Gear Review: Backpacks

Gear Review: Backpacks

Backpack Review: Pack Picks from Hydration to Trekking


Written for the Washington Trails Association blog


Visit the published article here


From hydration pack to day pack to ultralight and backpacking, WTA’s gear team field-tested and rated ten new packs: the Osprey Rev 12, Outdoor Research Levitator 16, Outdoor Products Amphibian 20, Osprey Stratos 34, Gregory Z40, REI Crestrail 48, Gregory J53, GoLite Quest 65, Granite Gear Nimbus Trace Access 70.

Whether you are looking for a light pack to hold your water during a run, a daypack or a full-on backpacking pack, below are ten field-tested options that WTA has put through the ringer.

DAYPACK: Outdoor Research Levitator 16

Outdoor Research created the Outdoor Research Levitator 16 for alpine climbing. With 16 liters of space and a widemouth entry, it has enough room for technical hardware, shoes and a helmet—all while being ultra-light and flexible enough for over-stuffing.

But you don’t need to climb to make good use of the Levitator and its features. I used it as a daypack for hiking and urban adventures, filling it to the brim with water bottles, sunscreen and extra clothing.

No matter how much I loaded it down, the pack fit comfortably on my shoulders and waist thanks to well-designed, padded straps. $65

Bonus Points: Its hip-belt pockets are big enough for an iPhone.

Tester: Cassandra, Rating: 5/5

Outdoor Research Levitator 16

BACKPACK: REI Crestrail 48

Although the REI Crestrail 48 won’t win any ultralight awards when it comes to weight (it’s almost four pounds), it offers plenty of bang for your buck and is a good intro pack for those new to backpacking.

Its relatively roomy interior is perfect for weekend wilderness getaways, and lots of exterior pockets mean your snacks are always close by.

This is one pack I certainly didn’t have to tiptoe around; its heavy ripstop fabric gives it a durability that lighter bags usually don’t have.

Other features I loved: generously padded shoulder straps and the largest hip-belt pockets I’ve ever seen—big enough for everything from a GPS to GORP. $170

Point Deduction: The top edge of its pivoting hip-belt can be uncomfortable if not adjusted just right.

Tester: Cassandra, Rating: 3.7/5

REI Crestrail


BACKPACK: Gregory J53

The Gregory J53 is one of the prettiest packs on the market (I love the teal color) but it’s not all beauty and no brawn. The pack boasts a durable frame for heavy loads, a breathable back for sweaty ascents and enough pockets to make MacGyver jealous. I found myself tempted to over-pack simply because there were so many great pockets to choose from.

The J53 performed well on my steep, spring test hikes; its rain fly came in handy during an afternoon drizzle, and its load always felt steady on my back.

Had it been just a bit easier to reach the water bottle holsters while wearing, the J53 would have received a perfect 5! $200

Bonus Points: Its expandable, kangaroo-like outer pocket is perfect for stashing bulky items.

Tester: Cassandra, Rating: 4.7/5

Gregory J53

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