Credit: Osprey

Osprey Exos 38

($190; ospreypacks.com)

Weight: 1 kg

Best For: One-pack quiver.

Built for lightweight backpacking, with a rectangular aluminum frame and enough cushioning to handle 10 kilograms of weight, the 38-litre Exos could handle a weekend trip. Weighing only one-kilogram it is also light enough for day hiking — just strip off the top pocket. Whichever way you wear it, the mesh back-panel and perforated shoulder and waist-padding keep sweat to a minimum and stretchy sleeves are handy for quick-stashing layers.

Bottom Line: This could be your only pack. 

Osprey Osprey Packs Exos 38 Backpack, Basalt Black, Medium
Amazon Price: $160.00 $159.95 Buy Now
(price as of Jan 20, 2015)
Credit: Arc'teryx

Arc'Teryx Alpha FL 45

($240; arcteryx.com)

Weight: 650 grams

Best For: Minimalist hikers and peak baggers.

You'll either love this minimalist pack or hate it. Those that value weight over all else will appreciate that this simple 45-litre top loading, roll-closure pack is little more than a big pocket. Plus, the tough proprietary fabric is almost waterproof. On the other hand, anyone looking for comfort will find it lacking. There's thin foam padding on the shoulders and back, but it’s webbing-only for the waist.

Bottom Line: A lot of capacity for little weight. Ideal for fast-and-light overnights and gear intensive days.

Arc'teryx Arc'teryx Alpha FL 45 Backpack - Regular - Cayenne
Amazon Price: $238.95 $228.95 Buy Now
(price as of Jan 20, 2015)
Credit: Nathan

Nathan VaporCloud

($220; nathansports.ca)

Weight: 550 grams

Best For: A hydration pack for running and adventure racing.

For multi-sporting, we appreciate this hydration pack that wears more like a vest — two sets of clips across the chest hold it in place even while trail running. Two interior sleeves harbour enough room for extra layers and food. Within reach, and without taking the pack off, are six pockets for gels, snacks and other essentials as well as two tensioners; pulling them compresses the hydration bladder to keep sloshing to a minimum.

Bottom Line: Perforated and soft anywhere it touches skin, this pack disappeared on our back while biking, running and hiking.

Nathan Nathan VaporCloud 2-Liter Hydration Vest, Electric Blue/Safety Yellow, Large/X-Large
Amazon Price: $200.00 $118.95 Buy Now
(price as of Jan 20, 2015)