Where do you think things are going in terms of backpack innovation? I looking to buy a bag for base-cp-style backpacking, but I don't want one that is outdated or poorly designed. I want cutting edge. It seems everyone focuses on weight, but in my mind accessibility is equally important. Zachary Milwaukee, Wisconsin
But, always being up for a challenge, I'll have a go. It's clear that pack makers are focusing on getting their bags as light as physically possible. This also happened about 20 years ago, and then all the packs fell apart. So everybody sort of overcompensated and produced these Sherman tanks that you strapped onto your back. Still, it's clear that reducing bag weight has its limits. A few years ago, a typical good-quality, 5,500-cubic-inch pack weighed in the neighborhood of six or seven pounds. Case in point: the six-pound, nine-ounce Dana Terraplane ($399; www.danadesign.com). New materials and good design can cut that weight still further to four or five pounds. Exhibit A: the Mountainsmith Specter, weighing in at a fighting four pounds, ten ounces ($280; www.mountainsmith.com). But anything below that and you're really going to start losing load support and durability.
Call me a Luddite, but I wouldn't get cutting edge. I'd get a proven, known quantity. Dana Design, Gregory, Lowe Alpine, Osprey, Arc'Teryx, Keltythey all offer products that have been through a few production cycles and have had a chance to iron out any bugs.