Day pack designers are targeting on-the-go consumers, realizing that even the most sport-specific pack will find itself in an airport or subway during the journey to the adventure.
For Product Designer Luke Boldman at Mountainsmith, that meant redesigning the brand’s entire line of backpacks for 2016, and looking for ways to create a “hybrid” — a backpack big enough for an overnight and still light and small enough to work for a day trip. Enter the Mayhem 35 (MSRP $140) with wire-frame load dispersion, stabilizer bar and angled water bottle pockets ready for the outdoors. Plus it’s FAA compliant, including a side panel passport pocket. Boldman calls it the “Swiss Army Knife” pack.
Patagonia is following a similar trend. It promotes a lighter, more useful Black Hole series (MSRPs $129-$149) at 25-35 liters. While it may be a bit small for overnights, the Black Hole ranges bigger than Patagonia’s traditional daypack, such as the Nine Trails (MSRPs $69-$99; 10-25 liters), which has added padding this year and more comfortable straps. High Sierra takes on the “be everything” trend, launching new Sable (18-28 liters) and Sula (18-28 liters) daypacks, focused on aesthetics and styling and meant to be versatile, multi-use packs.
Osprey brings its trademarked Anti-Gravity Technology — tensioning and contouring mesh throughout the back and shoulders for superior support, fit and breathability — to its child-carrier line the Poco AG series (MSRPs $250-$330). The brand releases its lighter and faster Verve and Viper hydration packs (MSRPs $80-$110). Bergans of Norway (#14017), known more for its multi-day pack systems, adds 40-liter and 48-liter sizes to the traditional Skarstind (MSRP $109-$159) daypack line. It also adds hip packs under the Skarstind name for additional versatility.
Another theme emerging with new daypacks and hydration packs this year is improvements to strap breathability and comfort. Runners and hikers continue to complain about packs trapping sweat around the shoulders and back areas, which can lead to chaffing and blistering. To combat this, Thule’s Capstone packs (MSRPs $159-$169) feature a mesh backpanel to allow more breathability. Gregory brings the revamped Miwok and Maya (MSRPs $69-$169) hydration packs, which range from 5 to 34 liters, allowing for better breathability and performance.
Ultimate Direction introduces a new member of its Signature Series hydration vest line with the TO Race Vest 3.0. While being ultralight won’t necessarily set it apart from other packs, its hex-mesh construction will, which allows for sweat to escape the straps during those short or mid-race runs. Ultimate Direction also brings an accompanying women’s line called the Adventure Vesta, which is an upsized version of the currant Ultra Vesta (MSRP $125). It’s built for the women’s body for those long days on the trail, and it’s designed by female athletes.
Lowe Alpine is aiming to make its packs more comfortable for 2016. It redesigned the popular Eclipse series (MSRPs $110-$159), which comes in a wide range of sizes, between 14 and 55 liters, promising a lighter, more breathable pack.
The biggest, over-arching trend in packs is a renewed focus on materials. Most product designers agree that a new base material can make significant improvements in comfort, weight and durability, three main tenants of consumer satisfaction with their haulers. In this light, material provider Cordura continues to be a go-to source with its heavy-duty fabrics. Mountainsmith will be using Cordura for the first time in 2016. Boldman said consumers — specifically millennials — will also be asking more questions about fair trade, material sourcing and working conditions.
“The millennials want to research the heck out of everything,” he said. “Cordura, bar-none, does the best job at what they do.”
Thule packs will be using Cordura materials, as well. “Cordura fabric is more durable than commodity fabrics. And has a better strength-to-weight ratio than comparable off-the-shelf fabrics,” said Graham Jackson, global product manager at Thule.
Not to say there isn’t a little competition out there: Montane brings its new Raptor UL fabric, featured in its new trail running pack, the Via Snap 4 (MSRP $149). Weighing just 8.5 ounces, it promises “unrivaled weight balance and more strength,” said Montane’s James Graven. “It’s as much a piece of clothing as it is a pack.”