Honey, I shrunk the multi-day pack

As backpacking trips shorten and gear shrinks, multi-day packs are getting sleeker, smaller and more versatile. Check out what's ahead for 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.

The multitude of sleek and small multi-day packs popping up on the show floor this Summer Market isn’t just about aesthetics.

New overnighters for 2014 are being streamlined to offer functional benefits with lighter weight, simplified operation and more versatile designs as the gear they carry continues to shrink.

Patagonia creates an adaptable lightweight pack line for technical alpine ascents with its Ascensionist 45- and 35-liter multi-day packs, plus a 25-liter pack for day summits (MSRPs $99-$179). The Ascensionist 35 debuts an asymmetrical spindrift collar — creating a cavernous opening for easy gear grabs and allowing light to flood the inner pack for visibility — that is integrated into the lid, and both multi-day packs feature an additional deployable spindrift collar for pack expansion.

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“We wanted to make sure they were simple and light so that you can climb in them really well,” said Scott Bryan, pack designer at Patagonia. “This whole industry is moving toward increased complexity, but in actuality you’re adding a lot of weight and adding components that can break in the field.”

Additionally, lightweight solutions are making packs more customizable for the trip. The two larger Ascensionist packs incorporate removable aluminum stays with a trampoline center, which offers the flexibility of either hiking minimalist style or packing more gear, as well as a hip belt with optional padding (detachable on the 35-liter pack). Osprey updates the capacities of its superlight backpacking and thru-hiking Exos series to 38-, 48- and 58-liters (MSRPs $160-$220). The leaner trio has strippable elements, including the floating lid with an integrated FlapJacket, to shed 3 or 4 ounces each. For mountaineering, Millet brings the lightweight Prolighter MXP 60+20 (MSRP $199) with a top expansion and a removable raised hip belt.

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The North Face introduces the lightweight backpacking Banchee series in men’s and women’s 65-, 50- and 35-liter packs (MSRPs $169-$239) with ergonomic T6 aluminum frames, adjustable cam-buckle hip belts and Optifit technology to dial in the user’s size. Vaude releases the Astrum 60- or 70- plus 10-liter packs with three-point compression straps and a single buckle that wraps beneath the bottom compartment to simplify use and cut bulk (MSRPs $250-$270). Kelty launches the TraiLogic Series with the PK 50, a 50-liter zipperless compartmentalized pack that includes a detachable clothing compartment, which allows the pack to slim down to 35 liters for daytrips. Eliminating zippers decreases weight and vulnerability to breakage, and increases water resistance and compression with a roll closure (MSRP $200).

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The inner suspension systems on multi-day packs also are being reworked. Granite Gear debuts a maple-core composite frame — a wooden core sandwiched between two layers of fiberglass —in the larger and updated Nimbus Trace 70 Access.

“The technology is inspired from the ski industry,” said Dan Cruikshank, chief operating officer and co-founder of Granite Gear. “Wood is so light and strong and it’s a natural material — it’s actually lighter and stiffer than some of the composites that we’ve been using in our packs up until this point ... and it’s aesthetically pleasing.”

Bergans of Norwaymakes its new shoulder harness system, called QuickAdjust, adjustable with Velcro for tall and short users in its Rodane series of packs, including sizes 38 to 65 liters (MSRPs $159-$199) for multi-day excursions. Alps Mountaineering presents the Shasta 59- and 69-liter packs with tubular lightweight frames and adjustable suspension (MSRPs $170-$180) and Black Diamondpremieres lightweight, multi-day top-loaders with the women’s Elixir and men’s Element 45- and 60-liter packs (MSRPs $199-$220), which utilize its reACTIV suspension — swing arm shoulder straps paired with a lighter-weight foam belt.

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--Morgan Tilton

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