Gear of the Year

Luggage & Backpacks

May 19, 2005
Outside Magazine

Eagle Creek Switchback Max ES 25 $295

Here's a cleanly designed multitasker with the right goods for road tripping, globe-trotting, or anything in between. Trundle this 2005 Gear of the Year fave up to the reception desk at the W Hotel without looking like you're fresh off the mountain, then zip off the bomber backpack to launch into the urban jungle—or more challenging environs.

1. Don't sweat the baggage handlers. The Switchback protects your possessions like a fortress, with a tough skid plate, corner guards, and beefy ripstop-nylon construction. Because the design gurus deploy heavier fabric only at abrasion hot spots, the whole package stays relatively light: 11 pounds.

2. As far as wheelies go, this 4,300-cube hybrid hauler drives like a dream, thanks to an ergonomically curved locking handle that shifts your load onto the rollers. A side-haul grip and padded top handle offer good grab when the time comes to muscle the Switchback up into the TGV vestibule.

3. Forget futzing with extraneous organizational doodads in the main compartment. Zip open the top panel to reveal a spacious interior rigged with an adjustable mesh-buckle system that compresses and secures take-alongs, plus a zippered laundry pocket.

4. The detachable daypack ain't no afterthought—at 1,500 cubic inches, it's plenty big for urban or rugged forays. (It easily garaged my laptop for morning caffeine recon missions.) Dual stow-away water-bottle holders inject trekking DNA, and the front zippered pocket sports sleeves for gizmos and paperwork.

5. In bipedal mode, the zip-out backpack suspension and 3-D lumbar material are downright plush, especially where it matters most—over your tailbone. Sculpted shoulder, sternum, and load-lifter straps are all fully adjustable—and ready for any multi-day trek.

Osprey Atmos 50 $199

At first glance, this hauler might seem born out of Lockheed's Skunkworks, but relax: Our Gear of the Year pack will get you there and back in a flash. A matchless mesh suspension setup saves aches and ounces, while the main compartment smartly stows as much or as little as you like. You'll be sure to uncover something new every time you take the Osprey out.

1. Like a stretchy cotton hammock, the breezy back panel keeps you happily cool while it supports up to 3,000 cubic inches of swag. Hinged aluminum stays direct weight to the hipbelt, and the shoulder straps comfortably bear the balance.

2. A sleeping bag, clothes, food, and other sundry items slide easily into the main compartment, while accessible twin side pockets hold Nalgenes, fuel, or even a flask filled with whiskey—you devil, you! On the outside, diagonal compression straps tote trekking poles and the kitchen sink.

3. Shoulder straps and hipbelt are perforated to save weight without skimping on comfort.

4. Helpful extras make a good pack better: A supple shovel pocket can stash just-in-case raingear; there's a bonus cubby behind the mesh back panel for an extra hydration pack (or a smelly shirt); and bottom compression straps batten down a sleeping pad nicely.

5. Don't be the fiddler. Light and fast means well-placed straps and seams that steer clear of pocket zippers, grant-ing hassle-free access to your must-have stuff. On a sun-drenched trail, I easily shed and stored layers—without adding frustration.

Filed To: Backpacks, Luggage

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