Ultimate AR Backpack

By STEPHEN REGENOLD

Mike Kloser, a Vail, Colo., athlete and a former world-champion mountain biker, is something of a god in the sport of adventure racing. As the captain of Team Nike, Kloser dominated AR for years, including multiple world-champ titles and victories at banner events like the Eco Challenge and Primal Quest under his belt.

Last year, Kloser launched a gear company, Out There USA, and he designed a backpack. After years of racing — as well as living a consummate outdoors existence working and training in Colorado — Kloser put his knowledge toward making his company’s AS-1 Pack something of an ultimate multi-sport tool.

as-1 backpack.jpg

Out There USA’s AS-1 Pack

Gear Junkie got an exclusive first look at the AS-1 last February when it was still in beta. Team GearJunkie.com, competing in the Wenger Patagonian Expedition Race where Kloser was on the photography/media staff, got the tutorial on the pack’s obscure design and multifaceted nature while it was going through a serious field test in the wilds of southern Chile.

The AS-1 comes officially onto market this spring. Its final price tag is TBD, though the company estimates it will be between $169 and $199. This winter, we put the pack to the test ourselves.

At first glance, the AS-1 looks busy and confusing. It is a tangle of mesh, straps, pockets, buckles and hooks. But there is method to the madness. On back, there are loops and attachment points for skis, trekking poles, kayak paddles, and a hidden helmet net. On front, via elasticized mesh holsters and hip pockets, an adventurer wearing this pack has access to an incredible amount to gear.

In adventure racing, constant forward motion is key. Racers rarely stop to eat, drink or apply sunscreen. As such, racers prefer to grab and go from pockets reachable on the backpack harness and hip belt.

Mike Kloser Backpack.jpg

AS-1 Pack loaded up

The AS-1 provides this never-take-the-pack-off accessibility better than almost anything I’ve seen. There are four zip pockets, four water bottle holders, two hydration-hose ports, a whistle, and several attachment points — all reachable on front. On an adventure, you can cram a half-day’s worth of energy food, a compass, lip balm, and other essentials in the pack’s up-front holsters and hip-belt pockets.

The multifunctional nature continues on back. There are compression straps for skis, snowboards, and other equipment; ice axe and trekking pole loops and attachment straps; a map pocket; tabs on the bottom of the pack for attaching camping gear; and multiple zippered and mesh pockets.

In all, the AS-1 has about 30 liters of internal storage capacity and then another 10 liters offered from its many external pockets and holsters. The back panel has light padding and there is a foam sheet for its internal-frame support.

It is not a small backpack. The AS-1 measure about 20 × 12 × 6 inches, and it weighs about 2.5 pounds when empty. The outer fabric is a lightweight rip-stop nylon.

I have tested the AS-1 for a few weeks and am becoming more of a fan. The pack takes some time to learn, as there are so many features. But once you’re comfortable with the pack it can be a great tool.

Kloser has an interesting new product with the AS-1. I plan to test the pack further this winter before making any big conclusions. But so far, I like the AS-1. It carries a load with ease, and it offers the functionality and accessibility to gear and supplies needed for outdoors types like me who need to move fast and are always racing ahead.

Update, February 24, 2011. . . I used this pack for a week of racing in the 2011 Wenger Patagonian Expedition Race in southern Chile, where my Team GearJunkie.com took second place. The pack survived, and it functioned for the most part really well in the event. None of the mesh ripped, amazingly, as this race course was just crazy full of bushwhacking for 100+ miles.

Upsides. . . I loved all the accessibility. The abundance of pockets and stash areas allow you to keep your gear and food really organized and reachable w/o removing the pack — key for adv. racing. The water bottle holders, easily reachable from up front, were great. The hip-belt pockets were surprisingly large and can hold a half-day’s worth of energy food. I also loved the small zip mesh pockets on the shoulder straps. I kept lip balm, sunscreen, and a small Wenger Swiss Army Knife (appropriately!) in there, and I used those small items dozens of times during the race. It was really slick to have them so accessible.

Gripes. . . with all the pockets and straps and buckles, the pack can be a bit confusing. It seems slightly overbuilt, and it is a bit heavier than I would like. I didn’t need all the pockets, and some were just left empty on the race. Also, you sometimes forget where you put a piece of gear because there are so many places. Another thing: The narrow “map pocket” on the side suffered when the pack was stuffed full — the zipper on that pocket was stressed, making it hard to open and close and freaking me out (thinking it was going to break — it didn’t).

The pack is not very waterproof. Water sluices in during river crossing and swims like with any average pack. But all my stuff was in waterproof bags inside anyway (as is standard). Overall, it was comfortable to wear for days on end. The soft frame sheet inside (which allows you to use the pack as a pseudo camp pad!) supports enough for loads to 30 pounds or more.

It fits close. No complaints on fit overall. It felt fine trekking, for (light) running, climbing, and while biking.

In sum. . . I would use this pack again on a long adventure race or other expedition. The up-front pockets and stash areas are the biggest advantages. The “backpack” part of the pack is fine, though nothing overly special.

I would love to see version 2.0 as a bit more streamlined, lighter weight, and then maybe with some unique AR features (like a true waterproof compartment, for example).

—Stephen Regenold is founder and editor of www.gearjunkie.com. He will captain Team GearJunkie.com in this year’s Wenger Patagonian Expedition Race beginning February 8, 2011.

Commenting on post : Ultimate AR Backpack
Posted by Brooks - 01/24/2011 12:47 PM

I love the pack… Amazing how much it is capable of holding.

Posted by Clay Abney - 01/24/2011 02:54 PM

Who would know AR packs better than Mike Kloser…we can’t wait to get our hands on one to test!

Posted by Laz - 01/25/2011 09:51 PM

great design,does it come in all black?

Posted by Mike - 01/26/2011 02:01 PM

It holds approx. 30-lt. inside and 10-lt. in the external mesh. 1st run only comes in the colors seen. Clay contact me at www.OutThereUSA.com

Posted by Josh - 01/28/2011 02:47 PM

Are you taking one to Patagonia? Please let us know how it works. I have “verbally committed” to Expedition Idaho in August and I am looking for a new pack.

Posted by Gear Junkie - 01/30/2011 09:17 PM

The pack is going to Patagonia with the team. I will likely use it in the race. Full report when I get back. . .

Posted by johny - 02/13/2011 07:47 PM

any idea on when it will be available? and when in all black?

Posted by jason - 02/24/2011 08:44 AM

Congrats on WPER! I’m looking for bigger pack. Any thoughts after using it in the race?

Posted by GJ - 02/24/2011 09:32 AM

Updated article on February 24 as per my experience with the pack in the 2011 Wenger Patagonian Expedition Race. See “update” section in article above.

Posted by Mike Kloser - 02/26/2011 11:45 AM

Stephen, glad you liked the pack overall, while racing with it in Patagonia. Here’s a few notes in response.
The weight of the pack will be a bit lighter, as the Yellow fabric in the sample used is significantly heavier weight then production packs will use.
I find it better to utilize as many external pockets as appropriate to minimize over cramming the internal compartment, therefore putting less stress on the zippers and more ease of access to gear.
I’ve found when you are swimming with a pack on, regardless of how water proof you try to make it, you will likely get water in the pack. We’ve incorporated drain ports in the pack to allow for water to escape. Best solution we’ve found to keep gear dry is a dry bag (like you used) or a heavy duty trash bag. Additionally, attempting to waterproofing a pack requires adding a fair bit more weight to the pack. We’ll work on this feature in future models.
One big goal for this pack was, to make it durable enough to stand up to the test of hard use and harsh environments.

Posted by FB - 03/17/2011 03:37 PM

will it be possible to buy on line the AS 1 for european people ? this pack is awesome.

Posted by Mike Kloser - 03/21/2011 03:47 PM

Yes, it will be available on line, see www.OutThereUSA.com We hope to have a European distributor in the near future

Posted by SF - 11/01/2011 02:29 AM

am considering this for Marathon Des Sables in the spring on Morocco. Has anyone used it for this race and if so is there any feedback?

Posted by Adwin "OJ" Gallant - 11/04/2011 09:38 AM

I just got my pack. It looks awesome. I look forward to many years with this pack. It is very versatile and efficient.I hope to use it for siome futre mulit-day races. I will have to trial it while running and see how it performs while “running” with a 20 to 30 pound load. I expect it to pass with great success. I have been looking for this type of pack since I completed Marathon Des Sables in 2008

Posted by John Guerrero - 11/04/2011 12:26 PM

Awesome design! I have two Ultra-lite packs; a Go-Lite and a Gregory, this looks like the next generation for purchase. I do a lot of wildlife photography down near the border; sometimes I cache my pack and move about with just my camera and water bottle, is there any way you can make this pack in coyote brown? If so, it would equal the perfect pack, not just for blending in for a cache, but also for Law Enforcement to use as many have to patrol high up in the mountains along the border throughout the entire southwest.

Let me know!

Thanks,
Sincerely,
John Guerrero
Weekend Ultra-light packer and wildlife photographer

Posted by Eric - 03/09/2014 07:22 PM

What would be a good ar pack as well as fourteener hikes that has a front pack attachment!

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