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Dispatches : Gear

Platypus Introduces Streamlined Hydration Packs

Platy1

Hydration packs aren’t always the most exciting subject. They have a reservoir to hold your drink, they stash your tools and food and your gear. They often have straps that, sure, can draw your load in toward your body, but they sometimes flap and snap and sting when you’re maching downhill.

Platypus’ new cross-country cycling hydration packs are a different breed. Ultralight storage for minimalist MTB rides, these sport-specific packs have superior ventilation, fit, and good gear organization. And they’re cleaner than other packs—bullet shaped with nothing to flap or snap.

PLATYPUS TOKUL X.C. 3.0 is the smallest and most minimalist pack in the line, just the ticket for riders who’d rather not carry a pack. If all you need is hydration, fuel, and tools for basic trail-side triage, this is the bag for you. It comes with one liter of gear storage, a liter reservoir, an external tool pocket, and an internal pump sleeve. Available in five-liter and eight-liter versions, January 2013, $70-$90.

If ultralight XC isn’t your gig, not to worry. The XC packs are just one piece of Platypus’ new hydration pack line, which also include all-mountain, biking, and hiking packs.

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Year in Review: The 11 Best Cycling Products of 2012

We test bike gear year-round at Outside, from our desert test trip in January and endurance races like the Arizona Trail Race, Breck Epic, and Triple Bypass, to daily road and trail rides here in Santa Fe (including snow biking just this week). In the process, we beat the bejeezus out of lots of gear, and while much of it these days is very good, there are often a handful of items that we come back to again and again. With our 2013 test trip to Tucson coming up next week, we decided this was the perfect moment to highlight the top pieces of bike gear that impressed us most in 2012.

Crank Brothers Kronolog

01. CRANK BROTHERS KRONOLOG
This dropper post impressed us more than any other piece of gear this year. Crank Brothers replaced the hydraulic internals of the uneven Joplin with an all-mechanical design that has stood up to nine months of hard wear. We prefer the Kronolog’s infinite height adjustment to other brands' two- or three- stage configurations, as well as the simplicity of the air spring for slowing or speeding the post’s return rate. This is not only a huge improvement from Crank Brothers’ original design, but it’s darn near our favorite dropper on the market, and we recommend it on any bike except for your lightest weight racer.

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Brooks Board Shorts: A More Discreet Option for Running

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Not everyone wants to show it all when they run. Slit-up-the-side, three-inch inseam, built-in underwear, nearly-a-speedo running shorts are about as revealing as you can get in public without getting arrested.

If that's not your look, Brooks Running is now making the Board Short, a pair of running shorts just for you. They look and feel like surf shorts, with a classic lace-up fly, a modern plaid print, and a full nine inches of inseam in a super supple stretchy fabric that won't get hung up as you click off the miles.

The shorts are so light, our tester reported, "more than once I looked down to make sure that I was still actually wearing something." In the Board Short, you'll be unencumbered and you'll dry fast—it's DWR coated—whether you're running, hiking, swimming, or cycling. Wear them all day long.

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Mile High Mountaineering Salute: A Perfect Pack for Climbers

MHM

Senior year at the University of Colorado, Boulder was a big one for Jeff Popp. That was the year when, as captain of the U.C. snowboard team, he was honored as a first-team All-American. It was also the year that he decided to avoid the “white collar path” and start an outdoor company. Popp graduated from Boulder and singled out backpacks as the category that could most benefit from a makeover. And, just like that, Mile High Mountaineering (MHM) was born.

The company offers a small but solid line of packs sized and purposed for everything from urban commuting to multi-day trekking. For the past few months we’ve been putting MHM’s 34-liter Salute Pack—the flagship of their line—through rigorous field tests. We hauled it up multipitch sport climbs in Spain, stuffed it full of quickdraws and climbing shoes for a weeklong trip in France, and wore it on a 25k hut traverse in the German Alps.

The standout feature of the Salute is its unique S-shaped zipper, which winds around the top compartment and down the packs’ body. This made for lightning-fast access to everything we took with us, from energy bars at the top to our last-resort rain shell stuffed in the bottom.

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Tilley Intrepid Bag: A Timeless Vintage Carry All

Tilley AD02 Tan

Inspired by a Canadian officer’s World War II utility bag, Tilley's Intrepid Bag has a timeless vintage look that's hard to peg down. It has a certain safari feel to it, a messenger bag aesthetic, albeit one made from leather and waxed canvas. It's pared down functionality and class make the Intrepid a bag you will use every day for years and that, with the passing of time, will just gain more character.

Equipped with four secured compartments, the waxed cotton Intrepid is wide and deep enough to hold a 13" laptop, your wallet, keys, glasses, and a cell phone in an easy-access outside pocket, as well as just about anything else you want to keep nearby as you go about your average day, work your way through a TSA line at the airport, or commute.

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