Showing posts with label Packs. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Packs. Show all posts

Video: Black Diamond Introduces the HonnSolo 11 Free Soloing Airbag Pack

Typically I'm not a fan of April 1 on the Internet. It's filled with all kinds of fake news (we have enough of that already!) and it seems that sites go to great lengths to try to pull one over on their readers. But occasionally someone does something that is genuinely funny and its hard not to share. That's the case with Black Diamond Equipment and climber Alex Honnold, who unveiled the new HonnSolo 11 climbing pack. To give much more away would be to spoil the fun, so just sit back and watch. If you missed it last Saturday, you'll probably still get a good chuckle out of it now.

Gear Closet: Osprey Duro 6 Hydration Pack

Trail runners listen up! There's a great new pack you're going to want to check out, and probably add to your arsenal. The new Duro 6 hydration pack from Osprey delivers the level of quality and thoughtful design that you expect from that company, with a few nice additions that you're definitely going to love out on the trail.

The Duro 6 is just one part of Osprey's new line of hydration products, which also include the Duro 15 and Duro 1.5 packs, the Duro Solo belt, and Duro Hand bottle holder. The ladies version of the packs go under the name Dyna instead, but offer very similar features, just with a more female-friendly design. These packs are designed to be lightweight, comfortable to wear, and offer plenty of storage options for everything from a short training run to a an all-day race.

While Osprey's long heritage of creating excellent backpacks can be easily seen in the Duro 6, one of the first things you notice is that it also includes a design that is closer to a vest-style hydration pack, which have become increasingly popular amongst trail runners in recent years. I personally have come to really appreciate this type of pack as it keeps the bag from jostling around too much while I run, and yet doesn't impede motion in anyway either. Plus, the Duro hugs the body nicely and is so comfortable to wear, that you almost forget that you have it on. That's not something I can say about some of the other running packs I've tested over the years.

Despite it's relatively small size – just 6-liters of carrying capacity – the Duro 6 has plenty of room in its main compartment for carrying an extra jacket, wallet, keys, and a few other spare items for out on the trail. Better yet, the harness itself has a number of well placed, zippered pockets for carrying snacks, gels, and even your smartphone, while larger harness pockets provide room for water bottles too. As if that wasn't enough, there is a larger stuff pocket on the back and two stretch mesh pockets on the sides as well. In short, there are a surprising number of places to carry all of the gear and food you'll need out on your run.


The Duro 6 ships with a very nice hydration reservoir that can hold up to 1.5 liters of water. That reservoir is easy to fill, seals up tight, and slips in and out of its designated sleeve within the pack with ease. It's bite valve offers plenty of water on demand, while Osprey's patented magnetic retention system keeps the hydration bladder's hose out of the way until you actually need to take a drink. This is a feature that another pack I've been testing lately does not have, and I found myself sorely missing it while on longer runs.

As someone who tends to get very warm, and sweat a lot, while on a run, I always worry about how much adding a pack to the mix will potentially increase my discomfort out on the trail. But, I can honestly say that the Duro 6 is so lightweight and easy to run with, that I haven't really noticed much of an impact in this area at all. Granted, I've been running in relatively cooler temperatures so far, but this vest/pack hybrid has been a joy to run in, and has now supplanted Osprey's own Rev 6 as my new favorite running pack.

While this bag is obviously aimed at trail runners, it can also pull double-duty as a mountain biking or light hiking pack as well. In terms of carrying plenty of water and offering a surprising amount of onboard storage, you'll be hard pressed to beat the Duro when you also factor in all around comfort and efficiency. If you're in the market for a lightweight, versatile pack for your favorite outdoor aerobic activities, this is a great choice. And since it comes with Osprey's All-Might Guarantee, you can bet its built to last too.

Priced at $110, the Duro 6 is in my book, a very good value. Osprey has managed to pack a lot of features and design elements into a compact package that trail runners are absolutely going to love. And with spring just around the corner, you know you're going to want a new pack to help you get back up to speed out on the trail. This one will do that, and more.

Buy at now at REI.com.

Osprey Packs | Duro/Dyna Series | Product Tour from Osprey Packs on Vimeo.

Backpacker Gives Us the Best Comfort Thru-Hiking Gear

A few days back I shared a post from Backpacker magazine that offered readers their picks for the best budget gear for making a long-distance thru-hike. Each of the items on that list were selected primarily because they are affordable, with performance being the second characteristic. Now, the editors are back with some more gear recommendations, but this time their offering options that fall into a different category – comfort.

Backpacker's picks for the best comfort thru-hiking gear includes a fantastic sleeping bag from Western Mountaineering, an incredibly comfy sleeping pad from Thermarest, and a large, quite possibly the most comfortable backpack on the market today courtesy of Osprey. You'll also find selections for the best tent, jacket, trekking poles, and even an umbrella, all of which are aimed at the hiker who doesn't mind carrying a bit of extra weight if it means he or she has some luxuries that help them to stay at home out on the trail.

Obviously this list is not for those of us who count every ounce when we're heading out on a hike. Instead, it is all about keeping your body as strong and comfortable as possible, even when hiking for miles on end day after day. If you're someone who is okay with knowing you don't have the lightest gear around, but that you'll probably enjoy your hike more as a result, this list is definitely for you.

Check out all of the items that made the cut by clicking here.

Men's Journal Gives Us 51 Last Minute Gift Ideas

Okay, if you're still looking for the perfect Christmas gift for someone on your shopping list this year, and my 10 last minute gift ideas, nor Nat Geo's 31 suggestions, and Outside's list of 20 stocking stuffers for under $20 hasn't been much help, than perhaps Men's Journal can be of assistance. The magazine has posted it's selection of last minute holiday gifts as well, and it is lengthy one, offering 51 options for procrastinators

Not all of the items on the list are specifically geared for the outdoors or travel, but there is still a lot of things that men (and women!) are going to like. For instance, some of the items that get the nod from MJ include a sweet cycling hat from Rothera, a fun daypack from Cotopaxi, a cool camera from Nikon, and a headlamp designed for runners from Nathan. You'll also find a number of interesting books, some useful gadgets, pants from Fjällräven, and a even a kayak from Perception

All in all, this is a fairly wide list of suggestions for gifts for just about anyone in your life. Obviously here at The Adventure Blog we focus more on the outdoor and adventure travel items first and foremost, but there are all kinds of other great ideas as well for just about any type of personality. If you truly are stumped, perhaps this will at least provide a few ideas to help you get just the right thing for your loved one. If not, you're probably going to have some problems, as obviously the clock is ticking on the holiday shopping season. 

Check out the entire list at MensJournal.com

Gear Closet: CamelBak Franconia LR 24 Backpack

When it comes to staying hydrated on the trail, CamelBak pretty much wrote the book on it. After all, it was that company that first introduced the concept of the hydration pack way back in 1989 when founder and cyclist Michael Eidson was searching for ways to easily take on fluids while in the midst of a race. His humble designs have evolved greatly over the years, becoming lighter, more efficient, and more durable too. Today, CamelBak has diversified its catalog in a number of different directions, and yet it still continues to look for new ways to improve the product that first launched the brand more than 25 years ago.

One of its latest creations is the new Franconia LR 24 backpack, which just began shipping this fall. This bag is designed for hikers who want to be able to carry everything they need with them on the trail, and of course need to stay hydrated while they are out there. As such, it has a number of excellent touches that make it an outstanding option for trekkers and day-hikers, as it provides ample amount of storage space and is comfortable to wear, even when it loaded down with a lot of cargo.

The Franconia is the first pack in CamelBak's line-up to use its new Crux LR hydration reservoir. Completely redesigned to make hydration easier than ever, it delivers 20% more water per sip than previous models. This translate to getting more water while staying active, and speaking as someone who has used CamelBak packs for years, I can tell you that it is a noticeable difference when taking a drink. The idea is that over the course of the day, you'll have more water intake in general, keeping you better hydrated as a result.

The Crux also features a wide cap that helps you to fill it much more quickly and easily, as well as a built in handle for carrying it around and getting it slid into place. The Franconia has a special hydration bladder compartment that is designed to hold the Crux nicely, without taking away storage space from the interior of the bag. The bladder also sits lower on your back as well, creating more stability while hiking and making it more comfortable to carry. There are even integrated reservoir compression cinches that reduce the movement of the bladder both when it is full and as you drink from it. Those cinches can be adjusted on the fly as you hike too.


In terms of a hiking pack, the Franconia is very nicely designed. It features 24 liters of internal storage space, as well as a number of organizational pockets and stashes too. This helps to keep all of your important gear well organized easy to find, while providing a lot of cargo space for hauling everything you need with you out on the trail. I've stuffed the pack to the gills with camera equipment, food, extra clothing, a headlamp, and a variety of other necessities, and it swallowed everything up nicely. And that was after I had already filled the Crux LR reservoir with water.

Better yet, the pack's suspension system, ventilated back panel, and well-designed hipbelt all make carrying a full load much easier and more comfortable. There are a variety of load lifters, compression straps, and other fine adjustments that can be made to help the wearer dial in just the right fit. The result is a daypack that not only carries everything you throw at it, but keeps you hydrated and comfortable on the trail too.

Other nice touches include trekking pole and tool loops, a magnetic tube trap to keep the bite valve securely in place, and twin bottle holders for when the Cruz hydration bladder simply isn't enough. All of those pieces add to an already excellent product, and hikers are sure to be happy to see those small details were included.

Over the past few years, CamelBak has focused mainly on other markets rather than hiking. They've added more bottles to their line-up, and have revamped its running and mountain biking lines. The Franconia is a nice return to the general outdoor market however, as it is a bag that can be used in a number of different ways, although it certainly excels at its primary focus – hiking. I am personally impressed with how much care and attention went into making this pack, which is durable and well built. It doesn't seem as if CamelBak has missed any details when creating the Franconia, and it even has some features you might only expect on a larger pack designed for longer hikes or backpacking trips in the backcountry.

That said, this pack is a bit on the hefty side when it comes to weight. It tips the scales at 2 lb. 10 oz. (1.2 kg), which is heavier than most other competing daypacks. The Franconia makes up for this added weight in durability and comfort, but anyone who is looking to travel light will probably want to consider other options, some of which will come in at half the weight of this pack.

On the other hand, if you don't mind a bit of extra bulk, the Franconia is a fine pack that you're likely to love. It does have a comfortable fit and ride, and offers a lot of features as well. The new Crux LR reservoir is included for instance, and its load carrying capabilities for fantastic too. Throw in a nice suspension system with a ventilated back panel, and plenty of options for getting the proper fit, and you end up with a product that delivers nicely on most people's needs. And at $160 is is well priced for everything that it delivers too. Sure, there are less expensive packs out on the market, but not many of them deliver everything that this one does.

Find out more at CamelBak.com. For now, the Franconia LR 24 backpack is only available at REI. That will change in January of 2017 however, when it will be sold in other outlets as well.


Gear Closet: Mustang Survival Bluewater 30L Gear Hauler Backpack

One of the things that I like most about the outdoor gear industry is that it continues to grow more diverse and sophisticated with each passing year. Now days, most of the items we use in the outdoors are the result of some great design choices, brilliant planning, and an evolution of things that we've learned from the past. As a result, we now get highly technical, purpose-driven gear that is specifically made for the actives that we we personally pursue. This is evident in just about every product that we use on our adventures, but even more so when it comes to backpacks, a competitive segment of the outdoor market that continues to show true innovation on a regular basis. 

Because of this, we now get finely-tuned packs that offer more functionality than ever before. Case in point, the new Bluewater 30L Gear Hauler from a company called Mustang Survival, which has been building impressive products for use in the outdoors – specifically sailing and other water sports – since 1967. Recently, Mustang expanded its line of EP Ocean Racing products by introducing several Gear Hauler packs, and as you'd expect they are perfect for anyone spending a lot of time in and around sailing ships. But, they are also perfect for adventure travelers heading to damp climates or anyone who participates in a lot of watersports as well. 

Made from 210 denier, TPU coated ripstop nylon fabrics, the Gear Hauler is made to be very durable and repel water, keeping its contents safe from moisture. Those rugged fabrics are coupled with urethane-coated zippers that also ensure that no damaging liquids make their way into the interior of the pack. The result is a waterproof bag that is designed to be used in, on, and around the water. That makes it a good choice for long-distance sailing, stashing beneath the cockpit of your kayak, carrying it to the beach, or on a hike in a wet environment.

As you can probably guess by the name, this pack offers 30 liters of carrying capacity, which is a considerable amount for just about any short outing. The bag features a very large central pocket that swallows up the bulk of what you'll want to carry with you, including extra clothing, camera equipment, food, and so on. That main pocket also has a mesh sub-pocket that is a good place to stash a smartphone, charging cables, your passport, or other important items. You'll find another handy pocket located on the outside of the pack that includes sleeves for holding pans, as well as several smaller stash compartments for keeping smaller items well organized. 

Need yet more storage space? The pack also comes equipped with a highly versatile MOLLE panel on the front that can be used for a variety of things. I like to carry an extra pair of shoes on the exterior of the pack for instance, but it is equally helps in hauling wet gear that you want to keep separate from the items inside the bag. It is also a good place to stash a water bottle since the pack oddly enough doesn't have any dedicated bottle pockets, nor is it hydration ready. 

Best of all, the Bluewater 30L Gear Hauler also has a dedicated laptop sleeve that is sealed tight with a roll-top enclosure that adds yet another layer of protection from water. This allows you to slip your valuable electronics into place, and rest assured that they are safe from the elements, something that few other backpacks can promise. As a frequent traveler, this secure compartment is a welcome addition to this bag, with my one caveat being that I wish that this compartment also included a separate sleeve for my tablet too. That is a small nit to pick, but for someone who hits the road frequently, it would be nice addition. 

While obviously putting a lot of thought into how this pack performs around water, Mustang Survival didn't forget about making it comfortable to wear too. The bag has a surprisingly well-padded backpanel that provides a solid level of ventilation too. The shoulder straps are wide and nicely padded as well, while a secure sternum strap locks the pack into place, even while carrying a heavy load. That same sternum strap can be adjusted vertically to dial in just the right fit too, which is important when wearing it for long periods of time. 

Speaking of comfort, I found the pack to be very easy to wear for longer periods of time, particularly when using it on shorter hikes and for travel. It would not be my first choice for a longer backcountry excursion, but it is versatile enough to work well in those environments, while also being able to transition nicely to use around town as well. The fact that it resembles a travel backpack more than a highly technical hiking pack helps to ease that transition nicely. 

Priced at $180, the Bluewater 30L Gear Hauler is a bit more expensive than most daypacks that you'll find from other manufacturers, and if you don't need the level of water protection that it brings, another pack might be a better choice. However, if you find yourself frequently on the water, or visiting places where rain or excess moisture is an issue, this is a great pack to have in your personal gear closet. Not only is it great for sailing, it make an excellent travel pack too. Durable, versatile, and good looking, I feel like Mustang Survival has a real winner on its hands, and if you have need for a pack that can keep your valuables safe from water, I think you'll love it too. 

Find out more at MustangSurvival.com

Gear Closet: Osprey Manta AG 28 Daypack

If you're a regular reader of my "Gear Closet" stories here at The Adventure Blog, you probably already know the I have a habit of going on at great length about the product that I'm writing a review for. That is likely to be the case with the Manta AG 28 from Osprey as well, but for those of you who would rather get to the bottom line on this bag, I thought I would save you some time. So, for those folks wondering whether or not this pack will get a good review, let me just tell you now. It is amazing. Go buy one. Thank me later.

For those of you who are still around, we can now get into the details.

The Manta line of packs have been a part of the Osprey catalog for some time. But this pack, which was released this past spring, adds a nice new dimension that truly helps to separate it from the crowd. The "AG" in the bag's title stands for "Anti-Gravity" which is the name given to Osprey's innovative suspension that not only helps the pack to sit more comfortably and naturally on your body, but it can effectively carry more weight over a longer distance too.

The Anti-Gravity suspension was first introduced on Osprey's Atmos series, which is designed for backpacking and adventure travel. But now, it has trickled down to these daypacks as well. The suspension really does make a noticeable difference, and the integration of the mesh backpanel plays a big role in keeping you cooler and drier while hiking.

I have to say that I was a bit skeptical that the AG system would have as big of an impact on a daypack as it does on the larger backpacking models. But, after putting this bag to the test in the field, I can honestly say that my doubts were unfounded. The suspension is remarkable, and I think you'll find yourself coming off the trail at the end of the day feeling much better than you would with a traditional daypack without AG integration.


The Manta comes in three sizes – 20L, 28L, and 36L. (There is also a women's specific model called the Mira that comes in 18, 26, 34-liter models.) For me, the 28L version is the sweet spot for a daypack, offering plenty of room to carry everything you need, without getting so large that its starting to infringe on the small backpacking pack level. Of course, your particular needs may be a bit different than mine, but I found the 28L Manta to be just right.

As you would expect from a pack from Osprey, the Manta comes with a wide variety of pockets to store all of your gear. From its cavernous main chamber to the front pocket with mesh organizational sleeves – complete with key fob – this pack has plenty of ways to keep all of your important items organized and close at hand. There are also two surprisingly large pockets on the hipbelt as well, which I always appreciate for storage of small items such as snacks or my phone.

In terms of staying hydrated, the Manta comes with dual water bottle holders that can be found on each side of the bag, as well as a dedicated hydration sleeve. Osprey even throws in a high-quality 2.5 liter hydration bladder, which is a nice addition considering many companies require you to buy one separately. Considering the price of this pack, and all of the features it brings to the table, it was really nice to open the hydration sleeve and find the bladder tucked away inside.

That isn't the only nice little detail that Osprey has included on this pack. It also comes with its own integrated rainfly, which should be a common practice these days, but surprisingly isn't. There is also a helmet attachment loop for when you're cycling or climbing, and stretch mesh front pockets for quickly storing away extra gear, including a spare pare of shoes. Of course, Osprey has made always been good about paying attention to details, but it is nice to see that tradition continue here.

All of these features aside, the best thing about this pack is just how comfortable it feels when you're out on a hike. I can load it up with just a few small items, or stuff it to the brim with way more gear than I'll need, and it not only happily swallows up everything I throw at it, it feels good on your back too. The AG suspension is a true revelation, and a welcome addition to the daypack line. And of course, this being Osprey, the pack is very durable too, but still comes backed with the All Mighty Guarantee, which says the company will repair or replace the bag for its lifetime. You can't ask for better coverage than that.

As if all of that weren't enough, the Manta AG 28 costs just $165, which is a relative bargain when you consider everything this pack brings to the table. It is filled with excellent design decisions, includes the best suspension system on the market, offers lots of carrying capacity, and it is durable enough to survive just about anything you throw at it. It also comes with a built-in rain cover and has an excellent hydration sleeve that you'll want to use in all of your other packs as well. All of that adds up to an excellent daypack that you'll certainly want to have with you on your future hikes and adventure travel excursions.

This is the best daypack I've ever used, bar none. I think you're going to love it too. But it now at REI.com, CampSaver, or Backwoods.


Osprey Packs | Manta/Mira AG™ Product Tour from Osprey Packs on Vimeo.

Gear Closet: Thule Stir 35 Technical Backpack

In need of a new backpack for your spring adventures? Than you're in luck, because Thule has delivered a couple of great new packs that deliver a high level of performance and a number of great features, at a price point that we can all appreciate.

Recently I got my hands on the new Thule Stir 35 pack and found it to be a great option for day hikers that need to carry plenty of gear with them out on the trail. But the pack also works great for climbers and peak baggers looking for a bag that can carry all of their equipment without slowing them down. The Stir is comfortable, versatile, and well designed, making it a breeze to stay organized while hauling a surprising amount of equipment with us on our adventures.

With 35 liters of storage, the Stir is definitely on the larger size when it comes to daypacks. That may make it overly large for some hikers, but as a frequent traveler and outdoor enthusiast who takes part in a lot of different activities, I found the extra space to be really useful. Some of my smaller packs are a bit cramped at times, while this bag allowed me to carry pretty much everything I need without compromise.


Some of the features that I really like include the easy-access lid that allows you to get inside the main storage compartment while still keeping the elements at bay. But if the weather really takes a turn for the worse, the Stir comes equipped with a built-in rain cover, which should pretty much be a standard piece of equipment on every daypack these days. I also love that this pack offers access to the interior through a side zipper, making it super easy to retrieve important items no matter where they are stored. This is something I'm use to finding on larger backpacks, but it isn't all that common on a daypack.

Another feature that is more common on larger packs that is also found here is an adjustable torso for improved fitting. This not only adds another level of versatility to the pack, but allows you to find a more comfortable fitting for the Stir as well. By simply adjusting the back panel using some Velcro, you can adjust where the pack sits on your back, making it easier to carry heavier loads.

For those hikers who count every ounce, the Stir offers the ability to remove the hipbelt and sternum strap, saving some weight in the process. That ability also makes the pack a bit less technical looking if you want to use it as a commuter pack around town as well. I personally like having those items in place, as the small pockets on the belt come in handy, but it is nice touches like this one that indicate that Thule took great care in designing a backpack that meets a variety of customers' needs.

Other nice features that have a more technical slant include a light loop attachment points made from reflective materials and two attachment loops for carrying trekking poles or ice aces. There is even a stretch pocket on the one of the shoulder straps that is specifically designed to carry a smartphone, keeping it close at hand for when you need it most.

Personally, I really like the slim design and minimalist approach that Thule took with this pack. It looks great, but also offers great features and functionality too. Comfortable to wear and with plenty of storage capacity, this is a backpack designed for longer day hikes or even short overnight trips if you can manage to go ultralight in warmer weather. But climbers will appreciate everything it brings to the table as well. And since the pack is priced at just $139.95, it is very affordable as well, particularly when considering all of the great features it delivers.

The pack is available now. Find out more at Thule.com.

Gear Closet: REI Flash 65 Backpack

Everyone knows that REI is one of the best sources for finding outdoor gear for our various adventures. But, not everyone realizes that the company produces its own line of gear, much of which compares very favorably to equipment made by some of the more well known brands in the industry, and usually sells for  less money too.

At the start of the year, REI announced that it was actually revamping its gear line up in an effort to streamline the number of products it produces and to make it easer for consumers to understand what they are buying and what items worked well with one another. With that in mind, the gear retailer launched its Flash and Traverse line of products this spring, both populated with equipment that is designed to work well with one another.

The flagship product for the Flash line up is the new Flash 65 backpack, which is designed for lightweight travel and backpacking excursions. The pack brings some interesting features to the market that will make it an attractive option for many outdoor enthusiasts.

As the name of this pack implies, it has about 65 liters of storage depending on which size you go with. The small version clocks in at 63 liters, while the large goes as high as 67. That's quite a bit of capacity for just about any trip, although it does provide some room to bring a few extra amenities if you like.

Like most backpacks, the Flash 65 provides access through the top, which is the traditional approach of course, but can make it annoying to access things that are buried deep inside. But the designers of this pack also added access through the side too thanks to a large zipper than runs down the length of the pack. This makes it very convenient to get to the things you really need without disrupting the entire system.


In addition to the main storage compartment, the Flash 65 also includes a large stuff pouch on the outside that I found useful for storing a spare pair of shoes or wet gear that you don't want inside the bag. There is also another large zippered pocket on the front of the pack, as well as traditional storage in the pack's lid too. Two more pockets can be found on the thickly padded, and very comfortable, hipbelt as well.

One of the key innovations that the Flash 65 brings to the table is REI's proprietary UpLift compression system. By pulling on the compression straps you're not only cinching the load inside the pack into a smaller space, but you're also lifting it upwards, making it easier to carry over longer distances and rough terrain. And when this compression system is combined with the Packnit back panel, it makes this a pack that is comfortable to wear with plenty of ventilation to help keep you from overheating on the trail.

Other nice features of this pack include gear loops for carrying tools such as ice axes or trekking poles, hydration compatibility, an adjustable torso for dialing in just the right fit, and thickly padded shoulder straps that are surprisingly comfortable to wear.

And as an example of how the Flash 65 pack works with other items in the Flash line, it is designed to integrate with the Flash 18 daypack, adding extra capacity and the ability to easily carry an additional pack as needed. The new Rhyolite Rain Jacket has also been designed to accommodate the Flash 65 by moving the hand pockets up to a height that places them above the pack's hipbelt and the shoulders were made without seams to prevent the shoulder straps from causing discomfort.

If there is one issue I have with the Flash 65 its that it is a bit on the heavy side. REI says it is meant for lightweight backpacking and travel, but the pack itself tips the scales at more than 3.5 pounds. That's not completely awful, but it's enough to take this pack off the list of those who count their ounces when setting out on the trail. There are definitely lighter options available if you're someone who is weight conscious with your gear.

The Flash 65 carries a price tag of $199, which makes it competitively priced for its capacity and feature set. Other than the fact that it is a bit on the heavy side, it is a wonderful, comfortable, and versatile pack that will serve you well on many outdoor adventures. And when paired with other items in the Flash line-up, it becomes part of a gear ecosystem that is designed to make things easier for consumers. In that area, it more than succeeds.

Nat Geo Gives Us the Best New Gear for Spring 2016

Need some new gear for your upcoming spring adventures? National Geographic has you covered, as  Nat Geo Adventure presents its selections for the best new gear arriving on store shelves in the days ahead.

And just which items earn a nod from the NG crew? They recommend REI's new Flash 65 backpack, a new stove from Snow Peak, and the Concerto sleeping bag from Nemo. Other items on the list include Mountain Hardwear's new Ghost UL2 tent, an incredibly lightweight shell from The North Face, and a comfortable new backpacking boot from Vasque.

This is just a taste of the items that make Nat Geo's list. There are all kinds of other items including a mountain bike and bike accessories, jackets, knives, watches an other products that will no doubt be objects of lust for gear junkies and outdoor enthusiasts everywhere.

Spring is a great time to get outside and get back to chasing your favorite activities and adventures. Some new gear always helps with the process, and is good encouragement too.

Gear Closet: Osprey Mutant 38 Backpack

Looking for a great lightweight, versatile backpack for your winter adventures? Than look no further than the new Mutant 38 from Osprey, a pack specifically designed for ice climbing, snowshoeing, and ski mountaineering that offers everything you need and nothing you don't.

I recently carried the Mutant 38 with me on my trip to Canada, where I got the chance to put it through its paces while dogsledding and snowshoeing in subzero conditions. Before I set out I knew that my visit to Quebec would be an active one, and I wanted a pack that would offer plenty of capacity to carry the various gear, extra clothing, and supplies that I'd need for a busy day in the backcountry. The Mutant met that description nicely, and ended up exceeding the expectations I placed on it.

As the name implies, this pack has 38 liters of capacity, most of which is found in its spacious main compartment. I poured all kinds of gear – including camera and lenses, extra layers, food, and more – into it, and it still never felt like it was close to running out of space. That brought a nice level of confidence as we'd head out for the day, as I knew that I had all of the things I needed, and a pack that could carry it all quite comfortably.

When designing the Mutant 38, Osprey was looking to go as light as possible without compromising comfort or durability. Out of the box, the pack weighs about 2.5 pounds, but it gives the wearer the option to shed items they might not need in an effort to cut ounces. For instance, the pack's lid can be removed completely, as can attachment and side straps, aluminum stays, the helmet carry, and framesheet.


With all of that out of the way, the Mutant transforms into an ultralight minimalist pack that weighs next to nothing. Surprisingly though, it is sill capable of comfortably carrying lots of gear for those quick dashes to the summit or fast hiking on a trail. This level of versatility also allows you to dial in exactly what features you need, and do away with the ones that you don't.

At first glance, the Mutant looks like it might not be all that comfortable, particularly when you fill it to its 50 pound (22 kg) capacity. The shoulder straps and hipbelt are thin and lightly padded, and look like they wouldn't provide a lot of support. That is misleading however, as once you have the pack on, it feels great, even with a heavy load. The fact that Osprey has managed to pull off this minimalist approach to design, while still delivering a very high level of performance, is impressive indeed.

Other nice features of the Mutant 38 include two handy bungie tie-offs for keeping your ice tools close at hand, reinforced ski carry loops, crampon attachment loops, and compression straps for maintaining a well balanced load. The hipbeilt is also designed to wrap away from the body so as to not interfere with a climbing harness, while an integrated hydration sleeve can accept reservoirs up to 3 liters in size, and doubles as an adequate laptop sleeve when used for travel.

It is important to point out that the Mutant isn't loaded with a lot of pockets or organizational stashes. The removable top-lid does have two other zippered pockets built into it, but other than that the design of the pack would best be described as spartan. This isn't a knock on the backpack at all, but something to be aware of. If you're looking for a bag that has lots of places to store small items and keep your gear organized, this probably isn't going to work for you. On the other hand, if you know this going in, and organize your gear accordingly, the Mutant will work very well for you.

While putting this pack to use in the Canadian backcountry, I was extremely pleased with how it performed. It was comfortable enough to wear all day long, with the ventilated backpanel helping to keep the air flowing, which was useful even in the cold conditions. The Mutant allowed me to carry everything I needed for a full day of adventure, without even really noticing that it was on my back, and since it is designed for use in the winter, everything inside was well protected from moisture and cold.

I'd be remiss in my review if I didn't mention that this pack is also backed by Osprey's awesome All Mighty Guarantee. That means that the company will fix or replace the pack if it becomes damaged for as long as you own it. It's tough to beat that kind of service, and it is just one of the reasons I happen to love their packs.

The Mutant 38 is just $160, which strikes me as a great price for a technical pack of this quality. It is a very comfortable and versatile bag that has a lot of nice touches that winter warriors will definitely love. That said, it is so well designed, you'll be able to use this pack all year long, no matter what the season.

Gear Closet: A Pair of Packs From Camelbak (Arete 22 and Palos 4LR)

By now, we all know the importance of staying hydrated while on a hike or trail run, something that has become increasingly easier over the years thanks to continued advances in hydration pack design and technology. Of course, Camelbak has always been at the forefront of that movement, introducing the first hydration pack back in 1988, and continuing to evolve that piece of gear ever since. Today, the company has expanded its line-up to include water bottles, filtration systems, travel mugs, and more. But for most of us, Camelbak will always be synonymous with hydration packs.

Back in August, I met with reps from the company at Summer Outdoor Retailer, and I can promise you there are some good things coming from Camelbak in the very near future. But in the interim, they also shared with some of their current products, which continue to be excellent options for those who need hydration on the go. Here are some thoughts on both of those packs.

Arete 22 Hydration Pack ($65)
The Arete packs have been around for a couple of years now, but they remain a good, lightweight option for day hiking or fast and light mountain ascents. This minimalist pack strips away all of the extras that you'll find on most other Camelbak products in favor of shedding as much weight as possible. The result is a backpack that tips the scales at a mere 16 ounces, while still providing plenty of capacity.

The Arete 22 comes with a built-in hydration sleeve that is easy to fill and can carry up to two liters of water. That's generally enough to get you through the day on most excursions. Its main compartment provides 20L of carrying capacity too, which means you can fill it up with the gear you'll need for the day, and still have room left over.


Because it is so lightweight, the shoulder straps and belt are not nearly as padded as what you'd find on most other Camelbak packs. Those are the kinds of frills that were done away with in favor of shedding ounces. While it remains comfortable to wear, this may not be the pack for everyone, as some will find it to be too minimalistic for their tastes. But if you're the kind of person that counts every ounce, this will be an excellent hydration option. Personally, I found it to be a solid choice not only for light day hikes, but trail running as well, as it stayed firmly in place as I moved along the trail, and because it was so light, it was restrictive in any way.

The Arete pack has another trick up its sleeve that many will appreciate as well. It can also be converted from a pack into a simply hydration sleeve for a larger backpack too. This is the kind of versatility that makes this bag a popular one, as you can use it on short excursions on its own, but then add it to your larger pack on lengthier expeditions too.

Lightweight, versatile, and affordable. Those words sum up the Arete 22 very nicely.

Palos 4 LR ($60)
For a completely different type of hydration option, check out the new Palos 4 LR, a lumbar pack that  is part of Camelbak's Low Rider mountain bike collection. The bag was specifically designed with the needs of riders in mind, and was built to provide plenty of water for those who need more than a water bottle, but don't want to wear a full backpack either.

I have to admit, wearing a lumbar pack was a new experience for me, as I've generally always taken a full sized hydration pack with me when I ride. But the Palos did provide a new sense of freedom, giving me the ability to carry not only my water, but small personal items such as a wallet, smartphone, and toolkit with ease. There is even a built-in key clip as well, which is an organizational option that I always appreciate. Small pockets on the belt are also a great place to store an energy bar or even a small camera too, keeping those items within easy reach.

The Palos is well padded, which makes it very comfortable to wear, even while carrying around up to 1.5 liters of water. The belt features a rugged buckle that when locked into place, prevents the pack from moving, while also allowing you to dial in a perfect fit. This is important while riding, as the last thing you want to worry about is whether or not you'll be able to move well, particularly on tough ascents. That wasn't an issue at all with this pack however, and it wasn't long before I actually forgot that it was there. You really can't ask for much more than that from your water source.

Camelbak is betting big with this "low rider" approach to their lumbar packs, and expects them to be popular with mountain bike riders. Having put this one to the test, I can understand why. It pretty much offers everything you need for a day of riding in a compact, comfortable design. On longer rides, you may still want to carry the full sized pack, but depending on the circumstances, this is a fantastic option to replace it with. In fact, I'd be willing to bet that the majority of us will find this to be a better alternative for our needs.

Both the the Arete and the Palos are available now, and will make good Christmas gifts for the outdoor enthusiast on your list. As usual, both feature Camelbak's great build quality and attention to details, which is why they have been so successful in the hydration field for so long.

Nat Geo Presents Gear of the Year for Fall and Winter 2015

Hot on the heals of Outside magazine's 2016 winter buyer's guide comes National Geographic Adventure's picks for the absolute best outdoor gear for fall and winter 2015. As usual, the selection is filled with some amazing products that you'll want to have in your gear closet for the season ahead.

Some of the items that earned a spot on Nat Geo's list include new high-loft merino wool base layers from Patagonia, a pair of ski pants from Black Diamond that include a built-in avalanche transceiver, and a new pair of hiking boots from Hoka One One that have been getting a lot of attention since they were first revealed. Other gear that may be of interest for your favorite fall and winter outdoor activities include the new Jetboil Genesis Basecamp stove, an amazing water purifier from MSR, and Sierra Design's new four-season tent, the Convert 2.

This is just the tip of the iceberg however, as you'll also find Nat Geo's picks for the best fat tire bike, an ultra-bright trail light, skis, boots, cameras, travel bags, watches - both smart and traditional – and a whole lot more. All of the new gear is available now, and would obviously make good holiday gifts for yourself or your favorite outdoor enthusiast. Check out the entire list here.

Gear Closet: Osprey FlapJack Travel Pack

Looking for a new backpack for your daily commute or for traveling? Need a bag that can safely carry all of your gear, while providing quick and easy access to all of the stuff inside? Than Osprey most definitely has you covered with their newly updated FlapJack Pack, which deftly mixes the company's vast experience with outdoor products with a great sense of design and functionality.

The FlapJack has been around for a number of years now, and has proved to be a good choice for commuters and travelers. But the line of packs and courier bags gets an update for the fall of 2015 that brings a cleaner, more modern design to the product, as well as new materials that are built to resist moisture, while protecting the contents of the bag more fully. The new FlapJack Pack feels more durable than in the past, which allows it to resist the rigors of daily use more fully. Putting this pack to the test, I get the sense that it can easily stand up to the challenges it'll face with frequent use, which something I value as a frequent traveler.

The interior of the pack is well designed too, providing plenty of space to bring everything you need with you. A large laptop sleeve ensures that my computer is safe and well protected, while a secondary sleeve is perfect for holding my tablet too. There is even a third interior pocket that comes equipped with a zipper, which is perfect for holding important paperwork. The volumes main compartment also has room for a light jacket, power cables, a camera, or just about anything else you might need to take with you on your excursions.

The storage options ont he FlapJack Pack don't end there however. A zippered external compartment on the front opens to reveal a nicely designed organizational space complete with key-clip, penholders, and other pockets meant to hold small items. A secure zip-pocket located under the low-profile handle on the top of the bag is great for holding a smartphone or other small valuables you want to keep close at hand, while a water bottle holder along one side is a welcome touch too. The opposite side of the pack even has a deep zippered pocket for carrying other items with ease.


All of these pockets, compartments, and sleeves come in very handy. Not only do they make it easy to keep all of the items you carry with you well organized, they also ensure that every thing has its own designated place. That comes in very handy when you're looking for something specific, as the FlapJack Pack probably has a place meant just for that item. Carrying this bag around kept me well organized while on the move, and made accessing all of the stuff inside a breeze.

It's definitely no secret that I'm a fan of Osprey packs, and I'm glad to see the company's same high quality approach and attention to detail in this bag. The zippers, buckles, straps, and belts are exactly what you'd expect from a backpack made by Osprey, which is to say they are durable, tough, and built to last. Of course, the entire pack is also backed by the All Mighty Guarantee, which means Osprey will repair or replace the FlapJack as long as you own it.

After testing the FlapJack Pack recently, it is safe to say that I have a new favorite travel pack. It is exactly what I need on my regular travels, with the perfect size to carry all of my important gear with me when I hit the road. It is also durable and versatile, two qualities that I look for in just about any product that I use. Add in the fact that it provides a high level of organization, and it is tough to find anything to not like about this bag. And if you're someone who needs to lug a laptop around with you on a daily commute, or finds yourself hitting the road often for, I think you'll agree. This is a pack that is built to fit those needs well, and it accomplishes that mission admirably.

The new FlapJack Pack is available in four colors, and should be arriving in stores now with an MSRP of $110. If you prefer the messenger bag design instead, the new FlapJack Courier sells for $100, is is also shipping now as well.

Nat Geo Picks Gear of the Year for Spring/Summer 2015

The National Geographic Adventure Blog has posted its selection for the best outdoor gear for the spring and summer of 2015, turning a spotlight on the very best equipment that is currently available for our outdoor pursuits. As usual, there are a dizzying array of products as part of this round-up, many of which demonstrate just how much the outdoor industry continues to push the envelope in terms of innovation.

Amongst the products that earn a spot in Nat Geo's line-up are the Atmos and Aura backpacks from Osprey. These packs have been winning universal acclaim on many gear sites this year, which is a clear indication of just how good they truly are. Other items include a new camp cooking set from Sea to Summit, an awesome looking multitool from Leatherman, and a cool lighting system for your camp from BioLite. There is also a nice new synthetic sleeping bag from Mountain Hardwear, a bug-repelling lantern from Thermacell, and an ultra-light two-person tent from MSR.

These products are just the tip of the iceberg however, as there are all kinds of other items for gear hounds to drool over. Everything from the best new mountain bike and kayak, to innovative new trail shoes and a watch designed for surfers made the cut. There is even a backpack designed specifically for carrying a drone on the list. In short, there is just about something for everyone.

If you're looking to expand your gear closet this summer, and have been thinking about adding a few more items to your arsenal, this list will certainly have some suggestions on which products are the very best at the moment. As usual, there is far too much excellent gear available, and not enough money to acquire it all. We can always dream though, right?

Gear Closet: Granite Gear Cross-Trek Travel Duffel

Years ago I came to the conclusion that when I traveled I prefer to carry a backpack. I found the ability to just throw my bag over my shoulder and go was incredibly liberating, and since I don't particularly like to check my bags if I can help it, a backpack has always been the best way to get al of my gear on and off an airplane in an efficient manner. But, carrying a backpack isn't always the best option depending on the type of travel you are embarking on. Sometimes you need something that is a bit more versatile and can carry your gear in a more efficient manner. After all. stuffing a suit into a backpack isn't usually the wisest thing to do, and keeping all of your gear organized can be a challenge too. Enter the Cross-Trek Wheeled Duffels from Granite Gear – a set of luggage that is designed with the outdoor adventurer in mind that manages to provide all of the advantages of both a suitcase and backpack.

I took the 26" Cross-Trek Wheeled Duffel with me on my recent trip to Egypt, and found that it performed marvelously. Not only did it have plenty of room for a 2.5 week trip, it made it very easy to organize the things I carried with me as well. My duffel – which is the second largest that Granite Gear makes – offered 4800 cubic inches of space, which translates to 78.5 liters when comparing it to a backpack. In other words, there was plenty of room to carry lots of things, which is a luxury I don't always have with a pack.

When I first started using the Cross Trek I was immediately impressed with its build quality. Not only is it made from very durable fabrics designed to protect its contents from the elements, the duffel's wheels, zippers, handles, and various other components were all incredibly sturdy too. That was good, because the bag would certainly be put to the test in Egypt, where it would endure three flights just to get there, only to be tossed on and off multiple buses, loaded on top of 4x4's, carried across sand dunes, and up countless flights of stairs in hotels. After all of that, I'm happy to say that my Cross-Trek duffel came home little worse for wear. In fact, it barely looks like it has gone anywhere, other than collecting a bit of sand from the Sahara.


If you've read any of my gear reports in the past you probably already know that I value versatility out of any product that I use. Granite Gear has certainly delivered in that category, as this duffel has multiple handles for lugging it around, including a telescoping stow-away handle that can be used to pull the bag through the airport on its sturdy and dependable wheels. Best of all, the bag can be converted into a backpack in a pinch, as it also has a set of hidden shoulder straps and a hipbelt that can be employed in an emergency. This comes in very handy when you're in a hurry, and you'd rather strap your gear to your back rather than pull it along on wheels or lug it by the various handles.

The interior of the Cross-Trek is no less versatile either. It features multiple compartments for storing your gear, including one that comes in handy for stowing dirty clothes that you no longer want to use. Each of the different pockets and compartments proved useful throughout my trip, and they are so well laid out that I never once got confused as to what items were in which location. There is even an expandable drop bottom compartment that can provide extra storage should you find your bag getting full. Granite Gear says that it will offer up to 18% more space when needed, but it can also be zippered shut to keep the bag as svelte and streamlined as possible when not in use too.

Once you've loaded up the duffel with all of your gear, two large compression straps – with very durable buckles – help to secure the load inside the bag further. In my case, I packed light enough that this wasn't really necessary, but I did use the straps to help keep the duffel as small as possible, and it was a good way to seal up the interior while traveling.

One of the things I like best about the Cross-Trek Duffel is that it deftly mixes the ability to be very civil with the option to get adventurous too. This is a bag that I could take with me on just about any trip, since it can easily survive a weekend getaway with the family, as well as a journey to more remote and demanding areas in far flung corners of the globe. There are still plenty of expeditions that will require the use of a backpack of course, but this duffel is capable of going just about anywhere. And since it is so durable, it can survive just about anything you throw at it.

The version of the Cross-Trek that I carried to Egypt carries a price tag of $189.99. For a trip of that length, it was just about the right size, although it may have actually been larger than I actually needed. I am a notoriously light packer however, so I'm sure most people would appreciate the additional storage that the 26" model affords. The Cross-Trek also comes in a 22" wheeled carry-on version ( $169), a 22" wheeled carry-on with removable 28L pack ($189), and a gigantic 32" model ($209). In other words, there is pretty much a size for just about everyone, with each filling a specific niche.

The Cross-Trek Wheeled Duffel is adventure luggage at its finest. It provides all of the options adventure travelers need, and can be quickly converted into a backpack when necessary as well. If you're in the market for a piece of luggage that is rugged, versatile, and spacious, Granite Gear has just the thing for you. I look forward to carrying my duffel with me on many future journeys, as I know it will be the perfect companion.

Backpacker Picks the Best New Gear of Spring 2015

With spring officially here, it is time to start planning some outdoor adventures, with hiking, backpacking, and camping trips on the agenda. It is also a good time to pick up some new gear for those excursions, and Backpacker magazine is here to help in that department.

The outdoor adventure-focused mag has recently published its spring gear guide, providing readers with lots of insights and information on a wide variety of products. For instance, their backpack overview alone covers more than 18 new packs, each of which were put to the test by over 160 different people in the field. Which packs came out on top? The team at Backpacker were especially fond of the new Atmos/Aura packs from Osprey, as well as the Baltoro and Deva from Gregory.

But backpack aren't the only gear items on the slate of products that were tested. The best new hiking boots were also run through the ringer, as were the latest sleeping bags and pads as well. The magazine even took a look at the top shell jackets, as well as the very best tents for the camping season ahead.

If you're in the market for some new backpacking gear this spring, than you'll definitely want to drop by the site and check out what products won the coveted "Editor's Choice" awards. If you're going to be spending your hard-earned dollars on new boots, packs, or tents, you want to ensure that you're selecting the best that your budget allows. As usual, the Backpacker team is very thorough in their methodology, and there is lots of good insight to be gleaned from their testing. Before you head out to your local gear shop, see what they had to say about the products you're considering adding to your gear closet.

Gear Institute Announces Gear of the Year for 2014

If you're still looking for that last minute Christmas gift for the outdoor adventurer in your life, and could use a little extra help, that perhaps the Gear Institute could be of assistance. The website, which is dedicated to all things outdoor gear related, has announced it's gear of the year picks for 2014, naming the items that are Best in Class in over 45 different categories that range from climbing, hiking, camping, running, and more.

Some of the items that earned this distinction from the expert staff over at the Gear Institute include the Lowa Camino LL Flex boots, which were named the best backpacking boot, and the Patagonia Ascensionist 35L which won best daypack. Joining those items in the winner circle were the La Sportive TC Pro climbing shoes (best all-purpose climbing shoe), and the Primus ETA Lite (best rapid-boil stove). Mountain Hardware's Skyledge 3 earned the distinction of being the best 3-person backpacking tent, while the Brooks Cascade 9 went home with the trophy for top comfort trail running shoes.

The Gear Institute has been around for a few years now, and over that time it has become one of the best online resources for anything outdoor gear related. Their team consists of numerous individual experts on specific gear items, and they put that expertise to good use testing and reviewing all kinds of items that will likely be of interest to you. Be sure to check out their Best in Class 2014 list to see what gear items have impressed them the most this year.

The Adventure Blog Holiday Shopping Guide

Thanksgiving is always a great time here in the States. Friends and family gather together to catch-up with one another, enjoy some great food, and relax for a few days. But, it also kicks off the frenzy of the holiday shopping season, with millions of consumers heading out to stores in search of the perfect present for their loved ones. If you have an outdoor adventurer on your shopping list this year, then perhaps I can suggest a few items that they might find under the tree. Without further adieu, I present to you the 2014 Adventure Blog holiday shopping guide.

Osprey Rev 12 Pack ($110)
The perfect gift for the trail or ultra runner in your life is, without a doubt, the Rev 12 pack from Osprey. It is lightweight, comfortable to wear, and packed with features. For instance, it comes with with a 2.5L hydration bladder, an innovative media pocket that keeps your phone close at hand at all times, and plenty of pockets and compartments for storage of essential gear. This is simply one of the best packs ever made for trail running, and it is sure to be a hit with your favorite outdoor athlete. The Rev is also available in 1.5 liter, 6, liter, 18 liter, and 24 liter sizes depending on the needs of the runner.

Mountain Hardwear Sereaction Jacket ($600)
Looking for the ultimate high performance jacket to keep your favorite adventurer warm and dry in the mountains? Then look no further than the Sereaction Jacket from Mountain Hardwear. This shell features the company's proprietary Dry.Q Elite fabrics, which were developed for maximum breathability and ventilation during rigorous alpine activities. Designed to allow the wearer to remain comfortable at all times, without restricting movement, this is a jacket that will perform well in nearly any kind of environment and conditions.

Bikes From Cannondale
One of the best presents that anyone can find under the tree on Christmas morning is a new bike. That was true when we were kids, and it remains true to this day. Cannondale always has excellent models to fit every type of rider. The Trail SL 29 ($2060) is a great ride for all-mountain performance, while the Quick CX 1 ($1620) is a fun hybrid for comfortable off-road and city riding. But for the top of the line mountain biking experience, check out the Trigger Carbon Black, Inc. ($10,830), a lightweight, nimble beast that can both climb and descend like no other. This is quite possibly the best mountain bike available today.



CamelBak Forge Travel Mug ($30)
If you've been looking for the ultimate travel mug, your search is over. CamelBak (yes, the makers of all those hydration packs!) has gone to great lengths to design the best travel mug imaginable. The Forge features a double-wall, vacuum insulated container that will keep your coffee, tea, or hot chocolate warm for 4+ hours. Its innovative lid features a leak-proof design that is built to keep your hot beverage going inside of you, not down the front of your shirt. Best of all, CamelBak has come up with a way to make it easier than ever to keep you mug clean, with a design that is so simple, you'll wonder why no one thought of it sooner. This is a wonderful product that is perfect for just about anyone on your list.

Outdoor Technology Big Turtle Shell Wireless Speaker ($230)
These days, Bluetooth wireless speakers are everywhere, and have become a popular accessory for our outdoor adventures. But few of them are built from the ground up to survive in the backcountry, while also delivering high quality sound in the process. The Big Turtle Shell from Outdoor Technology has been designed to not only provide great audio performance, but it is also water resistant, dust proof, and shock proof. That means, music lovers don't have to compromise on sounds when they go camping or backpacking. And with a battery life of 16 hours, they'll be able to listen for a long time between recharges.

Sugoi Cycling and Running Jackets
Running and cycling apparel also make for great gifts, and Sugoi has some of the best gear for both sports. Take for example the new Zap Bike Jacket ($160), which features the innovative Pixel fabrics that are designed to be both highly waterproof and incredibly reflective. This is the kind of jacket you want your loved one wearing when the rain sets in, or darkness starts to fall a bit earlier than expected. Similarly, the Alpha Hybrid Jacket ($175) is tailor made for runners. It provides plenty of warmth for those cold weather outings, with great breathability to ensure overheating doesn't become an issue. Wind and water resistant, the Alpha will quickly become a favorite piece of gear for your favorite runner.

Vasque Grand Traverse Shoes ($130)
Adventure travelers looking for a lightweight, highly packable, and very comfortable shoe to take with them on journeys will want to consider the Grand Traverse from Vasque. Good looking and versatile, these shoes are perfect for light trail duty, traipsing around town, or shuffling through an airport. Depending on the type of activities that are part of the itinerary, the Grand Traverse just might be the only shoe you need to take with you on that next adventure abroad.

Nite Ize Inova STS Headlamp ($35)
There are a lot of headlamps available on the market today, but what sets the Inova STS from Nite Ize apart from the competition is its unique swipe-to-shine technology. This allows the wearer to quickly and easily dial in the exact level of brightness they need without having to fumble with buttons, special modes, or switches. The headlamp is capable of putting out as much as 142 lumens of power, and is waterproof to one meter, as well as drop resistant.

Goal Zero Sherpa 50 Power Pack ($200)
Keeping your electronic devices fully charged in the backcountry can be a real challenge these days. In addition to smartphones and digital camera, we also have to be able to keep your GPS devices, rechargeable headlamps, and other gadgets working too. It would be nice if that extended to tablets and laptops as well. Enter the Sherpa 50 Power Pack($200) from Goal Zero, a battery pack that can provide plenty of juice for everything you take with you on your adventures. Charge it up before you leave home, or pair it with a Nomad 13 solar panel ($160) for a portable charging solution.

Buffs ($20)
Buffs have been around a long time now, and they remain one piece of gear that I never leave home without. These versatile pieces of headgear can serve as a scarf, balaclava, do-rag, face mask, and so much more. Available in dozens of colors and styles, they make great stocking stuffers for the active outdoor enthusiast. Personally, I'm a bit partial the new National Geographic Everest design, but there are so many to choose from, it's tough to decide which is best. And don't forget there are Buffs designed specifically for cold weather use as well.

Chums Gizmo PED Case ($25)
Keeping our electronic devices safe while in the backcountry, or on a trip to the far side of the planet is of the utmost importance. That's why Chums has introduced a new set of products designed to do just that. The Gizmo case is offers padded protection for a smartphone, digital camera, or similarly sized device, with an interior that is lined with soft fleece to protect delicate screens. The outer shell is made of ballistic nylon to help provide further protection, while a couple of interior pockets are great for organization. The case is perfect for an iPhone 6, charger, and cable, with enough room left over for a few other items too.

Vessyl Smart Cup ($99)
Fitness and workout nuts will love Vessyl, a smart cup that can keep track of everything they drink, and provide nutritional feedback. With its sophisticated set of sensors, the Vessyl is capable of detecting the brand, flavor, and contents of just about anything that is put into it, and store that data for analysis over time. The device can then break down the "liquid calories" consumed by the user, making them more aware of what they are drinking. When linked to a smartphone, the device can help users lose weight, stay hydrated, regulate sugar and caffeine intake, and more. The Vessyl will ship in 2015, but can be preordered now at a special introductory price.

Gear Closet: 5.11 Tactical Rush 12 Backpack

As I mentioned in a previous blog post, a few weeks back – just before I left for Ecuador – my friends at 5.11 Tactical were kind enough to ship me a box filled with all kinds of goodies. Amongst them were the Stryke Pants, which I took with me to South America and put to good use in the field. But also in the box was a wonderful daypack that I think many people will find is a great addition to their own gear closets. It is the Rush 12 pack, a versatile, durable, and well built bag that can be used in a variety of situations from the backcountry to the boardroom.

As with all of 5.11 Tactical's gear, the Rush 12 takes a lot of its design cues from military and law enforcement gear. This looks like a pack you would expect to find on the backs of soldiers deployed in just about any theater of operations around the globe. It is incredibly well built, and designed to last, and as such it resists abrasions, tears, and scuffs very well. This is the kind of pack that you'll be able to abuse for years, and still continue to put to good use while hiking, hunting, or carrying your urban gear around town.

The designers of the Rush 12 put a lot of thought into this bag, and have managed to put in a surprising number of features. For instance, there are 16 different compartments, stow pockets, and storage chambers on the pack, giving you plenty of options for keeping all of your important items in just the right place. Those compartments include a fleece-lined pocket that is perfect for sunglasses or a smartphone, with the soft lining ensuring that lenses or screens don't get scratched. There is also a 60oz (1.77 liter) hydration sleeve, a pocket with built-in organizational slots, and large main storage area that can swallow up plenty of gear as well.


Unlike most other pack manufacturers, who generally indicate the size of the bag in the name, 5.11 Tactical took a different approach. The "12" in the Rush 12 name indicates the number of hours the bag would be used for. Thus, the Rush 12 is a good daypack for up to 12 hours of use. This is in contrast to the Rush 24, which would be an overnight bag, or the Rush 72, which is a three-day pack. In terms of traditional size however, the Rush 12 offers a solid 21.2 liters of capacity, which puts it on the smaller end of the daypack scale, but with more storage capacity than that number might typically indicate.

The Rush 12 features thickly padded shoulder straps, which help to distribute a heavy load nicely. A sternum strap locks the back into place, although their is no hipbelt at all, which may cause some to find the fit to be a bit more loose than they would like. The back stayed well in place during testing however, and unless you are attempting to use it for trail running, or some other fast-paced aerobic exercise, it will more than likely meet the demands that you put on it.

All of the straps, buckles, and zippers on this pack are of exceptional quality, and only add to the feeling that this pack can withstand plenty of punishment. 5.11 Tactical has gone to great lengths to ensure that Rush 12 can survive in harsh environments, and that includes integrating self-reparing zippers, with pull tabs that are easy to operate, even while wearing gloves. The great quality even extends to the stitching, as the entire package has been constructed in a manner that simply makes the Rush 12 feel practically bullet proof.

The back panel on the Rush 12 doesn't feature any type of frame to help facilitate ventilation. In fact, there isn't even much in the way of contouring that could provide relief when wearing this bag in a warm environment. It is not unusual for a pack of this size to lack those kinds of features, but it is worth pointing out none the less. If you're someone who works up a sweat while wearing a daypack, the lack of ventilation system may be of ca concern. Depending on how you plan to use the pack however, it may not be something you would notice at all.

While this pack may lack some of the more technical features of bag designed specifically for hiking, it definitely makes up for it with its level of versatility. This is a pack that you can use as part of your everyday commute, just as easily as it can pull double duty out on the trail. It has a nice, classic look to it that would feel just as at home in an office environment, as it does sitting around a campsite. Military and law enforcement personnel will absolutely love this pack, and I think it will be a hit with hunters too. It has all of the storage space that those individuals will need, all wrapped up in a nice compact design. Casual hikers will find that it is more than up to the challenge of day-hiking along your favorite trail, although serious trekkers may want to look towards a more technical pack designed specifically for their needs.

With a price tag of $100, the Rush 12 is a great bargain for the market that it it going after. You'll have a tough time finding a pack of this quality from any other manufacturer at that price. Durability and dependability are the name of the game, and 5.11 Tactical has delivered those qualities, and then some. If this is the type of pack you need, then don't hesitate to order one today. You will not be disappointed.