While some bags offer versatility, others are designed with a specific purpose in mind. Specialist pieces that excel in nailing a particular need or use case, such as keeping you hydrated during races through the mountains, chilling your brews for long stretches of time, or helping you survive in emergencies.
All of our Best Specialist finalists do an excellent job fulfilling their intended purpose. But which piece really puts the ‘special’ in specialist and deserves to be a category champion? Make your selection below.
Dom Longman and Michael Cottam founded Kriega in 2000, frustrated by a lack of luggage for motorcycle riders. Fast-forward 20 years and they’re one of the industry’s foremost names in motorcycle carry. And with pieces such as the Kriega Trail 18, it’s not hard to see why. This rugged adventure pack is made to handle touring in all weathers. The 420D Cordura® Lite Plus and Hypalon construction lends confidence to your journeys, with practical organization keeping gear safe and secure when the going gets tough. The pack offers a 100% waterproof rolltop main compartment, along with a separate zippered rear compartment which is handy for storing tools, hydration, and small valuables courtesy of an interior waterproof pocket. Additionally, the front of the pack features a Hypalon net that’s useful for externally storing wet or bulky gear. And since comfort is a key priority on long, demanding rides, the pack includes a QUADLOC-Lite™ harness that transfers weight from the shoulders to the chest and body for maximized carry comfort.
Freedom of movement is key when you’re getting active. But if you’re out for an extended period of time, you’ll also need somewhere to store day supplies. Salomon strides forward with the XA 15, a versatile trail running pack. The bag features a trail running vest design to keep the chest unrestricted while ensuring the load is snug and stable on the move. Designed to protect gear from the elements, the bag is made with lightweight, weather-resistant and breathable fabrics and features a rolltop main compartment. Inbuilt compression allows you to quickly and easily expand or cinch the pack to suit different loads, while quick-access pockets store items such as soft flasks close at hand.
Traditional coolers have a history of being bulky and awkward to carry. But Pelican offers an alternative with their Dayventure Sling Cooler. The padded shoulder strap and rubberized carry handle make it easy to carry in a variety of settings, while the durable puncture-resistant build isn’t fazed by demanding use. Adding to the functional build is a compression molded base that enhances structure and durability. The cooler has a leak-resistant zipper with a waterproof seal and keeps the contents well insulated with high-density closed-cell foam. Plus you also benefit from an exterior pocket that’s useful for storing dry goods.
In emergency situations, having ready access to survival gear is critical. Uncharted Supply created the SEVENTY2™ Survival System as an effective means of dealing with the most critical period following an emergency: the first 72 hours. The system was designed with input from a range of experts including first responders, doctors, special forces operators, and mountain guides. It covers eight key areas including electronics, air and vision, food, water, light, first aid, tools and warmth. The bag’s outer shell is a durable and waterproof 600D tarpaulin, with a military-grade canvas insert that also has backpack straps, allowing you to increase carrying capacity by freeing up the outer shell if needed.
The RINO Ready Companion is a highly considered emergency survival system designed for two people. Created to cover the first 72 hours after an emergency, the system provides easy access to survival gear in versatile organization pouches. The bag is made with waterproof, fire-resistant materials and a rigid exoskeleton. External attachment points enable increased carrying capacity, while the clamshell opening lays flat for convenient access. Inside you’ll find gear to cover warmth, first aid, food, water, tools, sight and air, light, and communications.
YETI turns to the power of beefy magnets to update their Hopper soft cooler and provide better access for loading and retrieving gear. The Hopper M30 Soft Cooler features a wide opening that securely closes with YETI’s HydroShield™ Technology, a strip of super-strong magnets. And for added peace of mind the cooler also has two quick-release buckles for enhanced security. Drinks and food are kept chilled thanks to trusty closed-cell foam insulation. And its burly build features RF-welded seams and YETI’s DRYHIDE™ shell, a high-density fabric that resists mildew, punctures, and UV rays so you don’t need to worry about this cooler holding up on adventurous days out.
Swedish brand Thule have been in the business of helping outdoor enthusiasts get out there and explore since 1942. With their RoundTrip Bike Duffel the spotlight falls on cyclists, helping them organize and carry gear in this purpose-built bike gear bag. The 55L bag is designed to hold 3-5 days of road cycling or mountain biking gear, with multiple pockets to store clothing, accessories, tools, shoes, a helmet, dirty laundry and more. The duffel offers a choice of grab handles, along with a removable shoulder strap that can also be worn cross-body to carry the bag in a vertical backpack-style position.
Founded in 2007, Swedish brand USWE has a clear mission in mind: keep active individuals well hydrated with bounce-free hydration packs that don’t fret at rugged use. Designed with mountain biking and off-road motosports in mind, the USWE Outlander™ 4L Race Backpack features their NDM™ (No Dancing Monkey™) 4-point harness system for secure, bounce-free carry. It comes with a 3L Elite™ hydration bladder featuring a Slide-Seal™ top for quick, easy filling. Plus the bladder is reversible for cleaning convenience. And for your small essentials, an external pocket is at the ready to store snacks and small valuables.
A pack that bridges the gap between trail running and alpine climbing? A challenge that Black Diamond embraced and conquered with the Distance 15 Backpack. The design takes the best of advancements of both, featuring a suspension inspired by trail running vests, with an alpine-ready pack built for carrying tools and supplies in mountainous terrain. So you have the freedom and flexibility to run agilely on outdoor trails, with the gear you need stowed away. The bag is made with Dynex (Nylon 100D and PE 200D) body material and Dynex Ripstop yarns, providing excellent tear resistance in a fabric that’s ten times stronger than steel per weight yet still remains lightweight. Quick-access pockets and external tool attachment points keep frequently used gear accessible, while the water-resistant main compartment stores larger items and has a divider for a water bladder or cordelette.
Mystery Ranch brings their signature durability to the crags with the hard-wearing Tower 47 Pack. A tough, practical and comfortable crag pack, it’s made with 1000D Cordura and a compression-molded back panel for structure and comfort. The adjustable Futura harness, removable padded hip belt, and removable framesheet keep loads comfy on the approach, with top-loading access for conveniently reaching gear on the go. When you reach the crag, the bag can open fully through a front zipper to create a workstation that provides access to all your gear. Interior pockets organize gear in the main compartment, while an exterior lid pocket and daisy chains provide external organization for additional gear.
Built for long days in the backcountry, the Burton [ak] Incline is yet another iteration on their icon, combining comfort and performance in a multi-season touring pack. The bag comes in 20L and 30L options, with an adjustable back panel that fits torsos between 17″ and 20″. Speaking of the back panel, the Aeropro enclosed trampoline back panel is designed to maximize ventilation while also blocking snow and wind. Additionally, the pack features ergonomic shoulder straps, a sternum strap and waist belt to keep loads stable and comfy. Organization-wise you’ve got a variety of pockets on hand to store snow tools, a hydration sleeve, goggles, and more, along with vertical snowboard/splitboard carry and A-Frame splitboard carry. The pack is rounded out with a durable, water-resistant build backed by a lifetime warranty.