Prime-time players: Smaller packs get tricked out for a full day outdoors

More hikers are demanding multi-day pack comfort and features from their slimmer day packs. Find out what's new for outdoor retail shelves in 2014.
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Throughout the next month, SNEWS will recap its coverage of Outdoor Retailer Summer Market 2013 with select stories from the O.R. Daily we published at the show July 31 – Aug. 3. 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.

A growing number of done-in-day athletes are demanding multi-day pack comfort, support and accessibility at a fraction of the weight and size.

The sleek and slim daypack is the new king of haulers at outdoor retail.

“The full gamut of light and fast is not just for running, but also the fast hiker that’s using really lightweight gear and lightweight kits,” said Wade Woodfill, Marmot’s category merchandising manager for equipment. “The versatility and the access are the keys to these packs.”

Marmotbroadens the selection in its light and fast Momentum series of packs to include the Kompressor Verve 26 and 32, with a U-shaped entry and three zipper toggles (MSRPs $109-$149).

Deuter introduces the trim AC Aera top loader with additional U-shaped front panel access in 22- and 28-liter sizes for women and 24- and 30-liter sizes for men (MSRPs $109-$119). The durable, steel frame technical daypack is outfitted with Deuter’s ventilated back system and an integrated, detachable rain cover.

“We’ve never done a pack of this size with this huge U-shape opening,” said Christian Mason, director of sales and marketing for Deuter. “As a hiker, when you’re famished, but you didn’t do a good job packing, the U-shaped opening allows you to open the pack without having to do the yard sale of pulling everything out. You can open the whole thing and the sandwich is right there.”

With its unique zip entry, Mile High Mountaineeringextends the snake-loader system — an S-shaped zipper — to the Switch 24 (MSRP $158), a smaller and more versatile 24-liter urban-or-trail daypack with a removable flex-pivoting hip belt. Three zipper sliders allow multiple access points and the pack completely unzips to lie open and flat.

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Mountainsmith debuts the Parallax (MSRP $270), an outdoor camera backpack with top, back and side panel entries for equipment, a laptop compartment and a deployable camera pod that can be taken out the main compartment and clipped onto the chest without taking off the pack.

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In its premiere multifunction pack category, Lowe Alpinelaunches the lightweight Eclipse line (MSRPs $100-$150) for hiking, biking, running or climbing. To create a max opening, the central and side entry zips are combined into a single zipper on the men’s 25- and 35-liter packs and the women’s 22- and 32-liter packs, while a wide, easy-access side entry is integrated into the larger 45-liter packs.

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Beyond accessibility, brands are focusing on improving ventilation systems in their lineups of fastpacks and daypacks. Deuter furthers its child carrier options with the Kid Comfort Air (MSRP $229), which provides top or side child entry, a pivoting hip belt and a fully ventilated back system.

“We’re addressing parents that use child carriers when their kids are small and they live in hot sticky climates,” Mason said.

Alps Mountaineering adds the Valdez, a streamlined 25-liter daypack with a ventilated back and padded hip belt (MSRP $90). Gregoryslims its Z and J series of packs (MSRPs $99-$229; 23- to 65-liters), while improving their suspension system — a trampoline-style back panel with a lightweight wire X-frame that transfers the load to the lumbar pad and waist belt while allowing airflow. Gregory also lightens and reintroduces the men’s Miwok and women’s Maya packs (MSRPs $69-$169; 5 to 44 liters) with its updated BioSync suspension — a moisture-wicking back panel in addition to a ventilated waist belt and harness.

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Also focusing on trimmer pack designs, Bergans of Norwayannounces the Rondane Series, including 6- and 12-liter velocity sport sizes (MSRPs $99-$109), along with larger sizes. The daypacks incorporate a new quick-adjust system —Velcro-attached shoulder straps slide vertically along the back panel — to offer simple pack adjustability and user flexibility in the entire range of sizes. Hydrapak focuses on lightweight and stability in the Bishop 11- and 14-liter biking packs (MSRPs $140-150) with aluminum support stays and an internal ridged spine, ventilated shoulder straps and large waist strap.

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Boreas goes burly, yet light, with its Topaz 18- and 25-liter packs (MSRPs $44-$54). They employ 100-denier nylon with roll-top closures, yet each weigh in at less than a pound. JanSport implements smaller capacities for outdoor- and around-town pursuits in the refurbished Equinox Series, including18- and 22-liter packs (MSRPs $80-$90).

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Waterproof packs — no raincover needed — are on the rise at Summer Market, thanks to several brands gaining expertise from more complicated and contoured drybags. By adding comfortable harnesses and accessibility features, the “drypack” category is bourgeoning. Exped expands its roll-tops to include the Torrent 20 (MSRP $119), a smaller pack for wet-weather urban commuting and watersports such as canyoneering and kayaking. The new packs feature an exterior stash pocket with a waterproof zipper, an interior foam-padded laptop sleeve and removable hip belt. Sea to Summit expands its TPU laminated, 420-denier nylon, waterproof lineup with the Flow 35 Drypack (MSRP $199) with a removable load-bearing hip belt and compression straps to attach equipment — from fishing poles to skis — to the pack’s side. The central compartment is sealed with fully taped seams and closes with a roll-top.

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Convertible travel-commuter packs are multiplying at the show, as seen in the 35- and 60-liter Systems Go Duffel Pack (MSRPs $140-$160) from Eagle Creek, a hybrid backpack-duffle with a padded adjustable hip belt; as well as the 30- and 40-liter Compass from Gregory, a backpack with a cross-over duffle function, luggage style-access, compression straps and an external padded laptop compartment (MSRPs $99-$129).

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--Morgan Tilton

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