Getting Technical with a Back-to-School Backpack

081611_rg_PackTechTips_01.jpgWe don’t like to admit it, but summer is coming to an end in a few weeks. Soon enough, quite a few of us will be bound back for school, college, university or graduate school. Is so, you might be already looking for something new to haul around your laptop/tablet/tech, books, and class materials. But before you buy a dedicated laptop bag, check out what we’ve come up with while we were shopping for our own bag earlier today…

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Osprey Raptor Hydration Packs

Osprey Raptor 6
Osprey Raptor 14

There is something pretty neat about the new Osprey Raptor hydration packs: they use hydraulic pressure to bring water through the tube. No more sucking. It just flows. There is also a hiking/running line called Mantra. The Raptor is available in 4 sizes, (6, 10, 14 and 18), and uses a customized integrated Nalgene hydration bladder that has a solid back, which locks into the pack easily, even when it’s full. There is a system that puts pressure on the bottle, which in turn spouts the water. That is a great idea. They also have a bungee helmet button system to hold your helmet. They will range form $80 to $120.

That looks like a smoking pack and would be excellent as a day pack on rides. My hydration bladder broke last year. I have been meaning to get another. Instead, I’ll just get a Raptor pack. Seems like a win-win situation. This has teh benefit or being able to work on road rides and MTB rides. Once I get a training road bike, I’ll mount my stubby tires again and go MTBing. Now, all I have to see if a few odds and ends, like a notebook and a laptop, can fit into the pack as well. I’ve been using a Osprey Atmos 25 and 35 since 2007 as my main packs. They are slim and streamlined. I usually wear them on my scooter or on my bike. Though they Atmos is great, it’s not a bike specific pack and I’ve been meaning to find something.

The Atmos 25 is pretty gruddy and needs to be washed. The Atmos 35 has been used less since I almost always take the 25 out. They aren’t great for books, as they are streamlined. I get the idea that this is true for the Raptor as well. However, I’ve got a 13″ notebook, so it might not be that much of an issue.

The new Arc’Teryx hydration bags, which will only be available in the spring of 2010, look pretty darn ordinary compared to this Osprey.

Arc’Teryx Acrux 40

I finally got the Arc’Teryx Acrux 40. They didn’t have the Acrux 50. They did have the Naos 45, 55 and 70. Both packs use similar construction. The Naos has a nifty kangaroo pocket, that is also weatherproof in front of the back. Also, the complete Naos line has an advanced molded hipbelt, which is absent from the Acrux. I’ve read that it can make the Naos pack swing side to side in an uncomfortable manner.

The Acrux 40 can be compression strapped down to almost nothing, which is really cool. It’s actually smaller strapped down than the Osprey Atmos 25 that I have. I’ve decided not to use it while I’m in Taiwan.

Why do you ask?

Well, I’ve compared my Atmos 25 and my Atmos 35. The Atmos 25 is the pack that I have on my back every day. I take it with me on the scooter and go all over the place. It’s a very comfortable pack and I no longer notice the weight. Surprisingly people always comment on how heavy it is, even though I only have a hardcover book, a moleskine notebook, pencil case, Nikon D200 and 18-200VR lens and some water bottles.

But I digress.

I’ve never used the Atmos 35 while I was on the scooter. I always used the 25. And it shows. I basically got these packs almost brand new from a guy who was getting rid of them. I paid 100$ for the Atmos 25, 35 and the GoLite Jam. That was a great deal. The colors of the 25 were pristine when it started out on my back last year. It has become extremely dirty. I’m thinking about scrubbing it down this weekend. I’m also thinking about giving my French bulldog Spike a bath, even though I finally gave him a little scrub shower last weekend.

It’s simply amazing the difference in color. I’ll take some pics and post them over the weekend before I clean it.

Scooter + Arc’Teryx Acrux 40 = No-no.

What do I love about the Acrux 40?

It’s basically a stripped down no-nonsense version of the Naos. It’s completely waterproof. It’s rugged construction and lifetime warranty.

Oh, and I decided to get the Titanium grey color. The Gold Rush goldenrod was just too much for me. I was lucky that they did have both colors to choose from.


I’m leaning towards getting an Arc’Teryx Acrux 40 or 50 in the next few weeks. I would have gone for the Naos 45 or 55, but they are just too expensive. The Acrux is streamlined for lightweight backpacking.

I’m planning on making the Acrux my daily pack. It’s completely weatherproof. The only things that are missing are pockets. In Taiwan, the Naos 45 is 200$ more than the Acrux 40. They are priced similarly to the US. The Naos is not worth that extra money in my opinion. All it has more is a wee bit more storage and nifty kangaroo pockets in the front. The Acrux has a zipline instead, handy for a tripod or a jacket. The main reason why the pockets are mostly absent is because the pack is a whole lot easier to waterproof if it’s made in one compartment. Stitching on more pockets and compartments makes the pack harder to waterproof. I’ve actually examined these packs closely. You could fill them up with air, and they wouldn’t let any air out. It’s a bit annoying, but it’s something that’s not a big problem.

I can see how this might be a major problem on hikes to peaks. This means that to access something in the pack, you’d have to unpack most of the pack in order to find the item. This can be annoying. However since dampness and moisture are completely kept at bay, it’s a sacrifice that’s not too hard to live with.

My main problem with the GoLite Jam is that the pocket in front isn’t expandable to the outside. If you put something big in it, it just eats up the storage space from inside. Doesn’t make any sense really, but maybe it’s because I was stuffing a DSLR camera in there. With the Acrux, the problem is solved. I’ve examined the pack closely. The lid is removable and can easily house a DSLR camera. Having the camera on top is actually a lot safer than having it inside the pack. The camera is also easily accessible and can be taken out in a cinch. That was a big beef that I had with the Atmos packs. It took forever to take out my camera, since it was at the bottom of my pack, wrapped up in some clothing and foam moldings. I’ve long stopped using dedicated camera bags. They are too visible, too easy to steal and sometimes just uncomfortable or unwieldy. Expedition packs are perfect for this use.

That’s another thing. The Acrux and the Naos are actually molded and glued together in parts. Just like the Alpha LT and SV jackets, these packs are really technologically advanced in their construction and materials. The Acrux is the lighter of the two, having been streamlined for alpine use.

I went to one of the outdoor shops near Taipei Main Station exit 7 on Zhongshan Rd. I played with the packs for about 20 minutes. Naturally, I was attracted by the Arc’Teryx packs. If possible, I’d get all of my gear from the BC company. However, most of their gear is pretty expensive, which is why I have only a few choice pieces from them, mainly an Alpha LT jacket and a beanie. I first started examining the Khamsin and Bora packs. However, they aren’t very sturdy if you compare them to the Acrux or the Naos packs.

I think I’ll go for the Acrux 40 since it can be compressed easily to a manageable size for everyday use. In fact, the pack is about the size of my Osprey Atmos 25. Since the Osprey loses a lot of volume by incorporating an Airspeed back, a place to store a hydration bladder that keeps the pack away from your back, so that it’s less hot, it’s surprising how close in size their are. I found that both the Atmos 25 and 35 are unusable for school, since width wise, they are curved, making packing books almost impossible.

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