Let’s start with a basic truth: no single pack does it all. Going backcountry camping with all your toys requires a big ol’ bag. Athletes moving fast and light will be happiest with a trimmed-down thoroughbred. Day hikers will appreciate a sack with utilitarian features. But none of this means you need to own a closetful of backpacks. Thanks to design evolution, there are more multi-use options to choose from than ever before. We tested daypacks that can eke out an overnight (like the Osprey Manta) and relatively lightweight big-load haulers (like the Granite Gear Lutsen). Versatility is achievable if you’re willing to make some trade-offs—and a multitalented pack is worth the price of two or three specialty models. 

North Face
(The North Face)

The North Face Fovero 70

Gear of the Year

Big, beefy, and built for the hyper-organized set, the Fovero earned our respect the hard way—by effortlessly schlepping 50-pound loads. That comfort, combined with a full menu of features and an incredibly fast torso-adjustment system that ensured a custom fit, made this our favorite bag for three-day-weekend trips. “It was clearly designed by an obsessive backpacker,” one tester said. We loved the long J-shaped back zipper for mid-trail rummaging and the oversize, dedicated sleeping-bag compartment. Little things—like the top pocket’s extra-tall lip to prevent spills—showed an attention to detail that far too many packs lack.

Price $290 Weight 5 lbs

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REI Traverse 70 

Best For: Warm-weather hauling.

The Test: On sunny slogs above tree line, the air wafting through the Traverse’s trampoline-style back panel more than justified the slight sacrifice in stability. And we mean slight: most of the load rides comfortably on a fat lumbar pad and smartly contoured hipbelt that locks onto your pelvic bones, courtesy of a pair of well-designed concave pads. Even better, two ratcheting support straps lift the bottom of the bag to pull it closer to your center of gravity. You’ll want to size smartly, because the hipbelt’s width can’t be adjusted.

The Verdict: One of the best packs on the market for big midsummer trips.

Price $239 Weight 4.8 lbs

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Granite Gear
(Granite Gear)

Granite Gear Lutsen 55

Best For: Lightweight overnights. 

The Test: Think of the Lutsen as the Royce Gracie of weekend packs—a middleweight that can knock down the big boys. Half-width straps, tiny buckles, and a less-is-more ethos keep the weight down to an impressive 3.1 pounds (or 2.9 pounds with-out the removable lid), while the 40-pound suspension rating and micro-­adjustability make it much more capable than its ultra-light competitors. Our only gripes: the foam back panel can feel lumpy, and the opening to the main top pocket is undersized, making packing difficult. 

The Verdict: Minimalism in moderation, with a few quirks. 

Price $220 Weight 3.1 lbs

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Deuter AirContact 55 + 10 

Best For: Heavy loads. 

The Test: Sexy? No. But while the foam-and-mesh suspension on the AirContact might seem dated, there was no denying its prowess on the trail. When carrying loads up to 48 pounds, the flexy straps, stout hipbelt, and close-to-the-back ride “felt rock solid,” a tester raved. We loved the ability to expand the pack’s volume to 65 liters—­especially when it came to packing bulky extras like waders—and the crude but quick torso adjustability. Granted, we would have liked a few more creature comforts, like a stuff pouch, roomier sleeping-bag compartment, and larger water-bottle pockets. 

The Verdict: Basic but bomber.

Price $259 Weight 6 lbs

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Arc’teryx Cierzo 28 

Best For: Ounce counters. 

The Test: The Cierzo is a study in minimalist innovation. Witness the floss-thin compression cord zigzagging in a single loop around the entire bag, giving it structure and lots of ways to carry loads on the outside; it’s brilliant in theory but a touch fussy in practice. Or the tiny aluminum bars that stand in for ax loops. Or the silicon treatment to the outer nylon, which makes the fabric highly water-resistant. There’s almost no suspension or structure, just a thin foam back pad and one tiny exterior pocket. Looking for the Nalgene pocket or lid to the cargo compartment? You’re not invited. 

The Verdict: The bare essentials for extreme play.

Price $119 Weight 1.2 lbs

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Black Diamond
(Black Diamond)

Black Diamond Speed Zip 33

Best For: Alpine and rock routes. 

The Test: The Speed Zip is a slick climber’s pack with everything you’d expect: removable hipbelt and back pad (for emergency bivies), crampon lash points, rope- and helmet-stowing options, and a detail-oriented design. What surprised us was how stable and comfortable it felt under moderately heavy loads. Credit goes to the perfectly anatomical shoulder straps, flexible framesheet, and thermoformed foam back panel. The barely padded hipbelt and lack of extras limit its range, but the Speed Zip isn’t trying to be a long-hauler. 

The Verdict: A clever climbing pack that doesn’t feel out of place off-belay.

Price $160 Weight 2.6 lbs

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Marmot Graviton 38

Best For: Downsizing. 

The Test: Meet the little big pack. The Graviton has all the niceties of a big-load hauler—including the floating top lid, lots of compression straps, and daisy chains and other lash points around the body, but it’s half the volume. It’s also half the weight, with lighter materials throughout, less padding in the hips and shoulders, and smaller buckles and straps. We loved the lifted back panel, which doesn’t encroach (much) on the cargo hold. Just keep your weekend loads under 40 pounds. 

The Verdict: An exceptionally versatile bag—especially considering the bantam weight.

Price $169 Weight 2.4 lbs


Osprey Manta AG 36

Best For: Bringing it all. 

The Test: The Manta is a python. With a cavernous main compartment, two exterior pockets, and a stuff pouch, the Manta can swallow enormous quantities of gear, ballooning outward for day trips or even spare overnighters. Osprey’s wraparound mesh back panel distributes weight evenly across the contours of your torso and hips “like a bear hug from behind,” as one tester put it. All that expansion potential boosts the weight a bit, as does the seemingly endless feature list (integrated rain cover, top-notch hydration bladder, and so on). If you’re not camping, go for the 20- or 28-liter option. 

The Verdict: A feature-laden pack that’ll take all you can feed it.

Price $175 Weight 2.9 lbs

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Mountain Hardwear
(Mountain Hardwear)

Mountain Hardwear Rainshadow 26 OutDry

Best For: Rainy hikes and urban excursions. 

The Test: There’s nothing all that remarkable about the Rainshadow—until it gets drenched. Inside, this simple, 26-liter clamshell pack is lined with an OutDry membrane, which kept the contents completely dry in our soak test (à la garden hose) without a cumbersome rain cover or drybag closure. Beyond that the Rainshadow offers a few smart extras, like a small stash pocket for a soggy shell, an exterior-access hydration sleeve, and flexy suspension with a narrow spinal groove, which adds structure to the back panel but not much airflow. 

The Verdict: A simple and highly capable rainy day-tripper.

Price $150 Weight 1.4 lbs

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Gregory Salvo 24 

Best For: Short missions under heavy load.

The Test: Overpackers, rejoice! The Salvo’s steel internal-frame suspension, along with wide, ventilated foam shoulder straps (complete with load stabilizers) and lightly padded EVA hipbelt, allow you to stuff it with gusto. On steamy afternoons, the lifted, trampoline-style back panel kept air flowing, while the quick-release side and bottom compression straps added lots of exterior-carry options. We also appreciated the loops for holding shades and lights. Our only nitpick: Why no exterior stash pouch? 

The Verdict: As sophisticated as a daypack can get—and our favorite when it comes to do-it-all versatility in a small package.

Price $115 Weight 2.3 lbs

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The Best Tents of 2016

When selecting a tent, look at the same factors you’d scrutinize when buying a house: location, size, and amenities. First up, where are you pitching camp? The deeper you lug gear into the woods, the more weight matters. If you’re heading into high-alpine environments or anywhere you might encounter serious weather, you need something with thicker fabric and more poles. If you’re car camping or sticking relatively close to the trailhead or put-in, a bigger tent with higher ceilings and ample storage compartments is a worthwhile luxury. No matter where you’re going, the little things count. Think of features like

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The Best Hiking Tech of 2016

Spending the night outside just got brighter, cleaner, and easier. (MSR) MSR Guardian Water Purifier Backcountry water pumps are easy to use and durable. Trouble is, most strip out only protozoa and bacteria, not tiny viruses. Enter the Guardian: the filter’s pores are ten times smaller than the competition’s, stopping even the smallest bugs. Price $350 Buy Now Goal Zero Nomad 7 Plus Charger Solar panels can be finicky, draining the device you’re trying to charge when daylight wanes. Not so the netbook-size Nomad 7. A light sensor keeps tabs on how much sun’s available. If clouds roll in mid-charge, the

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The Best Jackets of 2016

For diehard gear geeks, there’s no more exciting category right now than jackets. Experimentation is the name of the game, with companies trying out new cuts, materials, and construction techniques. Weights are in free fall—the lightest shell in our test came in under three ounces—while just about everything has built-in stretch, boosting freedom of movement and comfort. Designers are mixing and matching fabrics in novel ways, using bio-mapping to create jackets that are thicker where they need to be and thinner where they don’t. Even bedrock concepts of how waterproof-breathable shells should be pieced together are being upended. (Exhibit A:

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The Best Camp Cooking Tools of 2016

The best kitchen tools for base-camp chefs. (Inga Hendrickson) ​Southwest Disk UFO Discada Enterprise Wok  A two-foot-wide wok made of quarter-inch steel isn’t an unnecessary luxury: it’s a crucial part of your cooking arsenal. With 12-inch legs, it’s the perfect tool for cooking over an open flame.   Price $100 Buy Now (Timbuk2) Timbuk2 x Blue Bottle Sabbatical Coffee Kit  The bagmaker teamed up with the Bay Area java giant to create the ultimate portable brewing kit: grinder, kettle, dripper, scale, and mugs, all in one six-pack-size bundle.  Price $349 Buy Now (GSI Outdoors) GSI Outdoors Stainless Rim Plate  With a

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The Best Sleeping Bags of 2016

Your sleeping bag is arguably your most important piece of backcountry gear. If it’s cozy, you’re a happy camper. If it’s too warm or not warm enough, rubber-room constrictive, or sticky like plastic wrap, a bad bag will ruin the experience. The trick is to pick the right bag for what you’re ­doing. Insulation is the most important factor. For alpine trips, find a sack that’s rated at least ten degrees lower than the coldest temperature you expect to face. Summer trips in mild environments call for a rating between 30 and 40 degrees. During shoulder season, we reach for a

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The Best Lights of 2016

Brighten up your night. Goal Zero Lighthouse 400. (Goal Zero) Goal Zero Lighthouse Mini Lantern  Toss this eight-ounce, 210-lumen unit in your pack for the next time you get caught out in the dark. Don’t let the diminutive size fool you: the Lighthouse has some nice features, including a miniature hook, a built-in magnet, and a dimmer.  Price $60 Buy Now (Black Diamond) Black Diamond Cosmo  The three LEDs on this compact three-ounce headlamp combine into a single 160-lumen beam that can light up the trail for more than 50 yards. Even on full blast, it gets 200 hours of

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The Best Women’s Jackets of 2016

Pick the right rig, zip up, then get out. (The North Face) The North Face Cesium Anorak  Best For: Affordable Tech The Cesium has the soul of a poncho but the smart detailing of a performance shell. We threw it over our other layers in a rainstorm—it has a huge helmet-compatible hood and is made of surprisingly stretchy fabric—and stayed bone dry. It sheds ounces by forgoing extra pockets (there’s one) and an inner liner. Price $199 Buy Now (Helly Hansen) Helly Hansen Enroute Shelter  Best For: Ditching Your Yellow Slicker   This is the workhorse of the rain-jacket world. It’s dependable

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The Best Multipitch Climbing Gear of 2016

When it comes to big walls, light is right. (Petzl) Petzl Arial 9.5 mm Rope   The Arial is a flowy rope that stretches just enough to provide a nice soft catch. It’s pricier than its closest competitors, but it’ll last seasons, courtesy of a Duratec Dry treatment that resists water, dirt, and abrasions. Price $230 and up Buy Now (Black Diamond) Black Diamond Vapor Helmet  With 23 vents, the Vapor is the most breathable lid we tested. The foam is surrounded by a polycarbonate shell, keeping it light enough (just 6.6 ounces) for all-day use. Price $140  Buy Now

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The Best Women's Hiking Gear of 2016

Everything you need for quick jaunts or all-day trips (Smith Optics) Smith Ramona Polarized Sunglasses  These shades are an elegant update of the classic Wayfarer, with impact-resistant, carbonic, polarized brown lenses that make ocean waves, or even distant grizzlies, pop.  Price $129 Buy Now (Ex Officio) Ex Officio Give-N-Go Sport Mesh Tank Quick-drying nylon and breathable mesh make the Give-N-Go ideal for hot-weather hikes. Wide straps cushion a backpack, while a stylish T-back shows a little shoulder from behind.  Price $35 Buy Now (Icebreaker) Icebreaker Women’s Ellipse LS Half Zip Hoodie Made from 75 percent merino and 25 percent recycled polyester,

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