Patagonia Black Hole
$149, 2 lbs. 4 oz.
If I decide to become a big-city bike messenger when I grow up, this will be the pack I carry. But that’s just a statement about its indestructibility; however, it’s way more versatile than that. I used it for everything from a carry-on when flying and an around-town pack when biking errands, to hauling quickdraws and personal climbing gear for sport climbing at Idaho’s Castle Rocks State Park, and on a five-pitch route on Steinfeld’s Dome in the City of Rocks National Reserve. I could toss it onto rocks and the pack showed not a scratch.
The 1,200-denier polyester fabric could take a bullet—it may be the toughest pack I’ve ever seen. The fabric is treated with Patagonia’s Deluge DWR (durable water repellent) finish; the zippers aren’t waterproof, but the lid overhangs the wide mouth of this top-loader, so the main compartment is effectively rainproof. With padded shoulder straps and a molded back panel, the pack carries 15 to 20 pounds comfortably. An internal sleeve fits most 17-inch laptops or a hydration bladder. The zippered front pocket fits an e-reader and other small, thin items; the lid pocket is a little smaller and has a moisture-shedding, reverse-coil zipper. One demerit: The thin, nylon-webbing waistbelt offers no padding or support.
NOTE: I’ve been testing gear for Backpacker Magazine for 20 years. At The Big Outside, I review only what I consider the best outdoor gear and apparel. See all of my reviews by clicking on the Gear Reviews category at left or in the main menu.