Gear trends: 2015/16 Winter packs

Better anatomical fits help keep winter packs steady and safety gear accessible. Check out the new lines slated for 2015/16 retail.
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Throughout the next month, SNEWS will recap its coverage of Outdoor Retailer Winter Market 2015 with select stories from the O.R. Daily we published at the show Jan. 20 – 24. It’s an opportunity for you to catch up on stories you might have missed in O.R.D., and for us to update and upload the articles to our searchable archives.

In winter packs, size matters— at least when it pertains to weight. Easy-access pockets, better fit and clean lines are key as well.

“Consumers want easy use in case they need to get to their shovel fast and nice, easy-open panels where everything is accessible, but beyond that, weight is the number one driving factor,” said Mike Craig, hardgoods buyer and manager for Backwoods Mountain Sports in Ketchum, Idaho. “They want a big main pocket, a nice organized front pocket and as lightweight as they can get it.”

Avy airbags continue to be the hot-ticket item for dedicated backcountry goers, but the non-airbag winter pack market is heating up, too, with increased options for consumers.

Black Diamond’s Dawn Patrol backcountry skiing series ($160; 25L) features a lightweight yet durable redesign built with high tenacity, ultralight Dynex panels and shoulder straps. Plus, it’s compatible with the modular Avalung Element (MSRP $100). With fit in mind, the pack is made to wrap around and hug the body, especially in the hip belt region. “Skiing is a dynamic sport where you’re constantly getting thrown off balance. If your pack moves independent of your body, it’s going to affect your skiing,” said Tom Franke, Black Diamond’s pack product designer. “Whereas if you could take the pack and weld it to your body as much as possible, that’s what we view as the goal for the best performance.”

Because seconds matter in worst-case scenario avalanche conditions, Arc’teryx has equipped its Khamski 31 and 38 (MSRPs $229/$249) packs with multiple entry points for easy access to gear. The North Face (#35051) follows suit with the Snomad (MSRP $159), a 34-liter pack designed for bigger, off-resort backcountry skiing and snowboarding missions. Although its “cobra lid” is more for stuffing extra layers than snagging life-saving tools, the secure storage area can be tightened down to avoid throwing off the user’s center of gravity on the descent. Find a smaller capacity for quicker trips in High Sierra’s Symmetry 12 (MSRP $70) option with nylon Mini-Hex Ripstop and nylon Micro-Dobby fabric to minimize weight without sacrificing durability.

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Better fits and cleaner designs are also on-trend among pack designers. The new Rise Pro (MSRP $175) from Deuter showcases the brand’s Alpine Back System with a pivoting hip belt designed to follow complex body motions, evenly distribute load and provide increased freedom of movement and balance. Strap on skis in either A-frame or diagonal geometry. Salomon’s S-Lab X Alp 20 (MSRP $150) also enables a wide range of motion, as well as access to gear without removing the pack. Bergans of Norway presents a new member of its Rondane line, an 18L (MSRP $119) focused on the growing number of nordic and randonee races. It features a stability system that promises to keep the pack tight to the shoulders, avoiding the irksome “jumping” that can occur during these high-intensity activities.

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Building off a heritage piece that began in 1996, new options in Dakine’s Heli series (MSRP $90; 20L) show off a sleek design without stray dangling straps, yet maintain a range of ways to carry a board, skis or snowshoes. Dakine also dialed in its women’s fit by shortening the torso length, narrowing the hip belt, curving the shoulder straps, narrowing the neckline and adding volume back into the pack so it has the same amount of space as a comparable men’s pack.

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“Really the emphasis is on trying to approach riders of every caliber and every gender and every riding style,” said Nate Kuder, senior product line manager for technical packs and bags.

--Courtney Holden

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