Lightweight day hike and urban backpack
Granite Gear’s new Athabasca 24 is envisioned as a lightweight, dual use pack. It functions as a commuter bag during the work/school week, with the sleeve in the main compartment holding your laptop and with your cell phone kept close at hand in one of the stretch mesh shoulder strap pockets. On the weekend it turns into a lightweight daypack with the laptop switched out for a hydration reservoir and the cell phone for energy gel.
Two side stretch mesh pockets fit 32 ounce Nalgenes to a T and a stretch mesh front pocket makes for a handy spot to stash a windshirt or shemagh. The removable hipbelt features two zippered pockets of the right size for a digicam and snacks. The foam back panel is designed to allow some air circulation; if the day is muggy and/or you are on the move you will sweat, but heat builds much more slowly and cooling occurs much more rapidly than with flat-to-the-back designs. An included rain fly hides away in a zippered bottom pocket when not in use.
The Athabasca 24 incorporates a minimal and removable framesheet. The framesheet doesn’t contribute a great deal in the way of structure. It does cant the bottom of the Athabasca away from the hips, however, allowing the pack to snug into the lumbar curve. Speaking as someone with a curvy backside I can attest that this is a feature sorely (literally!) missing on most daypacks.
“Will this pack work for me?”
It depends. If you are looking for an everyday carry bag for a daily load of no more than 8–12 pounds, the Athabasca 24 might be right up your alley. If your typical day involves carting around big anatomy textbooks or multiple computer peripherals you might be better off looking elsewhere, however. The pack should also work great in warm weather for short hikes with children, as a half-day pack for recreational hikers, or as lightweight daypack for serious peakbaggers.
As far as snowplay goes, the market for the Athabasca 24 overlaps with the lumbar pack market. Both are lightweight and convenient means of toting what is needed for lift-served skiing or 1–3 hours on snowshoes in moderate conditions. Neither features the means to reliably stow snowshoes for any period of time. The larger volume of the Athabasca makes it a superior choice for users looking to use a hydration bladder and carry along a hardshell or lightweight puffy layer without too much cramming.