Best Small or Specialty Backpacks - Indigo, Gregory, Mountainsmith

Here’s a quick look at three new specialty backpacks for outdoor athletes:

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Indigo Rox 18
Indigo’s Rox 18 ($79, www.indigoequipment.com) is a pack made with climbers in mind. It has a unique bottom compartment the company calls a Café Pocket that lets you access food and water with one hand without removing the pack. The design is streamlined and unobtrusive; a plastic-sheet frame adds rigidity to comfortably let you carry loads up to 20 pounds.

The pack has about 1,100 cubic inches of capacity and weighs 1.9 pounds. Its overall design is solid, with big waterproof zippers and comfortable shoulder straps. Its compression straps cinch the pack tight or alternatively can be snapped together to conveniently carry a climbing rope, skis or other gear on the outside of the pack.

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Gregory Advent Pro
Designed for adventure racing where quick access to gear is a must, the Gregory Advent Pro ($139, www.gregorypacks.com) has several external mesh pockets, bungie cords to cinch gear on the outside and small pockets on the hip belt to stash energy bars. Access to the main internal compartment is available from the top, bottom and back of the pack.

The pack’s design at first seems cumbersome, as there are so many straps, pockets and zippers. For many people these extras will be overkill. But in an adventure race the pack’s design is close to ideal because gear is so easy to reach.

It’s made of a thin and light silicon-impregnated nylon fabric, which makes the pack nearly waterproof. It carries comfortably, even when running. The Advent Pro comes in three sizes, ranging from 2,000 to 2,400 cubic inches of capacity. It weighs about 2.5 pounds.

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Mountainsmith Wraith
The Mountainsmith Wraith ($130, www.mountainsmith.com) is made of a unique fabric called Dimension Polyant that is used in high-performance sail lofts. The fabric is rigid, durable and waterproof but also very lightweight — perfect for a backpack.

Overall, the Wraith’s no-nonsense design was my favorite in the group. It has a single large internal compartment sealed shut with waterproof zippers, an interior hydration reservoir, bungie straps for extra gear and comfortable shoulder straps.

The pack weighs 2.1 pounds and provides 1,600-cubic-inches of capacity. It also has some nice extras like ice-axe loops, a daisy chain and a fleece-padded pocket made for storing sunglasses or goggles that you don’t want to get scratched.

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