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Dispatches : Gear

Eddie Bauer First Ascent Sorcerer

They should have named this pack the Shapeshifter. It quickly expands from 40 to 55 liters without adding top-heavy bulk. Or you can pull out the back support—a foam insert that also serves as a minimalist sleeping pad or emergency splint—and it lightens up to a scant two pounds ten ounces.

Testers found the Sorcerer comfortable and highly functional in all configurations. "I loved the way it cinched down," said one. "Even when I had a lighter load, it didn't feel like overkill."

Constructed from ultrastrong, high-performance polyethlene fiber, this top-loader easily endured squeezes through Utah slot canyons.

Bottom line: A single bag that acts like three—which explains the price. 3.5 lbs 

$499, eddiebauer.com 

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Mini Paceman Adventure Concept

Say hello to the newest model from the company that brought you the Mini Cooper—the Paceman Adventure concept.

This weird-looking cousin of the Paceman has a truck bed, rugged suspension, and higher clearance than its Mini relative. It also comes with off-road tires, a roof rack with mounted lights, a snorkel, and all-wheel drive.  

Although this Mini is technically a pick-up, it’s also been called a cute, “tiny truck,” and even a “trucklette.” You’ll have to decide for yourself if you’d be willing to replace your Toyota 4Runner.

Unfortunately (or not?), the Paceman Adventure concept won’t ever go into production. It’s a one-off project from a group of MINI apprentices who worked on it at BMW’s German factories.   

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First Look: 2015 Yeti SB5c

Earlier this month, Yeti unveiled its new 27.5 mountain bike, the SB5c, which is built around a suspension system unlike any you've ever seen. 

It's called Switch Infinity, and it's the next generation of the company's much-heralded Switch suspension technology.

The original Switch linkage featured an eccentric pivot that reverses direction partway through the bike’s travel. The system provided excellent pedaling platform and small-bump compliance while still offering a plush, linear feel in the deepest portion of the travel. That Switch Link debuted on a six-inch 26er, and a year later was carried over to a five-inch 29er. We tested the aluminum SB66 and the carbon SB95 extensively—and loved each one.

Then a strange thing happened. Last year, Yeti migrated the Switch Link to a new 27.5 platform, the SB75, and while it rode fine, the bike lacked the magic of its counterparts. It received decent, but not glowing, reviews from our testers (and throughout the industry), though oddly Yeti didn’t seem terribly concerned.

In hindsight, they must have known the SB5c, with its Switch Infinity suspension, was on the way. This carbon-only 27.5 machine has five inches of rear travel and is built around a 5.5-inch (140mm) fork. Yeti is billing it as an aggressive trail bike and will sell only two premium builds ($6,600 and $10,600) to start.

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At first glance, the SB5c seems to have a secondary shock system tucked above the bottom bracket, but that’s actually the core of the new Switch Infinity suspension design. The system uses the reversing eccentric pivot of the original, but it connects the pivot to a forged aluminum body that slides up and down on two gold, Kashima-coated tubes. The idea was developed in conjunction with Fox, which manufactures the tubes exclusively for Yeti. 

Switch Infinity is supposedly lighter and requires less maintenance than the original Switch Link. Yeti also says that the end result of the design is “unprecedented pedaling efficiency and small bump sensitivity when climbing paired with plush, controlled travel when descending.” 

That sounds like the same thing Yeti wrote when they launched the Switch Link, which makes us skeptical. Is this actually better or just marketing speak? But as the SB66 and SB95 rode very well, we’ll reserve judgment until we’ve tried the SB5c.

According to Yeti, the SB5c won’t replace the SB75, though it’s difficult to see how the older model will stick around very long if this bike is both lighter and rides better. Given the Infinity in the design’s name (which the company says reflects the ease with which the design can be adopted to bikes of any travel length), we have to wonder about the future of the current SB line. Indeed, over the weekend, Jared Graves dominated round five of the 2014 Enduro World Series on an as-yet-unreleased SB6c.

That makes two bikes we’re anxious to throw a leg over.

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Fjällräven Abisko Jacket

Founded in Sweden in 1960, Fjällräven first brought its classy waxed-canvas outerwear to North America in 2009. In the Abisko, the company pairs its trademark fabric on the shoulders and front with a soft shell on the back and sides to create a unique, versatile jacket.

While the leather zipper pulls lend the Abisko a note of casual, urban style, it performs surprisingly well on the trail. The Greenland-wax-infused, tightly woven canvas sheds rain and blocks wind extremely well, while stretchy synthetic material in the rest of the jacket strikes the perfect balance between protection and breathability.

Bottom line: A great combination of style and performance. 1 lb 

$200, fjallraven.us 

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