ultralight backpack reviews

Hyperlite Mountain Gear 3400 Windrider backpack in the Wind River Range.

Review: Hyperlite Mountain Gear 3400 Windrider Ultralight Backpack

BackpackHyperlite Mountain Gear 3400 Windrider$399, 55L/3,400 c.i., 1 lb. 15 oz./879g (medium)Sizes: S (fits torsos 15-17 ins.), M (17-19 ins.), L (19-21 ins.), Tall (21+ ins.)backcountry.com When the 3400 Windrider was delivered to my house, the box looked much too small to contain a backpack—if I’d had no idea, I might have guessed it contained a small tent. It’s not …

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The Osprey Exos 58 in Glacier National Park.

Gear Review: Osprey Exos 58 and Eja 58 Ultralight Backpacks

Ultralight Backpack
Osprey Exos 58 and Eja 58
$240, 58L/3,539 c.i., 2 lbs. 11 oz. (men’s medium Exos)
Sizes: men’s Exos S-L, women’s Eja XS-M

It’s difficult and sometimes dangerous to improve on a piece of gear that’s nearly perfect in its simplicity and functionality. So when Osprey rolled out the redesigned Exos for 2018, along with a women’s version, the Eja, with some changes to this popular model—which became an ultralight pack archetype when it was introduced in 2008—I immediately wanted to see whether the changes represent an improvement. Taking it on a six-day, 94-mile hike on the Continental Divide Trail through Glacier National Park, I found definite improvements—including that it carries better than the previous iteration—and I think some backpackers may miss one convenient feature that’s absent from the updated pack.

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The Gregory Optic 58 ultralight backpack in the Grand Canyon.

Review: Gregory Optic 58 and Octal 55 Ultralight Backpacks

Ultralight Backpack
Gregory Optic 58 (men’s) and Octal 55 (women’s)
$210, 58L/3,539 c.i. (men’s medium), 2 lbs. 7 oz. (men’s small, without the included rain cover, 3 oz.)
Sizes: men’s S-L, women’s XS-M

No one loves loading extra water into their pack—especially upwards of 13 pounds of it, as I did as we left our last water source on our final evening backpacking the Grand Canyon’s Thunder River-Deer Creek Loop. We needed to haul enough liquid sustenance to get us through the 2,600-foot climb we were embarking on at 5:30 p.m., plus another 2,000 feet uphill early the next morning. That pushed my total pack weight up toward the limit of the ultralight Optic 58—as good a test as any. And Gregory’s first foray into ultralight packs not only handled that assignment well, it shines for many other reasons, too.

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The Sierra Designs Flex Capacitor backpack.

Review: Sierra Designs Flex Capacitor 40-60 Backpack

BackpackSierra Designs Flex Capacitor 40-60$200, 2 lbs. 9 oz. (men’s S/M pack with S/M hipbelt)Sizes: men’s S/M (fits torsos 16-19 inches) and M/L (fits torsos 18-21 inches), plus four hipbelt sizes (XS/S to L/XL)backcountry.com Many avid backpackers eventually find themselves facing an expensive quandary: the need for a second or even third pack to better handle the range of trips …

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The REI Flash 45 in Utah's Dark Canyon Wilderness.

Gear Review: REI Flash 45 Backpack

REI Flash 45
$159, 47L/2,868 c.i., 2 lbs. 14 oz. (large)
Sizes: men’s medium (45L/2,746 c.i.) and large, women’s small (45L/2,745 c.i.) and medium (47L/2,868 c.i.)

The challenge: Backpack a three-day, 40-mile loop in Utah’s Dark Canyon Wilderness, staying as light as possible, but having a pack capable of hauling extra water without compressing my spine. It struck me as a good opportunity to test out REI’s latest iteration of the Flash 45 backpack. Having used and reviewed the previous version of the Flash 45, I was curious to hike with this newly updated sack—which has gained about 10 ounces compared to eight years ago (not bad, compared to most people), but also appeared capable of handling more weight comfortably than its predecessor. I discovered that much is true, and that’s among a few improvements to a backpack that’s still under three pounds and, more remarkably, under $150.

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