Retro fashion can easily be carried to the extreme of parody, but when one concentrates on the old school elements of high-quality craftsmanship, it hurtles the world of too-skinny jeans and the tired routine of “ironic” t-shirts. Take the Cabin Duffle, which merges 20-ounce and 18-ounce waxed canvas with a supple leather bottom and trim to create one of the most functional, stylish duffles on the market. The zippered main compartment opens wide for easy access to 32 liters of storage space, and the mouth keeps its shape thanks to a structured frame that makes cramming the bag to the hilt almost too easy (external compression straps help as well). The topo-map graphics inside speaks to Mountain Khakis’ love of travel, and the small internal storage bag can be snapped out. There is one small external pocket, and a removable shoulder strap. This bag proved truly bomber on several weekend escapes (to cabins and otherwise), and while some may yearn for more internal organization, we loved how we could toss in a ton of gear, zip it up, and hit the road. Oh, and the leather lining the bottom is so soft-to-the-touch that that you will worry about scratching it, though that’ll happen fairly easily, which makes the bag look even better.
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www.eaglecreek.com, eight pounds, ten ounces
As much as we strive for minimalism in our active lives, outdoor obsessions typically means that every trip we take includes a bike helmet, bike shoes, climbing shoes, trail runners or day hikers, a puffy mid-layer, a rain jacket, soft shell hiking pants, and—ya know—all our other clothes. Thankfully, the EC Adventure Upright accommodates all our gear-centric activities with aplomb. We tested the 25 model, which boasts a cavernous 75 liters of storage space (that can expand to 82 liters), for a West Coast jaunt that included all the afore-mentioned gear specs as well as camera gear, extra bags, and space for wine and beer from California’s Russian River Valley and Portland, OR. The pack interior gives you tons of storage space—just one big, open container for your goods, along with compression wings on clipped straps to tie everything down. The large interior panel in the door also kept our folded laundry (which we love putting in one of Eagle Creek’s Pack-It Folders) from the rest of the guts of the bag, while the large zippered outside pocket let us stash our jacket before checking the bag; the smaller one is great for travel documents. The whole rig rides on a pair of durable wheels that handled copious abuse in both urban and outdoor environs, but when the bag was packed to capacity, the collapsible handle didn’t glide out as easily as it had at the start of our trip (read: before we acquired WAY too many bottles of rare beer). Other details—like the “piggyback” clip that lets you attach your day pack to the roller, a slip-away luggage tag, and exterior compression straps—round out features of this durable suitcase, and the colors schemes (black, green, and a burnt orange) will also let you tailor your pack to your own on-the-road aesthetic. Oh yeah, it also comes with Eagle Creek’s famed lifetime warranty.
Specs and testing were done on the Upright 25 model ; comes in two- and four-wheel versions in sizes ranging from 39 to 123 liters.
Seminal luggage/travel-solution company Eagle Creek unveiled two new packs in their No Matter What series. The new models are made of the same rugged hardwear found in the rest of the bags in this line, with hyper-flexible buckles and metal-welded D-rings. But these new duffles also have wheels to help you bring really big loads through the urban environs. Coming in large (6,400 cubic inches, pictured) and extra-large (7,800 cubic inches), both packs boast 420D ripstop fabric, oversized wheels, end and center haul handles, a front-exterior zipper pocket for quick-grab documents, and removable shoulder straps. As with the other packs in the line, the new rolling duffle bags compress into small stuff sacks; this may not offer much on-the-road advantages, per say. But as anyone who has a rolling duffle knows, the ability to collapse the bag in to an eminently stowable size is a godsend for the gear-clogged closets of the world. And, as with the rest of the No Matter What series, Eagle Creek will fix or replace any damaged bag for free, even when airline handlers treat your prized new bag as an oversized hacky sack.
On market now.
Looking toward spring 2013, Arc’Teryx will continue to develop some of the best-performing products in the outdoor industry. And while their price points are some of the highest, our experience with their line has proven that you’re buying a jacket, pack, or a lifestyle piece that’ll last a lifetime, not just a season. Here are a few things that have us excited.
The bag line will expand next spring to include a variety of travel packs, which will appear in three sizes, from carry-on to checkable. The duffle-style Covert line will be made of 500D Cordura and a burly double weave for solid weather resistance, and come with stashable shoulder straps, strategically-placed grab handles, and light-colored inner lining to help you find what you need quickly. Meanwhile, the new Haku Rope Pack is destined to become a climber’s favorite crag accessory. The medium-sized shoulder pack incorporates a massive tarp at the bag’s mouth. When you’re ready to haul your rope to the next crag or hike out for the day, you spread out the tarp, dump the rope on it, pick up the tarp by the corners, lift, shake, and—viola—the rope drops into the bottom of the pack. Then you just fold in the tarp, roll the bag closed like a dry bag, and you’re ready to go. No more stuffing and jamming to fit everything in. (We also think it may offer great last-minute travel packing solutions for the less OCD-inclined.) On the backcountry side, the newly designed Aristo packs look interesting; they incorporate “wingman” side pockets at both sides of the pack base for easy, on-the-go access, which lets the pack ride against the lumbar for on-the-trail comfort.
On the apparel side, they’ll playing with a mixture of fabrics, employing patches of Gore-Tex Pro and Paclite in the Theta SL Hybrid Jacket for targeted, on-the-body performance, and mixing up cotton and poly in their 24 lifestyle line. We also love what we saw of the women’s Codetta (pictured), a three-quarter-length hooded jacket made from Gore-Tex, with a hem vent and fashion-forward storm flap over the zipper. This urban, travel-friendly jacket will run for $369.
Some may call it OCD, but we prefer to think of it as a place for everything and everything in its place, because nothing can ruin a day on the trail (or in a foreign city) quicker than misplacing your sunglasses, lip balm, or cold medication. Innate’s new Caravan Compartments fill this need. They come in small (with sufficient space to store socks or small toiletries), medium (suitable for tech shorts and shirts), and large (big enough for four folded dress shirts). Each one is constructed from fabrics that have been repurposed from scraps destined to a fiery end in an industrial incinerator, with PU-coated zips and stichless seams to keep the conditions at bay. Clear windows make it easy to spot what’s inside, and an exterior RF welded grab handle makes it easy to shuffle stuff around, even the cavernous duffle. We loved to pack ‘em on daylong kayaking or canyoneering adventures, when a dry change of clothes at the end of the day is most welcome. The small bags also found a home on multiday backpacking trips, keeping our nice-to-have camp items (flashlight, pen and paper, beef jerky) within easy reach and well away from the stinky base layers that we’d worn for the last 72 hours. The zips do feel a bit flimsy compared to more hardcore product like your day pack, but they’ve held their own over months of arduous testing. If that changes, we’ll let you know.