- Buyer's Guide
Best Active Backpack Champion | Carry Awards IX
Exceptionally tough and comfortable, our Best Active Backpack champion conquers demanding backcountry terrain and heavy loads with aplomb…
Hill People Gear Umlindi V2
Hill People Gear have been making rugged backcountry gear since 2010. And over a decade of experience clearly shows through with the Umlindi V2. This popular pack has welcomed a variety of updates to enhance its functionality, including dual top compression straps, a top zippered pocket on the lid, dual aluminum stays within the removable HDPE frame sheet, enlarged side pockets, and more. Each update has been added not for the sake of it (that’s simply not HPG’s way), but instead to offer truly enhanced functionality.
Now when it comes to toughness, you’d be hard-pressed to beat this pack. Produced completely in the USA, its burly 500D Cordura construction is Berry Amendment Compliant. So rest assured, whatever outdoor adventures your wanderlust is dreaming up, this pack will triumphantly tackle them head-on.
The organization is top-notch, offering easily accessible pockets for smaller gear, as well as exterior attachment straps for bulkier items like a jacket or tarp. Velcro under the top lid accommodates compatible accessories too, while a range of HPG accessories provides even further options for setting the pack up just right for your specific needs. Add in the thoughtful compression strap system and you can dial the pack in perfectly to suit ever-changing active missions.
Outdoor-ready durability and convenient gear organization are important in an active pack and the Umlindi V2 nails these criteria with ease. But equally important is carry comfort. When you’re hauling heavy loads for hours on end, an uncomfortable pack will ruin your excursion. Luckily, that’s not a problem with the Umlindi V2. This pack carries exceptionally comfortably courtesy of its Cordura horseshoe-shaped harness. This cleverly designed harness evenly distributes the load on your shoulders and back and offers a larger contact area than you would normally get with standard shoulder straps. The back panel is padded and also features a removable frame sheet and aluminum stays for enhanced carry comfort. Looking for an extra helping hand for really heavy loads and long outings? HPG’s optional Recon Belt does a great job of hugging the hips as you roam and is also MOLLE-compatible for additional organization options.
As 30L packs go, this pack isn’t light (coming in at 4 lbs). But what you sacrifice in weight you more than make up for in incredible durability, excellent carry comfort, and flexible organization that adapts to a range of different loads. If you need a dependable backcountry pack for heavy hauling, the Umlindi V2 is a definite winner. Touchdown, Hill People Gear!
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.
Arch Ind. Grisetti BaseCamp 30
There’s just something about customized carry that gets the senses tingling. Your creativity starts sparking as wild visions of your ideal bag float across your vision. But bringing those visions to life in a practical piece is often downright challenging. Andrea Perici, the man behind Arch Ind, is not afraid of a challenge. Most definitely a good thing, since we get to enjoy excellent pieces such as the Grisetti BaseCamp 30. The pack is handmade in Italy and working off a base design, you pretty much have free reign over customization options. Material choices and colors, zippers, attachment points, additional pockets, and even a bespoke fit that suits your specific frame. If you can dream it, ask, and Andrea will try to make it happen.
We stuck pretty close to the standard Grisetti BaseCamp 30 for evaluation purposes and were highly impressed by its performance. The rolltop design gives you the flexibility to overload the pack if needed, while external daisy chains and quick-access pockets keep essentials at the ready. Fancy even more convenience? A side zipper allows access to the main compartment so you don’t need to undo the rolltop. How about carry comfort? Well catered for with a ventilated back panel, ergonomic and padded shoulder straps, a sternum strap, load lifters, and a removable waist belt. Just what you need for a 30L pack. And with its high-quality materials and excellent construction, it easily embraces a variety of active pursuits. This is the very first custom pack to be nominated for a Best Active Backpack award. And its High Commendation demonstrates it can more than hold its own against production packs. Bravo, Arch Ind!
Osprey Talon 22
Osprey are no strangers to the active outdoor scene. Founded in 1974, they have an exceptional history behind them. And that design pedigree is evident in the Osprey Talon 22. This classic pack welcomed a variety of updates in 2021, making it even more functional and ready for active use. The primary update is the suspension, which now features an injection-molded back panel with die-cut foam and a mesh overlay. Super comfy and breathable? You bet. The harness and integrated hip belt are designed to move with you, keeping the load comfortable and stable while moving quickly over rough terrain.
The Talon 22 doesn’t overlook useful organization either. Quick-access pockets keep all your smaller essentials secure yet close at hand, with large zipper pulls enhancing the ease of access. And gear loops will handle larger pieces such as an ice ax or walking poles. You’ll also find a bike helmet attachment point and an exterior pocket for a water bladder. The pack is made with recycled 210D and 100D high-tenacity nylon and an abrasion-resistant 420HD packcloth bottom. Tough enough where it’s needed to handle active use, yet still lightweight (coming in at just 0.9 kg). When moving light and fast is the goal, the Talon 22 shines as a highly versatile active daypack that carries really well. Bravo, Osprey!