Mike Kloser, a Vail, Colo., athlete and a former world-champion mountain biker, is something of a god in the sport of adventure racing. As the captain of Team Nike, Kloser dominated AR for years, including multiple world-champ titles and victories at banner events like the Eco Challenge and Primal Quest under his belt.
Last year, Kloser launched a gear company, Out There USA, and he designed a backpack. After years of racing -- as well as living a consummate outdoors existence working and training in Colorado -- Kloser put his knowledge toward making his company's AS-1 Pack something of an ultimate multi-sport tool.
Gear Junkie got an exclusive first look at the AS-1, which comes out this spring. Its final price tag is TBD, though the company estimates it will be between $169 and $199.
At first glance, the AS-1 backpack looks busy and confusing, a tangle of mesh, straps, pockets, buckles and hooks. But there is method to the madness. On back, there are loops and attachment points for skis, trekking poles, kayak paddles, and a hidden helmet net. On front, via elasticized mesh holsters and hip pockets, an adventurer wearing this pack has access to an incredible amount to gear.
In adventure racing, constant forward motion is key. Racers rarely stop to eat, drink or apply sunscreen. As such, racers prefer to grab and go from pockets reachable on the backpack harness and hip belt.
The AS-1 provides this never-take-the-pack-off accessibility better than almost anything I've seen. There are four zip pockets, four water bottle holders, two hydration-hose ports, a whistle, and several attachment points -- all reachable on front. On an adventure, you can cram a half-day's worth of energy food, a compass, lip balm, and other essentials in the pack's up-front holsters and hip-belt pockets.
The multifunctional nature continues on back. There are compression straps for skis, snowboards, and other equipment; ice axe and trekking pole loops and attachment straps; a map pocket; tabs on the bottom of the pack for attaching camping gear; and multiple zippered and mesh pockets.
In all, the AS-1 has about 30 liters of internal storage capacity and then another 10 liters offered from its many external pockets and holsters. The back panel has light padding and there is a thin foam sheet for its internal-frame support.
It is not a small backpack. The AS-1 measure about 20 x 12 x 6 inches, and it weighs about 2.5 pounds when empty. The outer fabric is a lightweight rip-stop nylon.
I have tested the AS-1 for a few weeks and am becoming more of a fan. The pack takes some time to learn, as there are so many features. But once you're comfortable with the pack it can be a great tool.
Kloser has an interesting new product with the AS-1. I plan to test the pack further this winter before making any big conclusions. But so far, I like the AS-1. It carries a load with ease, and it offers the functionality and accessibility to gear and supplies needed for outdoors types like me who need to move fast and are always racing ahead.
--Stephen Regenold is founder and editor of www.gearjunkie.com.