What’cha Packing?

Words by Jennifer Walton 


“Where’s your backpack?” “Which one?” is often the answer because there are backpacks for work, school, and play, as well as traveling, hiking, and biking and other outdoor endeavors. Sometimes it’s a day pack, other times it’s for that multi-day backpacking trip you’ve been planning all year. Ask yourself a few questions before you save or splurge on an item you’ll carry everyday or carry for years to come. What are your needs, style, and price point? Remember to consider materials, weight, durability, design, and above all comfort. Are you male or female, tall or short, because fit and sizing matter. Here’s a sample of what’s out there right now. Find the pack to fit your back and “Oh the places you’ll go! There’s fun to be done!”

One Bag Travel

We’ve included Peak Design’s extraordinary Travel Backpack in a previous issue’s Crush List because it handled a multitude of tasks from extensive travel to its ability to carry a full camera setup simultaneously. Honestly, this bag wins hands down every time. And, it has options with its own packing cubes. However, it’s slightly pricey (but worth it) and you might want a bag that’s a bit smaller and can double as a legal carry-on or personal piece (when packed like a pro). This is where the Cotopaxi Allpa 35L slides into home base and reminds us why we love to travel. It’s efficient, built for comfort and convenience, and available in luscious colors. With TPU-coated 1000D polyester with 1680D ballistic nylon paneling, it’s prepared for whatever you can throw at it and still look good and outperform its rivals. One large zippered compartment is on one side, and three smaller zippered compartments live on its opposite. Add its suitcase-style, full wraparound zipper for its main compartment, padded laptop and tablet sleeve, tuck away straps and grab handles, and this backpack with its shortcut zipper for easy access to the main bin and stowable Batac Daypack is why you can travel for a week, weekend, or weeks on end with a smile. $250  cotopaxi.com

In The Saddle


Mission Workshop’s Rambler backpack is built to endure the toughest commutes both on and off the bike. This workhorse can be used in “roll-top” or traditional “flap down” modes and can double in size from 1350 to 2700 cubic inches when you’ve picked up a few too many groceries, gifts, or growlers. The front zippered pocket holds your 15” laptop or tablet, while larger laptops and electronics are held in the rear rolltop compartment. With a carbon fiber reinforced internal frame, this cargo pack is available in eight subdued colors and is Made in the USA. $295  missionworkshop.com


Osprey collabed with Troy Lee Designs to produce the limited edition Siskin 8. Their reputations in their respective specializations make this simple pack sing a song of stability while speeding down singletrack or hopping boulders. The sippin’ is easy with Osprey Hydraulics® 2.5-liter reservoir by Hydrapak with direct-zip access and a magnetic sternum strap bite valve attachment. With a full front panel U-zip to the main compartment, store your gear, spare tube, snacks, and a light shell. There’s a multi-pocketed tool organizer, and Osprey’s LidLock attachment point fixes that helmet to the front of the pack with ease or expand the compression straps for a full-face helmet. In red and black. $115  osprey.com

Head to the Mountains

Arc’teryx has produced high-performance backpacks and gear for three decades. Their bags and equipment continuously receive awards year after year for innovative advancements for skiing and climbing. This year is no exception with the Arc’teryx Alpha AR 35. AR stands for “all round,” and the versatility for multiple alpine pursuits like a bike to ski scenario. Utilizing their Liquid Crystal Polymer (LCP) technology to improve abrasion resistance on rock and ice, this top-loader with a drawstring closure has a removable frame sheet, dual side compressions straps, dual ice axe attachments, removable lid, and a frontside with micro daisy chains allowing you to attach just about anything from clothing to hiking poles. But its stars come from its slim profile, and super comfy thermoformed and padded waist belt and shoulder straps. At a reasonable $218 for a pack that’s technical for the pure alpinist, and adaptable for the generalist, there are years of adventures packed into this four-season, five-star haute couture of a day pack. Put it to the test and get back to us. $219  arcteryx.com

Cube It!

Eagle Creek Pack-It Specter Tech Cubes

30D ripstop nylon! Sleek, simple, stain resistant and space saving, the Specter Tech cubes are beautifully and environmentally constructed (bluesign®) with two self-repairing zippers and are available in extra small, small, medium, and large for your packing pleasure. What makes these ghost-like transparent cubes a win-win is full open book design and their whisper light feel. Plus they’re water repellent and come in sizing sets, which make the most sense when you’re dialing in your packing game. $39.95/XS/SM/MD; $46.95/SM/MD/LG  eaglecreek.com

Patagonia Black Hole Cubes

These durable cubes make packing more can-do than can’t even. In the small size, toss in travel essentials like passport, zip drives, cords, headphones, wipes, moisturizer, and lip balm for the plane, or use it as a straight-up Dopp kit. It’s incredibly useful for when there are lots of odds and ends that you’d rather keep in one place, like keys to your pad. The medium size is ideal for underthings and t-shirts. With a clamshell opening and zippered mesh dividers just roll ‘em up, tuck ‘em in, and somehow there always seems to be room for more. This tester appreciates them on every trip. Bomber materials: 100% polyester ripstop (50% solution-dyed) with a TPU-film laminate and a DWR finish. Oh, and because it’s Patagonia, their bluesign® approved. That designation stands for employees getting safe working conditions and fair wages to produce these little environmentally friendly wonders. $29/SM; $39/MD; $49/LG  patagonia.com