Each day since the Eddie Bauer First Ascent Bacon 2.0 pack arrived at Adventure Journal gear HQ, I’ve figured out a way to use it. While mountain biking. While trail running. A little bit of high elevation scrambling. And of course on long day hikes. This is one incredibly useful pack, full of thoughtful features, and it still stuffs down to the size of a nerf football.

The Bacon weighs only 1.2 pounds (550 grams) while boasting a voluminous 28 liters of storage. Eddie Bauer’s engineers shaved a full 100 grams from the weight of the original Bacon pack and this new version is featherlight. The suspension system includes load lifters, side compression straps, an adjustable and removable hip belt (incredible on a pack this small), a sternum strap, and a unique “web skeleton” as Eddie Bauer refers to it—nylon webbing that surrounds the pack and provides load support and a bit of tension to help the pack keep its shape. It carries very comfortably, even when stuffed with a 20-pound load, surely a heavier carry than the pack is designed for, but it handles it with aplomb. The outer material is a robust 400D nylon diamond ripstop fabric, and after dozens of miles, tossing the pack down on sharp rocks, rubbing at speed through pine trees, using it as a pillow while resting, it hasn’t ripped or even noticeably scuffed.

The pack rolls in on itself to stuff in the larger of the two lid pockets, making it easy to bring inside larger packs to use as a daypack for summit bids or day hikes, or as a fishing pack while in the backcountry. It’s pretty tricky to fold it just so to get the pack small enough to zip closed in its pocket, but that’s a small gripe compared to the usefulness of being able to stow it away in such a tiny package.

The pack is clearly made with climbing in mind, and features large ice axe loops that stow away when not needed so they don’t get caught on branches or other pieces of gear—very smart. It’s plenty large enough to stash a helmet in the main pocket too. Two lid pockets and two large mesh pockets on the pack’s side complete the storage options, plus there’s an internal hydration sleeve.

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It has a pretty narrow cut and conforms well to the shape of your back, so it makes a good lightweight cycling pack too; it cinches down well and doesn’t shift and throw the wearer’s weight off around tight corners. The ventilated back panel provides plenty of airflow and helps dump lots of heat on hot days. The Bacon will probably be my go-to pack for nordic ski missions this winter, and with the compression straps and pockets on the side, it can be used to carry skis while ski touring.

Daypacks aren’t often the most exciting pieces of gear in your arsenal, but this is an ingenious pack that never seems to run out of room or uses. Plus, it’s relatively inexpensive for what you get, and comes with Eddie Bauer’s lifetime warranty. A great choice for a fall/winter pack.

$99 • BUY

More easy-carrying goodness

Don’t like traditional daypacks? How about strapping on Mountainsmith’s excellent Tour lumbar pack? Part fanny pack, part shoulder-slung daypack, it’s roomy, packed with features, and tough. $80

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We’ve gushed about the Patagonia Nine Trails pack before, and for good reason. Comes in 14, 20, and 28-liter sizes too. The 20L was just right for us. $129

Weighing a mere 2.5 oz, the Sea to Summit Ultra-Sil Travel Daypack is just a big 20L pocket with straps, but it stuffs down to nothing, and weighs nothing, making it a great choice for a bag to stash away for unexpected summit trips or unplanned day hikes. $33