More than meets the eye: 2015 multi-day packs

Multi-day packs transform for on- and off-trail use. See what's ahead for 2015 at outdoor retail.
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Throughout the next month, SNEWS will recap its coverage of Outdoor Retailer Summer Market 2014 with select stories from the O.R. Daily we published at the show Aug. 6 – 9. 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.

It’s not quite “Transformers,” but multi-day packs are morphing.

They’re serving multiple uses, while getting lighter, employing simpler attachment interfaces and utilizing better suspension technology.

The ability to morph today’s multi-day packs is helping address consumer demands of lighter, yet more durable options. “Consumers are looking for lightweight packs that are durable and functional,” said Nancy Bouchard, backpack category manager for Backpacker magazine. “Our testers also love things that help organize accessories. They also like the front U-shaped opening panels for heavy-load haulers.”

The North Facetargets the big-mountain niche with its Cobra (MSRPs $220; 52L/$250; 60L), a Cordura nylon alpine expedition pack with floating, removable lid and frame sheet that lets it be stripped down to just 1 pound, 9 ounces — more than 2 pounds off its base weight. “For us, it’s all about touch-point interaction and versatility,” said Andy Coutant, director of equipment for The North Face. “Some consumers want fully featured lightweight packs and others want packs that are stripped down.” For those carrying less gear there’s the Shadow (MSRP $179), a simpler 40+10L version weighing 2 pounds, 4 ounces and stripping down to 1 pound, 8 ounces.

Mammut’s 50+7L Trion Pro (MSRP $200) allows users to adapt in the mountains for both summer and winter pursuits. The pack comes with crampon storage, rope strap, spare climbing hip belt, floating lid, ski storage, hydration system compatibility and a fully opening back for access.

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Kelty touts its new Catalyst line with strategic pockets and removable compartments for daypack conversion. The four-model, top-loading men’s and women’s Catalyst (MSRPs $179-$199; 61-80L) feature size-adjustable suspension, zippered compartment access, side sleeping bag access and HDPE frame sheets with dual aluminum stays. There’s also a 10-liter removable daypack for day hikes and peak bagging. For shorter adventures come the Catalyst 50 and 46 women’s(MSRPs $159), minus the side sleeping bag access and removable daypack.

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“Dialed-in fit is becoming increasingly important,” said Mike Ruschman, hardgoods buyer for Midwest Mountaineering. “People want to be able to fine-tune a pack’s fit and change out its components.”

Focusing on fit and electronic compatibility, Gregory, recently sold by Black Diamond to Samsonite, redesigns its men’s Baltoro (MSRPs $299-$349; 65-85L) and women’s Deva ($299-$349; 60-80L) for spring 2015. They feature a new Response A3 suspension — an independently pivoting shoulder harness and hipbelt combined with a 7075 aluminum wishbone frame — to maintain low center of gravity in variable conditions. The packs also come with a Sidekick pack, an internal hydration reservoir compartment that doubles as an ultra-light removable daypack.

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Osprey invests in carrying comfort and gender-specificity with an update of its popular Atmos and Aura series. “We continue to see interest in suspension technology and women-specific designs,” said Marketing Director Gareth Martins. The new Atmos and Aura AG (Anti-Gravity) (MSRPs $230; 50L/$260; 65L) use a highly contoured, ventilated and tensioned mesh suspension system, along with stiffened load lifters, to wrap the shoulders, body and hips. This all helps distribute and balance weight for more comfort and fewer hot spots. The packs also feature a new torso adjustment system to dial in fit.

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Deuter jumps on the suspension bandwagon, seeing growth in larger packs stressing comfort and ventilation. Its ACT Trail Pro (MSRPs $169; 38/40L) sports an updated suspension system featuring a spring steel wire frame that reduces weight by 1 pound and does a better job hugging the back to distribute and balance the carry. The waist belt is flush-mounted to reduce pressure points and maintain compression to keep loads near the hips, yet still allows for pivoting in reaction to movement.

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Bergans of Norway’s Trollhetta Pack (MSRPs $299-$375; 55-95L) features the next generation of its Spine system, a double helix-shaped, shock-absorbing spring steel frame attached to the center of the pack’s back panel that “frees” the body, allowing the back, hips and shoulders to move independently of the pack. It also comes with multi-point adjustable top tension straps, a new 3D-style hip belt and integrated top-lid-converting daypack. And High Sierra overhauls its Tech Series, debuting the Lightning 35 pack (MSRP $120), which is available in female-specific 35W. With 2,135 cubic inches of storage, it features a stretched mesh back panel for airflow, a mesh waist belt and a stretchable mesh membrane pocket for extending gear capacity.

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And High Sierra overhauls its Tech Series, debuting the Lightning 35 pack (MSRP $120), which is available in female-specific 35W. With 2,135 cubic inches of storage, it features a stretched mesh back panel for airflow, a mesh waist belt and a stretchable mesh membrane pocket for extending gear capacity.

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--Eugene Buchanan

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