- Buyer's Guide
Best Active Backpack 2019
The Best Active Backpack needs to carry comfortably, while being tough enough to handle demanding use. Add versatility and quick access to the mix and you’re onto a winner…
Carrying a lot of gear outdoors can be a real challenge, both from a comfort and logistics perspective. But Mystery Ranch overcomes that challenge with the champion Terraframe 3-Zip. A pack that can not only haul multiple days’ worth of gear comfortably into the backcountry but also tackle oddly shaped or wet gear like no other.
How does it do it? By combining two Mystery Ranch innovations into one hell of a burly hiker: the game-changing 3-ZIP and the OVERLOAD™ harness, previously only available in their hunting and military lines.
The OVERLOAD™ feature lets you secure gear between the pack and the frame, by simply unbuckling and releasing the shelf, giving the pack extreme dimension. The Terraframe will get you to camp with your cooking gear and fuel (talking to you, scout leaders) and carry your daypack too. It allows you to bring things back from your adventures (great for geologists or the like) or to store wet gear and allow it to air-dry. And it does so in an incredibly flexible way, so you can carry large loads when you need to and enjoy compact carry when you don’t.
While the pack is heavier than most in its category, it excels in comfort. The rigid but flexible frame system moves with the body, allowing greater carry comfort for heavier loads. Add in MR’s Futura Yoke and easily adjustable Redirect waist belt and you’ve got superior comfort and load stability to handle a vast range of carry needs. And when it comes to toughness, MR deliver. This is a pack that can’t be killed (and heck, if you manage to fell one, the lifetime warranty will give it new life).
The Terraframe 3-Zip is a highly adaptable pack for backcountry enthusiasts who want the flexibility to go light or go big for diverse excursions. All while delivering world-class comfort and bomber durability. Bravo, Mystery Ranch!
These are the pieces that just missed out, and in most cases, by the smallest of margins. To them, we award a High Commendation. The below were of outstanding quality, displaying fine craftsmanship and design flair. With honor, we bow our heads in the utmost respect and kudos. If this were a dais, they’d be biting their teeth into silver medals, while their flags were hoisted into the horizon – a feat not to be overlooked. And we’re sure they’ll be back, to take it one notch higher, next year.
The EVERGOODS Mountain Quick Draw is a superior blend of alpine inspiration and modern-day functionality. A pack all about quick, efficient access to your gear on the go. And it does so through a combination of side zip entry to the main compartment paired with the unique Quick Draw Lid design that enables rapid opening and closing. Take a closer look and you’ll find plenty of further features adding to the bag’s user-friendly design. Top and side handles, along with a front center handle that allows for easy maneuverability and aids top access. A tough yet lightweight and water-resistant build to handle a variety of adventures without weighing you down. Hydration bladder compatibility with left and right hydration ports. Daisy chains and just enough pocketing to keep gear tidy without cluttering the design. A contoured back panel and shoulder straps, as well as a removable hipbelt and sternum strap for category-leading comfort and load stability. All making for a well-considered and versatile piece that can conquer active needs in urban and outdoor settings alike. Fantastic work, EVERGOODS!
If there’s a design boundary to be pushed or a problem to be solved, you’ll find Arc’teryx with their noses to the grindstone, working hard to deliver a top-notch solution. And their Alpha AR 35 is a prime example of their design ethos. A pack meticulously honed to excel in alpine and rock climbing environments. And doing so with a custom-developed fabric for superior tear and abrasion resistance. Arc’teryx’s N315r HT nylon 6,6 LCP material combines a liquid crystal polymer ripstop grid and a high tenacity nylon to create a durable fabric for rugged outdoor environments. Adaptable and lightweight, the pack takes on the challenge of climbing settings with a streamlined design that accommodates a variety of gear setups. The removable lid and removable framesheet let you shed weight when you want to pare down the load, while also allowing the bag to pack down small for easy storage. Designed to thrive on day missions, it’s a solid companion when the mountains are calling. Well done, Arc’teryx!