mind.
8 Water Bottles That Make a Splash
These innovative beverage holders help keep you hydrated on the trail, on the road, at home or on the job
Osprey Verve/Viper 4 ($69)
The Verve (for her) and Viper (for him) are both great lightweight and low-profile hydration options for cycling, hiking, walking, and running. Both models feature a bungee lacing system to store loose ends, a helmet or hat clip right on the pack, capacity for a 2-liter hydration reservoir, and a decent array of pockets for stowables.
Add some pep to your H-2-ho hum with these 12 Ways to Make Water Less Boring. Plus, track every mile you walk, run or ride for free with our online FitTracker tool.
One Day Workout Party Prizes
Join us for fun, games and piles of PRIZES at our One Day Workout Party on April 3rd, 2012 from 10am to 11:59pm EST. Here’s what we’re giving away!
Hiking Clothing and Accessories!
Hit the trails in style with this Hiking Bundle! You’ll be one hot mama with the included Icebreaker Rush V top, LS Quest Zip, and Rush 3/4 Tights. All Icebreaker items are specially designed to hug every curve of your body, keep you warm, and super comfy while streamlining your performance. Bonus? We’re also including Keen A86 TRs sneakers (made of breathable, yet sturdy material!) and an Osprey Verve 10 backpack. The Verve includes a hydration pack, a 3 liter HydraformTM reservoir for everyday mountain biking, trail running or day hiking and loads of compartments!
The Best New Outdoor Gear for Spring
From stay-dry, stylish clothes to the last water bottle you’ll ever need, we’ve rounded up the latest and greatest in outdoor gear.
Osprey Sirrus 24 Backpack
“The frame of the pack contours to your back for an extremely comfortable fit,” says Jessica Matthews of the American Council on Exercise. Other perks: a built-in rain cover, tapered shoulder harness, and narrow waist belt ($99, backcountry.com).