- Buyer's Guide
Best Specialist Carry – The Second Annual Carry Awards
Specialist Carry is a sniper shot, a precise product that provides specialist solutions for hard to pin down tasks. Whether it be protecting pricey camera gear or providing airbags that inflate when you’re in a little too deep – this category always screams ingenuity.
And to change it up, brush aside the idea of ‘versatility is king’. Why? Well, hear me out. In most cases it gets bonus points, but in this category it’s more about how well the piece drills the specific job it was created for. Remember, specialised carry should still feel resolved as a product, but it can make more significant compromises in the name of focus.
So get in, fire up and nominate your favorite Specialist solution…
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.
If you thought Mission Workshop had been conspicuously absent in our awards after their dominant performance last year, you’re right. They’ve been busy building an apparel line and launching a brand called Acre, which is for off-road as MW is for on-road. The Hauser takes a classic small volume hydration pack, and pimps the fabric, reduces the structure, and makes something garment-like in the way it wraps around your back.
It’s been a brutal reality that pro-level camera setups are heavy, but you generally want quick access to them. Those two requirements don’t typically live well together in carry, as messengers are great for access, but backpacks are way better for carry comfort of heavy loads. Mindshift tackles that head on, creating a waist bag like element that can spin to your front for access, then return back to your rear to not look like a bad tourist. While they launched on Kickstarter, this is from the folks behind Think Tank Photo, which is why it’s instantly well resolved. Oh, and keep an eye on their Panorama release – it looks smaller and even neater.
Most extreme endurance running events now demand that the runner carries emergency supplies, and so the explosion in ultra running packs has been…well, explosive. Salomon were some of the first to really invest in the area, and their S-Lab is worn by many of those first across the line. This category of packs are reinventing the active harness, creating rib cage hugging systems that leave you free to duck and weave, without cramping your lungs. Wrapping forms, ultralight fabrics, excellent hydration and on-the-go pocketing all show a huge amount of effort and understanding for this crazy pursuit.
Another camera pack, another big innovation, and this one from a company that has been innovating camera carry for as long as they’ve existed. Kata are amazing, and the Revolver-8 sees them take their innovative approach to lens access on-the-go. It’s basically a Lazy Suzan built into a backpack, so you can spin and grab the exact lens you need without putting the bag down. Did we mention how amazing Kata are yet?
There are few things regularly carried about that can reach the worth of premium musical instruments (over $15M for a violin anyone?). But even if you’re rocking a more mundane bit of kit, musicians often develop a deep connection with their instrument, which means protection is prioritised. BAM have been making stunning cases to protect musical instruments since the 80’s, but it’s in recent times that they’ve started to reach sculptural awesomeness. Their L’etoile Saxaphone case mixes leather, aluminum and ABS to create a wonderful seal against anything your journey will throw at it. To get a sense of how far they stretch things, do yourself a favor and peep their Texas Cello case.
We loved this ski bag on first release, and it’s already had a few tweaks and upgrades. It’s now integrated with a full luggage set, is slightly wider for better snowboard fit, and it can still adjust to any length of snow craft you need to carry. It’s lighter, more versatile, and better to use than all the other wheeled ski and snowboard bags we’ve found.
This is a brand that specialise in bike frame and seat bags. They are applying all the best learning in other areas of carry to their very specialist niche. Expandable, dirt and weather proof, and rugged yet with refined access, these things have more TLC that most other product categories will ever see.
Most snow packs are concerned with avalanches and burial. This one addresses unexpected ice-baths and drownings. Designed for tour skaters who might break through lake ice, the Langfard works like a giant life preserver, only with extra cords and ways of getting you back out of a frozen lake again. And then if you’re just getting about solid ground, you can remove the specialist kit and use what is really a beautiful roll-top backpack.
– VOTING HAS NOW CLOSED –
What’s not here?
All sorts of specialist awesomeness, as the world is full of delightfully difficult things to carry. Ortlieb’s Horse Panniers almost made the cut, but their inability to deal with submersion (a real possibility on horses) meant they just missed out. Lots of specialist tactical was nominated, but we didn’t feel we were qualified to properly judge bang-bang bags. There’s always lots of mountain packs nominated in this segment, but some of the best of those ended up in Best Active. Oh, and we wanted to include the Flextrek Whipsnake, but that may have limited appeal.