1. Mountain Hardwear SummitRocket 30The Summit Rocket is flimsy in a good way, with just enough design and padding in the harness to keep it comfortable without loading you down. This pack feels more like a day pack than the Sierra Designs Summit Sack, but our tester liked the multi-functionality of this bag, thanks to the removable frame sheet. Keep the plate in the bag, and you’ve got enough support to haul all your gear on a long day hike. Lose the removable frame sheet and you’ve got a legit lightweight sack that you can stuff into a larger bag for short excursions without all your gear. I found myself wanting a couple of compression straps to keep the load tight, but you can’t have everything in a single bag. 16 ounces.$150; mountainhardwear.com3. Keen Springer Backseat PackNot enough room in your daypack for a camp chair to enjoy the summit vista? Keen has solved this common problem with this combo of the two in the Springer Backseat Pack. While the back of the bag drops into instant comfort, the inside holds enough for a long day on the trail, as well as a three-liter hydration reservoir.$100; keenfootwear.com3. Sierra Designs Summit SackThis super light weight bag (12 ounces, 1300 cubic inches) has a couple of day pack features, like an external pocket, key loop, and waist belt, but make no mistake, this is a minimalist sack meant for fast and light excursions from basecamp. Stuff a couple of extra layers, lunch, water, and a map into the bag and leave the rest of your gear in your tent and you’re good to go. The roll top closure is a bit more cumbersome than a typical zipper, but the pack felt good on our backs and was snug enough to handle a light jog in order to double time it back to camp before nightfall. It stuffs easily into a multi-day pack on its own, or use it to keep your clothes organized, or as your sleeping stuff sack.$49; sierradesigns.com4. Camelbak MolokaiThe Molokai is a hands-free hydration vest, specifically designed for stand-up paddleboarding. A wide, accessible opening lets you fill the two-liter reservoir quickly without the annoying bladder unloading, while easily adjusted tension straps on the harness enable a snug fit. There are also generous cargo pockets for keeping essential quick stash items close. Available in early 2012.$100; camelbak.com5. Showers Pass VeleauCarrying water on your back is so last year. The Showers Pass Veleau puts the bladder on the back of your seat, freeing your back to, well, be free. Strap the bladder to the seat post, then run the drinking tube over your bike’s top tube with a series of magnets. After you take a sip, drop the tube and a drawstring and magnets secure it back in place on the top tube. The system is easy to use, once it’s attached to your bike. But the set up is a bit cumbersome, so don’t expect to move the bladder quickly from bike to bike. Our tester liked the storage pocket that was included on the bladder. But mountain bikers beware: the bladder juts out pretty far from the back of the seat, so you won’t be able to “sink” below the seat on a steep downhill.$80; showerspass.com6. Geigerrig 500You could go on sucking water from your hydration bladder like you’ve been doing for the last decade or so, or you could evolve to Geigerrig’s pressurized hydration bladder, which delivers a jet stream of water, thanks to the pressurized air chamber. Pump air into the bladder, squeeze the nozzle, and watch water shoot out. Okay, sucking water from a hose isn’t that difficult, but it’s nice to be able to share water with ride mates and dogs without sharing spit. Even better is the inline water filtration option, which allows you to fill your bladder directly from a stream without having to worry about purifying. The pack itself is built from bomb-proof ballistic rip-stop nylon, and has some nice details like a dedicated iPod/iPhone pocket. Being able to turn the bladder inside out and wash it in the dishwasher is also a brilliant touch.$125; geigerrig.com
DES MOINES — Bills pending in the Iowa House and Senate that would let the state’s casinos take bets on professional and college sports would also boost the prize money for the owners of horses that race at the track in Altoona. Sandra Conlin of the Iowa Quarterhorse Racing Association addressed senators during a subcommittee hearing yesterday.“Those horse owners have veterinarians and they buy feed. They have trainers,” Conlin said. “They are investing in their communities through horse racing all over the state, so it does help support rural Iowa, so we’re very thankful you put that in there.”Troy Skinner, a lobbyist for Prairie Meadows, said 65 percent of the prize money awarded at the track goes to horse owners who do not live in Iowa.“It’s true that they oftentimes spend money on vets and hay and things in the state,” Skinner said, “but much of that money is going out of state.”Kellie Paschke, another lobbyist for Prairie Meadows, told lawmakers the Altoona casino is contributing $20 million dollars to the horse track now — and it isn’t profitable.“We feel that the horse purses receive adequate funding already,” Pasche said, “and adding to those losses treats us differently than every other casino in Iowa.”Jon Murphy, a lobbyist for the Iowa Greyhound Association, asked senators to consider using sports betting profits to boost prize money for races at the greyhound track in Dubuque as well.“In the spirit of ‘it’s not over ’til it’s over,’ we would like to continue that conversation…until the buzzer has sounded, so to speak,” Murphy said.Senator Pam Jochum, a Democrat from Dubuque, doesn’t support increasing the size of the prizes or “purses” paid to winning racers at the two tracks.“Really, truly do not understand why we need to continue putting more and more money into purses,” Jochum said, “so I am having some real heartburn over that part of the bill.”Senator Roby Smith of Davenport is the Republican who’s guiding the bill through the legislative process and he’s presided over six public hearings on the evolving proposal.“There are a couple of pieces that we’re hearing feedback on. We’re willing to take a look at it and this will not be the final product,” Smith told reporters. “I’m sure there will be changes on this.”The next stop for the sports betting bill in the Senate is the ways and means committee. Similar legislation has cleared two committees in the Iowa House.