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A New Path


Backpacks – and the materials that anchor them – are getting an upgrade. Textiles are becoming increasingly sophisticated in the latest pack offerings, for both casual adventurers and hardcore outdoorists — they are high performance, lightweight and sustainable. Here, we spotlight five brands, showcasing new packs that elevate the category.

Big Agnes Takes a Leap

In its 20-year history, Big Agnes has made its name as a maker of quality tents and sleeping bags. This season, brand execs are taking a leap into new territory, introducing Big Agnes packs. “For years, our customers have encouraged us to make packs with the same focus on quality, durability, functionality and sustainability we’re known for – but we wanted to wait until the timing was right,” said Len Zanni, co-owner of Big Agnes.

The Big Agnes pack collection features 45-liter to 63-liter backpacks designed for multi day excursions, along with two technical daypacks for hiking and travel. All are constructed with Global Recycled Standard (GRS)-certified, recycled Mipan regen robic high-tenacity nylon from Hyosung textiles containing a solution-dyed ripstop grid. The recycled fabrics and the solution-dyed ripstop offer sustainability benefits, while providing a technical product. Proprietary Load Wrangler and Load Wrangler+ suspension systems provide an easy, comfortable and precise fit. Also core to the collection is the inclusion of a seven-liter Trash Can accessory (made from the same materials as the packs) on most models and a campaign with non-profit Leave No Trace aimed at reducing litter on public lands.

Deuter Embraces Recyclability

German outdoor brand Deuter marks 2022 with an ode to sustainability, offering a collection of functional and stylish packs featuring bluesign-certified materials and recycled fabrics, 100 percent free of perfluorocarbons. “Our customer service team has seen a steady pick-up in consumer inquiries asking specifically if we use recycled materials and what our sustainable practices are,” explained Scott Park, Deuter USA sales manager. The brand has delivered with the Aircontact Core, its newest pack designed with comfort, adjustability and ventilation in mind (for increased breathability on the hottest days) on extended trips.

Aircontact Core packs feature a Y-frame for more direct load transfer and control, along with an Aircontact back system and ActiveFit shoulder straps. The Aircontact Core uses 500 denier textured nylon and 235 denier recycled nylon fabrics. The brand first started using recycled materials with its UP Series in 2020. “These materials perform just as well and provide the same durability. In addition, the recycled material is a softer feel overall,” noted Park.

New Owner, Same Philosophy for Osprey

In November 2021, Colorado-based Osprey announced that it would be acquired by Helen of Troy, which also owns Hydro Flask. The sale also marked the eventual end of Osprey founder Mike Pfotenhauer’s (and wife, Diane Wren’s) 47-year involvement with company. Vince Mazzuca, director of marketing at Osprey, commented that “we are excited” on the news and “have great new technology we are looking forward to bringing to market.”

Osprey launched the UNLTD (available in four styles) for Spring 2022, which uses Carbon DLS 3D technology (the first 3D printing incorporated into technical packs, according to Osprey) to engineer the pack’s lumbar delivering superior ventilation, increased cushion support and an anti-slip surface grip to keep loads firmly in place while reducing manufacturing waste. UNLTD features state-of-the-art fabrics, including a double rip 210denier lightweight main fabric with UHMWPE (ultra-high molecular weight polyethylene) durable content. A deluxe rain cover is made from premium high tenacity nylon ripstop, as well as a custom Airporter Cover with lockable zippers designed to shield and secure the pack during transit.

The brand is taking a holistic approach to sustainability (all new main body fabrics are made of recycled content for Fall 2022), yet makes an exception for the UNLTD, where UHMWPE is used for added durability (it is the strongest fabric the brand has used), according to Mark Galbraith, VP product for Osprey.

Among the new packs for Fall 2022 is the Zealot 30, Osprey’s first rock climbing gym pack. It is equipped with intentional features for the user who needs to carry all the day’s essentials including climbing gym gear. The $120 pack’s smart design features organization like dual compartments to keep chalk and sweaty climbing shoes separate from the other daily essentials. It is built with durable, bluesign approved 630D GRS-certified recycled, high tenacity, diamond ripstop nylon and an EVA-molded backpanel for maximum stability and comfort.

Norrøna Taps a New Market

Norwegian outdoor brand Norrøna announced an increased investment in the U.S. in September 2021, with the addition of three new sales agency partners. “The USA has such a vibrant and strong outdoor community with a fantastic variety of climates, topographies and demands from passionate outdoor communities,” noted Adam Chamberlain, Norrøna U.S. sales manager, adding, “This consumer is also willing to invest in ethical businesses. Norrøna, founded in 1929, is inseparable from the outdoor community in Norway.”

For Fall 2021, the brand developed clean, versatile duffel bags in three sizes – 50, 70 and 90L, all featuring Econyl recycled nylon. The yarn is crafted from nylon waste like old fishing nets, which is then regenerated into new fibers. “Our experience and testing show that it is as strong as virgin nylon, and we also improved our water column to 2000mm when we developed the new fabrics,” noted Einar Holmin, hardgoods designer at Norrøna. The duffels also feature seam sealing and shoulder straps for carrying on the back. A 120L Trolley bag is large enough to fit lots of gear and has a wide zipper opening.

Mystery Ranch Designs for All

If we’ve learned anything in the last two years, it’s that the outdoors is for everyone. With that in mind, Mystery Ranch developed the Bridger 65L for both new hikers and veterans alike. It’s a “premium, fully-featured pack at an approachable price backed by a lifetime guarantee” and was “born out of the COVID era when the designers and developers increasingly found long-distance trail running as a safe, solo escape to help them navigate the stress and solitude of quarantine,” explained Mystery Ranch product manager Dana Gleason III.

The Bridger features a yoke that works on every body type, along with a new 4mm spring steel frame design which supports load-carriage without impacting the shaping of the harness, so it can fit easily and comfortably to anyone. “Consumer research led us to know that new hikers and backpackers are looking for value, comfort, on-trail ease, and intuitive functionality,” the exec added. The running vest-inspired design of the new Endurance Yoke with die-cut, open cell foam brings the same wicking comfort and convenient access features designed for trail runners to the backpacker. The open-cell foam is overlaid with a hydrophobic mesh that wraps around to the top of the shoulder pads and waist belt for vapor transfer out and away from the body.  

The Bridger’s main body utilizes 100d robic recycled nylon ripstop on side panels (selected for weight savings and function) with 330d robic nylon on high abrasion areas of the main bag. Cordura is a key partner for Mystery Ranch, who plans to launch a new line with recycled Cordura fabric in Fall 2022.