Let’s say you’re at your gate at the airport, and you realize you board with the last group. These questions might pop into your head: Will my bag fit into the overhead bin? Will I have to gate-check my bag? Will it fit under the seat in front of me? I’d be lying to you if I said I never think about these questions anymore, but ever since I’ve used Backcountry's 30-liter Adventure Pack ($140), airplane travel has been a breeze—I’ve even been able to enjoy it (a little bit).
Our friends at Backcountry have rolled out new gear collections designed in-house, like their climbing line, which we put through weeks of testing. Among these new products is their Adventure Pack, and it’s quickly becoming my favorite for travel—both on planes, and on daily work commutes. Here’s why.
Instead of schlepping two separate bags, I can fit everything I need for a week in this pack. On a recent work trip I took: a toiletry bag, four shirts (rolled up), a hoodie, a pair of pants, a travel cube of underwear and socks, a set of gym clothes, running shoes, my laptop, plus a case of electronics accessories, like chargers, cables and headphones. It’s easy to organize it all, thanks to two deep zippered main compartments (the laptop sleeve serves as the back panel for one, which opens like a suitcase, while the other is like a traditional backpack.) These two big chutes are handy because they keep bigger gear separated: my lunch doesn’t get crushed by my U-lock, and my jacket doesn’t smell like my climbing shoes. If you’re really filling the Adventure to the brim, two compression straps on either side of the pack can extend to give you more breathing room, or compact it when it's not full.
I normally fly with a 45-liter Patagonia Black Hole bag on extended weekend trips, in addition to a 25-liter day pack. While the Black Hole is a great option for pure gear hauling, I find it hard to access my laptop without a dedicated sleeve—that’s usually what my 25-liter is for. And with a lack of back padding, the Black Hole can leave me sore after hours of carry. This is where the Adventure Pack really blew me away. The compression-molded back panel is incredibly comfortable. After a few hellish sequences of flight delays and gate changes, this pack was kind to my back. I haven’t taken this hostel-hopping internationally, but I can imagine myself wearing this on long days while touring European towns.
I also found it great for bike commuting. The straps hug my body and keep everything secure on speedy rides when I’m huffing it to the office. It's even spacious enough to fit a few groceries during post-work errands. To top it off, it sheds water like a dream. The other night, I was caught in a downpour on my bike ride home from the grocery store. I got back, unzipped it, and the goods were dry. Credit goes to the outer material, which is made with 300-denier tarp, and 600-denier polyester.
One additional, but important feature to me: it’s stripped of any major logos and branding that would otherwise make me look like a sponsored athlete. With the exception of Backcountry lettering along the front zip and on the left shoulder strap, the pack is perfectly low-profile.
I would like to see some improvements, though. The waist strap system could be made more comfortable. If you’re not using the straps, you can slide them under the back panel. But the buckles poked at my lower back, even beneath the padding. It took some time to get used to, but after tweaking where the buckles rested on my back, it was manageable.
And at 30 liters, the Adventure might feel a bit unnecessarily large as a daily driver, especially on the days when you don’t need to carry much. But I still grab it before I head out of the door in the morning. There have been more days where I’ve been thankful for the space it offers than days where I regretted bringing it.
Other Outside-Approved Gear from Backcountry’s New Collection
Pentapitch Pullover Hoodie
At first, I thought the Pentapitch would serve me best as an alpine mid layer, but it was surprisingly useful as a sun protection shirt. I took it fly fishing on the Pecos, and it kept me cool and unblemished after a few hours in the direct sun. For those in the ultralight camp, beware: while this shirt is billed as lightweight, I found it a bit heavier than your traditional midlayer.
Empire Bike Short
The Empire allowed our male staffers to ride snag-free, thanks to the four-way stretch nylon-spandex blend. These shorts have a relaxed fit, and we found them comfortable on rides with and without padding underneath. Zippered pockets are nothing new, but these sit higher up on your thighs, so our snacks and keys didn’t swing around as we pedaled.
Tollgate Short-Sleeve Active T-Shirt
There are almost too many tech tees to choose from nowadays, but I love the Tollgate for this reason: it doesn’t stink after the sweatiest, high-output days. The poly-spandex material is blended with lyocell—a fabric made from wood pulp—and I stayed fresh after long trail runs near Outside's office headquarters in Santa Fe.