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Camping & Hiking

This year, backpacks are all about personal fit

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Quick adjustability and activity-specific designs make it easy to find the perfect backpack.

This year, backpacks are all about you. New designs are becoming more customizable for a wider range of hikers: Look for features like dynamic adjustability, packs tailored to specific users and even broader colorways that help personalize an individual’s look outdoors.

Gone are the days where a shoulder harness could be set in, say, one of three possible positions. According to Granite Gear Senior Director of Design and Development Michael Meyer, “Quick and simple micro-adjustability for a custom fit has been a growing trend, and the ability to achieve a fully custom fit provides the highest level of comfort.” Brands are also introducing pack lines that come in a range of sizes, making it easier to fine-tune fit.

Packs designed specifically for certain consumers, such as trail runners, are also having a moment.Features such as weight-shaving buckles and thinner webbing, integrated waterproof covers or waterproof materials and improved external pockets for on-the-go access to water and jackets are geared toward athletes achieving thru-hiking records or one-day peakbagging objectives.

Also look for high-tech add-ons, such as mobile power sources. Chris Ritchie, Thule’s PR and communication manager, said integrating technology into packs is more important than ever. “Brands are adding things like solar panels to their packs, and while it may come across asgimmicky at first, it’s a feature that has staying power,” he said. “Just like a new trend or technology dictating a product line’s needs, we as manufacturers need to evolve with what the consumer is asking for. Hikers and backpackers are innovating and creating features on their own, like clipping a mini solar panel to their bags, and the brands are listening.”

1.Arc’teryx is pushing the design envelope with new suspension technology in the Bora AR Backpack series, which comes in 50L (49L for women; MSRP $499) and 63L (61L for women; MSRP $549) sizes. Each pack features what the brand is calling RotoGlide, a hipbelt system that slides up and down on a track. This follows the lengthening and straightening of the back that occurs while climbing and also rotates up and down with the hips while walking.

Arc'teryx Bora AR backpack

2. Granite Gear’s new Crown2 (MSRP $200), thoroughly tested last year on the first winter thru-hike of the PCT, follows the on-the-fly adjustability trend in lightweight, high-capacity packs. Choosing to go with three distinct torso lengths instead of an adjustable shoulder system, Granite Gear achieves customization through the Re-Fit hipbelt, which slides out from behind the backpanel and includes hook-and-loop closure straps on the waist for microadjustments.

Granite Gear Crown2 backpack

3. Mystery Ranch said it sees growth in the heavy-duty approach to tactical and hunting pack design. Its new Stein 62 multiday pack (MSRP $299) is the “best balance between bombproof materials and lightweight constructions we could find,” says company founder Dana Gleason.

Mystery Ranch Stein 62 multiday backpack

4. Kelty is putting its innovation dollars into the Millennial (read: versatile, comfortable, fun) and women’s markets, rolling out its new Kinesis Hip Belt and a “Built for Women, by Women” line of packs. Look for its Sira 45W daypack (MSRP $200) and 60L Reva multiday pack (MSRP $220). The Reva features an adjustable suspension system designed to eliminate common pressure points for women, and the hipbelt moves side to side to match a woman’s stride.

Kelty Sira 45 backpack

5. When it comes to versatility, keep an eye out for the new line of high-end, multiuse but tactically focused packs from knifemaker SOG, celebrating its 30th anniversary at the show this summer. The 33L Prophet (MSRP $229) is the most adaptable, going from backpack to duffle with stowable straps. It also features long-item carry on the outside, compression straps and lots of attachment points.

SOG 33L Prophet backpack

6. For something less traditional but on-point with the versatility trend, Peak Design offers the Everyday Backpack, which comes in an 18L (MSRP $225) and 30L size (MSRP $275). Aimed at “urbanites, photographers, travelers, creatives and everyone in between,” it features a single, 300-degree waterproof zipper for full top- and side-loading access.Internal dividers and padded pockets protect everything from tablets to a full kit of photo gear.

Peak Design Everyday Backpack

7. The new Aerolon Series of multiday packs from Gregory features toplid loops for integrating solar panels and a hydration sleeve that converts into a superlight daypack for summit trips. The men’s 48L Paragon (MSRP $180) weighs only 3 pounds, 3 ounces.

Gregory Paragon backpack