Traveler's Gear Box: Weekend Warriors For Hauling Camp With You

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Backpacks are getting smaller, both out of recognition that aging Baby Boomers don’t have the backs to carry all they once did, and that Millennials wouldn’t think of carrying what their parents once did.

Osprey's Exos Line

Osprey Packs is constantly tweaking its line of backpacks to mesh with those realities in mind. Their Exos Superlight line is one good example of the transformation to smaller, lighter packs. Within this line come three packs—the 38, 48, and 58—that weigh in between 2 pounds, 3 ounces and 2 pounds, 12 ounces. (MSRP $159.95-$219.95)

These packs are streamlined, thanks to ample use of stretch mesh pocketing, have internal sleeves for your hydration system, and have a number of adjustments that can further reduce the weight based on your needs. The lid, for instance, can be removed if you don’t need it. With that detached, a storm flap flips over the top to provide a weather-resistant roof with a compression-strap cinch for stability.

Also, the removable are straps will hold a sleeping pad, or other piece of gear, to the pack bottom. On the front of the pack you’ll find four loops to tie off other pieces of gear.

Mesh pockets on either side come about half-way up the length of the pack, and then an integrated compression strapping system can be used to constrain items longer than the pockets.

For comfort’s sake, Osprey employs a suspension system pairing a mesh backing for good air circulation and an EVA foam-padded harness. Small pockets on the shoulder straps can hold a GPS device or snack, while zippered pockets on the hip belt can hold slightly larger items.

A bonus of this pack’s smallish, stream-lined design is it forces you to think two or three times when you’re packing it at home. Will you really need that heavy fleece jacket? While the pack includes an ice tool attachment, an integrated rain cover might be a more popular option. As it is, you need to purchase that separately. Still, if you’re looking for a lightweight option to hit the trail, this is a good one.

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Mountainsmith’s Mystic 65

This is either a big daypack, or a small backpack, but that makes sense, since Mountainsmith is marketing their new Mystic 65 ($219) pack as the perfect carrier for a 3-day journey. Big enough for what you need for just a quick weekend jaunt into the high country or desert country. So, we though we better try it out.

On a recent trip to one of Utah’s sandstone canyons, we were able to stuff a light sleeping bag in the separate, bottom pocket, store rain pants and rain jacket in the top flap, and fill the main compartment with stove and fuel, food sack, and an extra layer of clothes. A tent was easily secured on top along with a sleeping pad, which was cinched down with the aforementioned detachable top pocket. By the way, we’re big fans of detachable top flaps, for use as a quick pack once it’s off. It’ll easily fit rain gear, first aid kit, a few snacks, water bottle and map. Perfect.

On the main pack, there’s also a pass-through front pocket panel, stash pockets on each side, and nice tool-mount webbing on the front to clip our canyoneering gear onto. The ICS (illiac crest shelf) hip belt is well-padded, as is the back, and it puts the load squarely on your hips, where you want it to be. And, the large breezeway keeps the back off the pack, to help keep you dry. It’s the largest pack in their Mountainlight series, but still only weighs in at a touch over five pounds, but can carry up to 75 pounds.

It’s super comfortable and looks well built, and durable, and we were happy to have a chance to try it out. For those trips when your small pack is too small, and the big one is too big, the Mystic 65 seems just right.