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Backpacks | Trends | OutDoor show
September 2014

Backpack and hydration trends

The OutDoor show is a hotspot for judging what trends we can expect to see in the upcoming months. CARIN HARDISTY reports on the latest pack trends

The backpack is probably one of the most versatile pieces of equipment an outdoor enthusiast will invest in, because of the many diverse situations in which you need to carry valuables and gear. Most people will therefore own a backpack at some point in their lives.

Sales of backpacks are growing worldwide. US backpack specialist, Gregory, for example, experienced 54% growth in 2014 and many international outdoor brands now say that backpacks account for about a third of all sales.

Backpacks therefore also feature prominently at the OutDoor Show in Friedrichshafen, where the latest trends in outdoor gear can be seen.

Innovative back system

According to the panel of experts that select the most innovative products at the show, a new backpack trend was introduced by Osprey for their Atmos AG 65 backpack, which features a unique suspended AntiGravity back system and the world’s first fully ventilated hipbelt.

The Osprey brand, distributed in South Africa by Adventure Inc, received one of the seven Industry Gold Awards at this year’s OutDoor show for this pack. Only exceptionally outstanding products with a high degree of innovation, design quality and the potential to set new trends are awarded gold. “These products set new benchmarks for the entire industry,” says Stefan Reisinger, head of OutDoor.

“The full-contact carry system literally covers the back and hips, but still allows good ventilation even when heavily loaded,” the jury said about the Atmos AG 65. “With this carry system, Osprey has embarked on an interesting new approach, which requires no foam pads.”

The back panel of the Atmos features seamless mesh over a 3D cavity, which allows for a breathable and flexible contoured fit. The adjustable Biostretch and ExoForm harness and Fit-on-the-Fly mesh hipbelt provide pack stability and reduce roll.

The Atmos AG 65 also features InsideOut compression for a heightened load balance.

The best fit

No two bodies are the same. Nor is the load, distance and terrain covered the same every time a backpack is used. Easy adjustment is therefore an important feature in backpacks.

The Karrimor SA (Self Adjusting) back system is designed to ensure the best fit. The brand is locally distributed by Brand ID.

Of their backpacks featuring the SA system, Jaguar is Karrimor’s flagship. It features the SA3 back system, which has a single central adjustment system to create a simplified, smoother and quicker mode of adjustment while the pack is on the wearer’s back. Simply release the cam lock to increase the back length. The pull loops help the wearer to effectively and accurately adjust the back length.

The custom-made V-shaped staves, along which the scapular pads move, widen to allow the pads to move apart as the back length is increased to fit a taller (and larger) person.

The Flex technology allows the load to be transferred through the articulated hip fins via flexible acetol rods. The pack has also been ergonomically shaped to bring the load as close as possible to the wearer and around the hips for improved stability and control.

The central air channels on the back and the bodycool airmesh, with its wicking and airflow, provide greater breathability and comfort.

Jaguar also features other useful designs such as wider, flatter shoulder straps to reduce the pressure on the shoulders, clips to hold poles in place, ice axe loops and new zip pulls with loops.

The SA2 system, found on the Cheetah backpack, is similar to the SA3 system, but without the breathable airmesh and the hipbelt is not articulated.

Known for their products to carry gear outside vehicles, Thule has now entered the performance backpack market by introducing a range of technical backpacks at OutDoor, all designed for easy adjustment to fit different body shapes.

“With no two human bodies being exactly the same, we developed quick and easy ways to fully customize our packs for a perfect fit, says Graham Jackson, Thule’s technical backpacks product manager.

They showed the Guidepost trekking, Capstone hiking and Sapling child-carrier backpack ranges.

In the larger trekking packs they offer 270 different configurations. These features include a unique TransHub suspension system, which provides excellent stability and flexibility, and a MicroAdjust suspension system, which ensures that pack loads can be evenly transferred to the hips, plus the torso length of the pack can be adjusted whilst you’re hiking.

Smaller and lighter

The less weight a backpacker carries on his back, the more comfortable the journey. It is therefore not surprising that one trend is backpack weight — or rather the reducing of it.

“Today’s classic backpack has on average 20 litres less volume. People don’t want to, and don’t need to, take as much equipment with them — equipment is getting lighter and better all the time,” says Maximilian Lenk, backpack product manager for Mammut.

Weight is so important, Karrimor has named a range after it. The Superlight backpack range is available in three sizes: 45L+ 10L (840gm), 30L (720gm) and 20L (580gm).

The Black Diamond trail packs have been given a redesign to make them smaller and more lightweight.

“Trail packs do exceptionally well for us. They are our bread and butter,” says Deidre Kuelder of Ram Mountaineering, Black Diamond’s local distributor. The packs have more of an alpine influence, for example gear slings. The trail range is also available in a completely new colourway.

Colour important

For the coming season, colour is a big trend for backpacks.

Where backpacks would traditionally feature several colours, for example on pockets or the lid, they now tend to be a single colour, with another colour added for a pop,” says Lee Ellison, key account manager for Karrimor distributors Dragonfly Venture Group.

“Colour and aesthetics are more important now,” says Tom Barney, Osprey CEO. “Fashion is coming in.”

Osprey has added more colour to their bags across both their backpack and hydration pack ranges. Previously, the brand’s bags featured darker or neutral colours.

For the activity

“We have found there is a definite trend to make products that target specific activities,” says Barney.

Black Diamond’s durable and lightweight alpine, crag and climbing packs have been given an update. The outside has been stripped down with only the bare necessities left such as attachment points and suspension systems.

The ascent packs are their most popular among the climbing packs. “They offer everything the climber needs,” says Dave Colours, Black Diamond’s international sales manager.

The packs feature a streamlined design with handy features such as pick pockets and straps that attach to the hitch loop. They also feature the reActive and Swing Arm technologies, which allow the pack to move with the wearer.

Osprey has for the first time added a backpack to their travel range, where they previously only offered roller bags. The backpack (Waypoint for men, Wayfarer for ladies) has a zip-up back that enables the user to fold the straps away if he prefers to use one of the carry handles on the side and top.

New hydration users

Hydration is a trending category and more and more people are using it, says Barney. “As more people participate in activities such as trail running, mountain biking, etc. so more equipment is sold for these activities.”

Osprey is new to the hydration pack market and their latest range focuses on cyclists, especially mountain bikers, since the category is growing so fast. These bags have been designed to make a cyclist’s life more convenient, such as an integrated tool bag and magnetic helmet clips. Their hydration packs have a 2-3 liter water capacity and an overall 5-14 liter carry capacity.

Their reservoir (bladder) is available in three systems in different sizes. The bladders feature elements such as a S-curve that follows the contour of the back, baffles and a hose that disconnects.

He has also noticed a growth in demand among non-traditional users, such as fishermen and hunters, who are also starting to use hydration packs. “People want a hands-free solution.”

Osprey’s Rev hydration pack series is doing very well among runners. The compression system pulls the bag against the body, which creates a more stable bag — the less the bag moves, the less the liquid in the bag will move. The bag also features useful elements on the shoulder strap such as map and food compartments and a magnetic bite valve.


Osprey recognises the differences in build and tastes between men and women and as such offers products designed specifically for each gender. They have made allowances for gender differences in the harness, torso, hipbelt, product colour and the names of products.

Karrimor has also recognised that men and women don’t have the same build and offers certain of their backpacks in men’s and ladies’ styles — look out for the ‘f’ (for female) at the end of the backpack name.

Thule, have also designed their backpacks gender-specific with multiple hip belt options.

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