1. Thanks to the 690-cubic-inch Bandit's low profile, we barely noticed it while riding lifts. And when we wanted to leave the gates or head out for a quick backcountry tour, this pack was the perfect size.
2. The Bandit's sleek look belies its utilitarian nature. Inside, you've got sleeves for a hydration bladder and snow-safety tools, and the back panel's clamshell opening lets you find stuff quickly. Fastening your skis to the cleverly stashed diagonal ski-carry system is a snap. Our only gripes: It's not quite big enough to hold larger-bladed shovels easily, and you have to jury-rig it to carry a snowboard.
3. The huge innovation here was the inclusion of an AvaLung in a pack this size. Should you get buried in an avalanche, the device can help you survive up to 45 minutes by redirecting the carbon dioxide you exhale, thus delaying the formation of a suffocating "ice mask" around your face. The AvaLung used to come only à la carte (with just a harness) or in larger packs. Now, finally, it's available in a pack sized for day trips and short sidecountry excursions. This pack is sold, sans Avalung, for $70 for folks who never venture into avalanche-prone terrain.
2.2 lbs, $170 bdel.com