| Review, July 1997|
But the Longbed, with its sophisticated suspension system, behaves as comfortably as an internal-frame design, thus making it a legitimate alternative. Its frame prevents the pack from sagging against your body and manages impossibly heavy loads while maintaining a lively feel, thanks to fiberglass support wands that transfer weight to your hips. Now, instead of loading heavy stuff up high to drive the frame into your hips — the reason old packs swayed so uncontrollably — you can pack the Longbed like an internal-frame pack, stashing the weight low for stability. While the shoulder straps could use a skosh more contouring, I was pleasantly reminded of how much breezier external-frame packs feel: The spine of the suspension is a mesh panel stretched across the frame, allowing air to circulate along your back. Hauling 50 pounds up a muddy trail in the Cascades, it was only when stooping under a downed tree that I noticed the frame's underlying rigidity.
As for carrying capacity, the Longbed offers a cavernous, 6,000-cubic-inch main compartment that allows access through top and front panels. Ten pockets — including a mesh pouch for funky socks — organize your gear. And that beefy dinosaur of a frame provides innumerable places for lashing snowshoes, stuffsacks, and such. Perhaps the most winning feature of the Longbed, however, is that it sells for what seems like a pre-Reagan price: $259. — Douglas Gantenbein
Pacific Motion Eclipse Chalk Bag
Women's Winston Rod
The Favorite is a "women's" rod chiefly because of its grip, which was designed by its casting-champion namesake. Presuming that the typical woman is slighter of hand and wrist than the typical man, Wulff ergonomically sculpted a smaller version of the conventional round cork grip, adding a thumb groove for surer handling. The ergo grip helps properly align your arm, elbow, and shoulder for a strong, accurate cast. Indeed, when I let the medium-action, eight-and-a-half-foot Favorite rip, I found it easy to direct my casts. And although the tip wasn't as soft as I'd prefer in a five-weight rod, it responded smoothly. Beyond the precise feel you'd expect from any Winston rod, the three-piece Favorite sees to the finer points, with its dark green finish, hardwood reel seat, and nickel-silver fittings.
What may have started merely as a way to introduce more women to fly-fishing could easily become a broader trend. In serving the needs of women, Wulff also gave men with small hands a fantastic rod — and a thoughtful design that's sure to be a favorite in the years ahead. — Jennifer Olsson
Photographs by Clay Ellis