Women's gear, up first
Osprey Xena 85 backpack
BEST FOR: Serious Backpacking
The Xena—the women’s equivalent of the Gear of the Year-winning Xenith pack—is nearly as big (with enough capacity for weeklong trips) and every bit as awesome (it’s especially good at stabilizing heavy loads). Best part: you can heat-mold the hipbelt to perfectly contour your body. 5 lbs.
Platypus Sprinter XT 25 backpack
BEST FOR: Doing It All
With 22 liters of space, external pockets, attachments galore, and a taste-free, three-liter hydration reservoir, the Sprinter can do just about anything. And because it’s practically waterproof—taped seams and highly water-resistant zippers—it can do it all in the rain. 2.5 lbs.
Patagonia Black Hole messenger bag
BEST FOR: Bike Commuting
With enough compartment space for a laptop, a yoga mat, and running shoes, this old-school courier bag quickly became our everyday workhorse. The highly water-resistant, 1,200-denier polyester fabric makes it as durable as an armored car; this thing will likely last forever. 2.2 lbs.
Gregory Pace 8L pack
BEST FOR: Long Runs and Short Hikes
Instead of a traditional waist belt, the ultralight (12 ounces) Pace has bifurcated shoulder straps that cinch the pack down against both the top and the small of your back at the same time. It sounds weird but works great, and the design reduces annoying sloshing (the downfall of many a trail-running pack) to a minimum. 12 oz.
The North Face Casimir 36 pack
BEST FOR: Overnights and All-Day Adventures
The Casimir’s fit system (hipbelt, shoulder straps, and torso length) was designed specifically for women. We could tell: it was the most snug and supportive large day pack and fast-and-light overnighter we tested. 2.2 lbs.
Thule EnRoute Strut pack
BEST FOR: Tech Junkies
Every precious device—and all its accessories—has its place in the 19-liter Strut, including a 15-inch laptop and power supply. But our favorite gadget-friendly feature was the crushproof safe zone, a semirigid pocket at the top of the pack that’s big enough to hold a phone, sunglasses, and a point-and-shoot camera. 1.6 lbs; thule.com