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OspreyStratos 24 (2015)

£75.00

The Stratos 24 has been my default summer day-pack for a very long time. It just gets everything right: compactness, stability, features in abundance and unrivalled comfort. It comes in two different back lengths and has a concave AirSpeed back system which pushes the load away and keeps you well ventilated. This does have a knock-on effect on storage space, ...

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Black Diamond Nitro 22 (2015)

£80.00

As soon as you feel the face fabric, you know this tough cookie is meant for rough, rocky adventures. It’s highly abrasion-resistant (I scrubbed it on hard, damp limestone while squeezing into a Derbyshire cave) and it doesn’t mind getting wet, so it doesn’t bother with a rain cover. The mesh/hole back panel ventilates well, while the huge hip-fins embrace ...

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The North Face Aleia 22 RC (2015)

£85.00

The Aleia prioritises ease of access, and this is most visible in the ingenious zip-opening format: main extends down almost to the foot of the bag on one side, meaning the whole front face can be pulled away when you want to find something that’s stuck down in the deepest corner. Like the Habu, it clearly wants to go anywhere: ...

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Platypus Sprinter XT25 (2015)

£120.00

This unisex pack comes from a brand who mainly make hydration systems, so it’s built around (and supplied with) a 3L water bladder and hose. This explains the higher prices and weights. Platypus’ approach is to hang the long, rectangular bladder in its own chamber behind the main section. You’d think this might impinge on storage, but no: the main ...

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Jack Wolfskin ACS Stratosphere 20 (2015)

£75.00

The ACS is a fine-looking rucksack. But it’s clever as well as sexy. Firstly, it’s narrow so the load is tightly contained and it never impedes your arm movements. The harness is rigid round the back of the shoulders, like the collarbone of a good coat, the shoulder straps are well-cushioned but superbly ventilated, and the hip-belt is a model ...

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Montane Habu 22 (2015)

£70.00

The Habu is the rather overdue ladies’ version of Montane’s brilliant Cobra daypack. It’s wonderfully light but not flimsy; in fact it’s one of the most robust and mountain-ready packs I’ve used. It has everything you need for year-round hiking: easy-access hip pockets, volume-adjustable straps, and attachments for walking poles and even an ice axe. It can easily swallow a ...

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Camelbak Pursuit 24 (2015)

£140.00

Camelbak’s slightly pricey option keeps its hydration reservoir down in the bottom of the pack, which transfers the weight of the water to your waist and reduces strain on your upper back. The cushioning around shoulders and hips is excellent, as is the ventilated back system, while a removable back panel allows flexibility when packing. The main compartment is roomy, ...

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Rohan Stravaig 18 (2015)

£55.00

Sleek enough to look at home on a busy commute but sturdy enough for a day out in the hills, the Stravaig is a great crossover pack. But it’s definitely an outdoor pack at heart, prioritising space for a hydration system over a laptop pocket. There’s a discreet walking pole attachment, and you’ll find a rain cover secreted underneath. The ...

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Vaude Brenta 25 (2015)

£80.00

Can’t decide between a flat-back system and a suspended one? Well, here’s one that does both. The Brenta uses Vaude’s clever Aeroflex system: while it’s on your back, pull the two red straps at the bottom and the back cinches from flat to concave, and you can set the degree of curve exactly to your needs. It then compresses around ...

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Gregory Miwok 18 (2015)

£65.00

A perfect example of how a small pack can do great things. This tiny 18L pack is snug, secure and flawlessly stable, even on a boulder-hoppy hike in Snowdonia. The mesh back panel sits flush to your back, but flexes with you and has huge air pores which stop your back feeling too sweaty. The shoulder straps are highly breathable ...

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Vango Trail 25 (2015)

£35.00

The Trail is a great, compact rucksack for everyday walks. It mixes simplicity and technicality: it has the most basic hip-belt and back system; yet it closes with a lid and buckle, which is unusually refined for a sub-30L pack, and it has two capacious side pockets which help you distribute the weight very evenly. The side pockets easily take ...

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Merrell Azura Breeze (2015)

£75.00

Though noticeably light from the start, the Azura Breeze still surprise you once they’re on your feet. Merrell often shine when it comes to making lightweight, barefoot-influenced shoes to take you over the rockiest terrain, and this is made precisely in that vein. The upper is a mesh/suede combo, with added ventilation holes so it’s light and extremely breathable on ...

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Asolo Outlaw GV (2015)

£130.00

I imagine that an actual outlaw would have very practical needs when it comes to walking shoes. They’d want tough, light, waterproof, no-nonsense footwear that could take a battering. So would these shoes suit a Robin Hood or a Rob Roy? Yes indeed. To start with, they have a seriously robust sole, in the style of tyre tread: the lugs ...

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Zamberlan Air-Round GTX RR (2015)

£145.00

For years, manufacturers have had a puzzle on their hands – how do you make a shoe breathable from beneath? Last year Gore-Tex unveiled their solution: the new Surround membrane. It wraps around the foot, with warm air passing beneath the sole into a spacer and escaping through meshy – yet waterproof – side vents. Zamberlan are one of the ...

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The North Face Hedgehog Fastpack Lite GTX (2015)

£110.00

The Hedgehog claims to bring a running shoe feel to a solid walking shoe – and it actually does. The breathable upper is light and fits snugly like a trainer, with a Gore-Tex membrane keeping out moisture. Though thin and light, it’s stiff enough, and fits closely enough, to offer really good support over hard ground. The Vibram rubber outsole ...

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Keen Durand Low (2015)

£125.00

These are the sturdiest shoes on test and are real heather-bashing tanks. The sole is thick with deep, with fat lugs. More than an inch of protective rubber sits all the way around the edge, with a solid, slightly squared-off heel and a thick rubber lip rising up over a generous toe box. You might think they sound clompy but ...

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Ecco Biom Trail FL (2015)

£130.00

Most of these shoes occupy the crossover world between walking and running, but few more successfully than this one. The Biom is a running shoe that is perfectly adaptable for walking, if you like to be light and nimble. At 384g, it’s lighter by 50-75g than most other walking shoes. Ecco keep almost all their technologies in-house, so this packs ...

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Salomon X Ultra 2 GTX (2015)

£115.00

The X Ultra is one of my favourite walking shoes (the ‘mid’ version is great too), and here is an updated version. Truth be told, the update is mostly cosmetic, smoothing out some of the chunkier edges and removing some of the excessive styling that made it look overly flashy. From the school of not-broke, no-fix, everything else is as ...

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Meindl X-SO 30 GTX Surround (2015)

£145.00

This one makes use of the new Gore-Tex Surround technology, which is designed to run cooler than a conventional Gore-Tex shoe without losing any of its waterproofing. The secret hides in the midsole: a 6mm-thick spacer which vents underfoot heat and expels it through a 9mm-high breathable area along the side of the shoe. It works: on hot days, the ...

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Hanwag Belorado Low GTX (2015)

£140.00

The Belorado offers the same rough, tough durability as the Aku, but with a sleeker, lower body, a more elongated toecap and a more pronounced arch, which allows the heel to bite more deeply on stony ascents. The squidgy tongue is nice and soft, but overall the shoe values toughness over comfort: the insole is flat and hard; good for ...

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AKU Nuvola GTX (2015)

£135.00

Italian brand Aku have gone bonkers for colour this season, perhaps figuring we all want to go back to 1985. I quite like this day-glo model, but if the colours repel you, be assured it also comes in more muted tones. The Nuvola is a rough, tough yomper with a robust outsole that tackles hill paths and boggy marsh with ...

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Páramo Andina (2015)

£220.00

Páramo waterproofs are unlike any other: soft as bedsheets, rustle-free and unlaminated, but impervious to water and highly breathable. The Andina is all of these things, with the added benefit of underarm zipped vents, Velcro adjustable cuffs and a cinchable hem – all of which help you regulate your temperature. It’s incredibly comfortable and soft enough to be worn over ...

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Regatta Outflow (2015)

£100.00

The Outflow is made from tough but lightweight ripstop fabric and includes the chest pocket (as well as waist ones) which tells you it is really meant to be used with a proper rucksack. Oddly though, the pocket is too large to hold a phone steady but too small for an OS map. There are pit-zips to help vent heat, ...

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Keela SDP Prosport (2015)

£125.00

The Keela is a delight of a waterproof and, marvellously, is located at the happy end of the price spectrum. While some jackets are grizzly by nature – tough shells designed to put up a fight against a mountain and all its fury – the Prosport takes a more softly-softly approach. The outer fabric is one of Keela’s own design, ...

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Montane Direct Ascent (2015)

£250.00

I gave this jacket a real baptism of fire by taking it high into the Scottish Highlands at the dreg-end of winter. Happily, it passed this sternest of tests with every flying colour imaginable. With cuffs and hem fully tightened, it locked out the most aggressive hail-flecked gusts. The hood fitted snugly, protecting my face from the wind but never ...

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