- Buyer's Guide
Best Active Backpack Finalists – Second Annual Carry Awards
When we say the word ‘active’ we’re not generally talking about big, lumbering hiking backpacks that you can shove your entire life into. We’re talking about adaptable bits of kit that give you freedom to move, accelerate and push through space. Whether it be military issue rucks, or slimline outdoor or bike packs that hug your spine while you weave through grids of stale traffic, these packs should haul diverse loads in comfortable ways.
And in our nominees you’ll see a eclectic bunch. Each of them has a target activity that they excel in, but each is also versatile enough that you can use it for travel or just for day-to-day activities. This is a hard one…but have fun and go for it!
You have two votes to use as you will…
Allocate your 1st choice with 2 points
And your 2nd choice just with the 1 point.
Note: any votes made over the allotted limit will be wiped from the voting tally.
This is one doozy of a modular pack system. It was originally launched with Kickstarter and fleshed out in front of the masses to great success. You can move the same flexible ventilated harness onto four different formats – depending on your activity. And if you’re more of a minimalist, I’d suggest the black colorway over the blaring bright orange…but that’s just me.
The Khard is one of the favorites amongst our contributors. It’s not only thanks to its flexible access (side, top, front and lying flat) but it’s incredible modularity, its high level of detail, steadfast materials and hardware that are rarely matched. Not to mention it’s damn good looking and exhibits some of the best pattern making we’ve seen, but this is turning into a bit of a love fest, so I’ll do the professional thing and let you choose.
The Raider Pack is so sweet for many reasons, but mostly because of the purity of the approach that was taken. This is very much a bag for riding to work and Timbuk2’s come at it fresh. They’ve built it around how we carry footwear and clothes and you can tell by the results. There’s an incorporated folding board along with shoe-friendly carry design, served up in a lightweight skin.
The Ascensionist Pack is super light and an ode to the fast growing, ultra light packing movement. But it brings something new to that scene with it’s own twists. The 35L has a neat removable frame sheet structure, but its the opening that we really dig. Taking the cinch tube opening and making it simpler, cleaner and more integrated. This is a standout Winter-focused pack, that remains adaptable and very user friendly.
Aarn is a New Zealand innovator that’s stayed off radar for way too long. They’ve been doing kick-ass things for many years but have recently been held back by the earthquakes that rocked their home town. Now, thankfully, they’re back on top and progressing quickly. The “balance body bag” approach is at their core, which they’ve spent more time researching and understanding than most brands spend on Facebook. It reduces fatigue, allows a more upright posture, and has excellent flexibility in load amounts. This is amazing stuff that the world should know about.
Admittedly, the PK 50 is larger that what we’d normally throw into this category but it wins votes for its zip-free, highly organized appeal. It splits and becomes modular with ease, while helping you prioritise your packing. Basically, it’s designed so you can take a little or a lot: a beefed out trek pack can transform into a smaller module for an easy going day trip with ease. Nice. Kudos to Kelty.
This awesome little addition to our awards hails from shores of Japan (and you know we always geek out on Japanese innovation). The Cargo has real ‘internal/external’ appeal, with a radically expandable load space that remains protected and intuitive to use. We love the tactical approach to design PaaGo’s taken with this piece. This pack is fun, light, and has charisma.
This Millet is a pack that’s innovating in a lot of ways. From the a pivot waist-belt element that gives you greater flexibility and movement to the asymmetric design that allows ski-carry and access to co-exist. It’s already been a show winner this year, but it’s deserving, so props to Millet.
– VOTING HAS NOW CLOSED –
So what hasn’t made the list?
We still love lots of last year’s winners and nominees, but we want to recognise more than just those. We also have some reasonably active packs that you’ll see pop up in our work backpack or carry-on nominations. Of those that just missed the active category though, we wanted to make a special mention of a few.
The Mystery Ranch ASAP is new and awesome, but we felt it is too close to the 3DAP that won last year. There’s some great outdoor oriented stuff happening at Gregory (like the Targhee). There’s the ultralight Cilo gear, for which one contributor wrote: “An ultralight, insanely tech, alpine daypack. It’d be 1000x cheaper to lose a couple pounds off my gut, but holy crap Dyneema is cool!” There’s the innovative bike oriented Velo Transit, the active photography packs of ILE, and the minimal carry at Exped. All of these packs only narrowly missed the cut, but are still awesome and well worth checking out.