Black Diamond Blaze

Black Diamond Blaze
$90, 1 lb. 8 oz.
18L/1,098 c.i.
One unisex size

Sometimes a piece of gear just grows on you; that was the case with the Blaze for me. Its simple, streamlined design and low weight, rather than limiting its functionality, make it incredibly versatile. I’ve used it for everything from a 19-mile, one-day hike the length of the Carter Range in New Hampshire’s White Mountains, and on numerous shorter dayhikes, to employing it as my biking-around-town pack and as a carry-on when flying.

With a very flexible plastic framesheet providing minimalist structure, it carried 12 pounds comfortably for hours, with just one break, on my traverse of the Carter Range. The shoulder straps actually connect behind the lumbar pad, allowing them to move with your torso for enhanced stability when trail running or riding. The Blaze has the capacity for long dayhikes, yet is compact and compressible for small loads. The small, stretch pocket on one side and zippered pocket on the other side can be reached when wearing the pack, while the stretch front pocket is large enough to stuff a jacket inside (and has a bike light slot). The thin, webbing belt and narrow profile keep it out of the way of swinging arms and unobtrusive in front of you. Two compartments extend the full depth of the pack, and each has a small, zippered pocket inside. My one gripe: While the foam and mesh back pad never gets excessively clammy, it lacks channels to promote air flow, so my back got sweaty on hot days.

—Michael Lanza