Best Daypacks for Women of 2021
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|Pros||Insanely light, packs up super tiny, fits slightly larger people||Shockingly lightweight, padded shoulder straps, useful features, packs into own pocket||Lightweight, useful features, flap to cover cinch top, inexpensive||Lightweight, easy to access contents, internal organization, fun colors||Good for on-the-go, secure fit, fits more than expected, many shoulder strap pockets|
|Cons||Nearly no features, only one big pocket, super thin fabric, can feel contents||No hip belt, small overall size, no back padding - can feel contents||Small fit, hip belt not load-bearing||No hip belt, no padding or support, small side pockets||Opens unconventionally, meant for more specific use, not rainproof|
|Bottom Line||A bare-bones ultralight pack for those really dedicated to cutting out ounces||An ultralight solution that doesn't cut out all the comfort and features||A good, grab-and-go bag for smaller users, but not ideal for long hikes or heavy loads||Tons of fun colors and just the right amount of convenience and functionality for casual use||A lightweight, securely fitting pack, cleverly designed for use on the go|
|Rating Categories||Sea to Summit Ultra...||Osprey Ultralight S...||REI Co-op Flash 18||Cotopaxi Batac 16L||The North Face Chim...|
|Ease Of Use (15%)|
|Specs||Sea to Summit Ultra...||Osprey Ultralight S...||REI Co-op Flash 18||Cotopaxi Batac 16L||The North Face Chim...|
|Weight (oz)||3 oz||4 oz||9 oz||11 oz||17 oz|
|Back Construction||Lightweight nylon||Lightweight nylon||Lightly padded back panel||Lightweight nylon||FlashDry backpanel; lightly padded and covered in fine mesh|
|Hydration||None||None||Internal hydration sleeve||Internal hydration sleeve||External hydration sleeve|
|Hipbelt||No||No||Yes, webbing and removable||No||Yes, webbing|
|Outside Carry Options||Short daisy chain||Side pocket||Daisy chain, various small loops||Daisy chain, 2 side pockets||Trekking pole and ice axe attachment, side pockets, expandable front stuff pocket, four small pockets on shoulder straps, loops on shoulder straps|
|Materials||30D ripstop nylon||40D Nylon ripstop||Ripstop nylon||75D-210D nylon (sometimes ripstop; individual pieces may vary)||70D ripstop nylon, closed-cell foam, elastic pockets|
|Notable Features||Packs into its own pocket, carabiner included||Packs into its own pocket||Internal storage pockets, removable back padding, cinch closure cover, removable sternum strap||Side-opening small pocket, internal organizational pockets||Dyno Cinch System connects shoulder straps and waist webbing as one system, cinch cord for top and sides of pack all one system, main and small zippered compartments are opened via side zips for one-shoulder access|
Best Pack Overall
CamelBak Sequoia 24
For the hardcore day hiker who won't settle for anything less than the best, the CamelBak Sequoia 24 offers a lot of space and organization and the most comfortable hip belt we've ever had the pleasure of testing. Just like the version before this latest iteration, the Sequoia features a unique dual-wing hip belt that simultaneously compresses your pack while hugging your hips with wide, comfortably padded straps that offer the largest hip pockets of any model we tested. A dedicated hydration bladder pocket keeps your water separate from your gear, is helpfully labeled with a blue zipper pull, and comes with the latest 3-liter CamelBak bladder that's convenient to use. The main compartment has 20 liters of storage space and several slip pockets to keep you organized. Six additional pockets adorn the outside of this bag, adding an extra 4 liters of storage space, while the superb weight-distributing hip belt keeps it feeling light and comfortable no matter what we filled it with.
Consulting the scale, the Sequoia 24 is one of the heavier packs we tested, but we couldn't even tell once it was on and adjusted. However, the dual wings of this pack's super-thick hip belt can be pesky when left unbuckled, splaying out to each side, which means this pack isn't well suited to casual use. In updating the Sequoia, CamelBak changed the main compartment zipper from the traditional zipper running from side to side over the top of the bag, to a U-shaped flap that allows access only to the top of the pack. Adding to this inferior, less convenient configuration, another pocket dangles in the way of the already small opening. And if you've attached trekking poles to the outside of your bag, they cover the side water bottle pocket, rendering it basically unusable. But if you're a fan of the U-shaped, top-opening system, then you're in luck. At the end of the day, when we needed to carry a lot of weight over a long distance, there's no daypack more comfortable and up for the job than the CamelBak Sequoia.
Read review: CamelBak Sequoia 24
Best Bang for the Buck
Osprey Tempest 20
Though it's not the absolute cheapest model we tested, we positively adore the features and versatility of this Osprey pack. It's one of just a few models we tested that comes in multiple sizes AND has an adjustable torso length for your perfect fit. It has all the same features as a fully-loaded, heavier model, plus Osprey's LidLock system, which is by far the easiest and most secure way to firmly attach a helmet to a pack that we've ever seen - a must-have for cyclists and daily bike commuters. Soft, flexible shoulder straps and a hip belt integrated practically seamlessly to the back of this pack help it to be impressively comfortable, despite the lack of an internal frame. And for a lightweight option, the Tempest still manages to be impressively durable.
While we appreciate the adjustable torso length, this pack does run a bit on the small side. We think it's smart to test out your pack in the store or as soon as you get it in the mail, in case you need to exchange it for another size. We also think the expandable stow pocket on the front is too small, which restricts its usability. But for a fairly small, light pack, we love the versatility and practically promised longevity and think it is one of the best values among models we tested for just about any use.
Read review: Osprey Tempest 20
Best for a True Backpack Fit
Gregory Juno 24L
If you're obsessed with the security and comfortable fit of your full backpack and want to replicate that feeling and movement in a daypack, the Gregory Juno 24 is the right bag for you. The semi-flexible suspension system of the Juno actually distributes the weight of your load across its wide, comfortable hip belt. The shoulder straps are just thick enough while still flexible, makes them easy to move in, while the ventilated back panel is one of the most effective we've tested. A full array of pockets offer symmetrical, intuitive use that keeps you organized without ever wondering which pocket holds what. Made out of thick ripstop nylon that's reinforced in all the right places, this pack is ready to go the distance.
The Juno comes in only one size, which works well for women in the middle of its advertized 14 to 19-inch torso length, but might not be the best fit for outlier sizes. Our main tester has a 17.5-inch torso and loves the size of this bag. The only place we were let down is with its overly simple hip belt straps. While the wing portion of the waist belt is practically perfect, the single strap tightening system is easily yanked to one side and leaves unmanaged webbing tails to dangle as you hike. These truly minor complaints aside, we truly love the fit, feel, and functionality of this backpack-like daypack.
Read review: Gregory Juno 24L
Best for Speed Missions
The North Face Chimera 18 - Women's
If you're hunting for a pack you can access easily without stopping, or an option for running that's larger than a hydration vest, you've found it. The Chimera 18 (now the Chimera 24) is halfway between a daypack and a large hydration vest and offers a seriously secure fit even for logging long trail runs. A unique harness system offers more connection points for the shoulder straps while also looping them into the system with the webbing hip belt. Along with The North Face's Dyno Cinch System, you can really crank this pack to suction to your back like a big, happy leech. Side-access to the two zippered compartments makes it easy to swing this bag in front of you and grab whatever you need without breaking stride, and we're surprised at just how much we were able to fit inside. It also has four shoulder pockets on the straps, which are great for storing little things you might normally put in the hip belt pockets this bag doesn't have.
As great as this bag is for women who love to keep moving while they're out, it's less convenient for everyday or travel use. The main compartment doesn't zip open over the top and is only accessible through that single side zip, which is quite narrow. The webbing hip belt also obviously does nothing for weight-bearing and functions only to stabilize your load, so if you're hoping to load this thing down with your laptop and bike to work, it's not going to be your ideal option. But if you're an on-a-mission type of woman, we think it's hard to beat what the Chimera has to offer.
Read review: The North Face Chimera 18 - Women's
Best Ultralight Pack
Osprey Ultralight Stuff Pack
There are times when you just need a bag to bring your essentials, but you don't have space for a big, fully framed pack. This is where an ultralight, super packable bag like the Osprey Ultralight comes in handy. It strips away all the fancy features of your regular pack but retains just enough features to keep it useful. With a side pocket and small top pocket, you can keep yourself organized on the go. Lightly padded shoulder straps help keep it more comfortable than many of its competitors. Weighing just 3.8 ounces and packing down into its own pocket, this on-the-go bag is easy to bring with you just about anywhere.
With such a simple design, the Ultralight Stuff Pack does miss out on some important features like a hip belt and ventilated back panel. The material is incredibly thin, meaning you'll need to pack this like a pro to avoid feeling every bump and corner of your hiking essentials. It's also a very small bag overall, so if you find yourself gravitating toward taller or larger bags for a better fit, the short straps on this bag might not be your friend. But if you're after a teeny tiny, super lightweight pack that you can throw in your car for spontaneous adventuring or stuff in your carry-on for that trip to Europe, the Osprey Ultralight is a solid companion.
Read review: Osprey Ultralight Stuff Pack
Why You Should Trust Us
This review is led by Senior Review Editor, Maggie Brandenburg, with help and input from her many adventure-loving lady friends. Living in the northern Nevada desert on the cusp of the Sierra Nevada Mountains, Maggie spends a ton of time outside adventuring, most often accompanied by her favorite rambling companion, Madeline the dog. Carrying enough supplies to last for 16 and 26 mile days for both Maggie and 85 pound Madeline requires a lot from a daypack, and Maggie knows just what makes a bag up for the job. She's also an avid trail runner and kayaker, with over 15 years of professional experience leading backcountry trips. Having lived, worked, and explored far-flung places like Iceland, the Galapagos, South Africa, and numerous Caribbean islands, Maggie has a deep appreciation for the unique gear needed for any adventure — and the best daypack to carry it.
We've been testing, retesting, and testing updated versions of daypacks for years now. Each season, we scour the market for exciting new models and updates on our favorites to put to the test. We then spend hundreds of hours outside with these bags, putting them through our scores of tests and intense scrutiny. We tested bags in mountain ranges, national parks, cities, and airports across the US and internationally. No matter what you need your daypack to do, we've found the perfect model to match your lifestyle.
Related: How We Tested Daypack for Women
Analysis and Test Results
We tested each of these daypacks over several months (some of them for several years now) using our side-by-side comparison process. We used them while hiking over many miles, both for short and long hikes and for a variety of activities, from paddleboarding to commuting. After testing, we rated each daypack on a variety of criteria spanning five mutually exclusive metrics, from comfort and adjustability to their features and durability.
Related: Buying Advice for Daypack for Women
We frequently have to make tradeoffs when purchasing any type of gear, and a daypack is no different. We always try to test a range of products to be able to recommend great products across the spectrum. While more money doesn't always get you a better product, we found that in this category, it does tend to pair you up with a more durable bag. Comfort and ease of use, however, seem to be less tied to a dollar sign.
The CamelBak Sequoia 24 is not cheap, but it offers unparalleled comfort, handy and versatile features, and good durability. It also is the only model we tested that includes a hydration bladder, which would typically make your day bag set-up a little more expensive. The Osprey Tempest 20 is also an exceptionally versatile bag that works well for a wide variety of activities, offering a solid performance across all metrics for a moderate price.
When hiking, comfort is a key consideration for your gear, head to toe. What's on your back is one of the most important pieces. An ill-fitting or minimally padded pack can make your 12-mile day hike significantly less enjoyable. We also balanced this metric against each bag's intended usage. A pack built for long day hikes and a pack intended to be portable enough to bring anywhere for a spontaneous jaunt clearly aren't designed for the same things. And yet, both should be comfortable enough to not make you grumpy every time you use them. To balance these variable uses, we factored in the comfort rating as a quarter of each model's overall score.
We evaluated this category based on several things: how well the padding actually "padded" our hips and shoulders, how well the hip belts helped carry the weight, how well the design helped keep us cool while hiking, and if any annoying design features impacted our comfort level. The standout in this metric is the CamelBak Sequoia. It is jam-packed full of padding in all the places we wanted it. It features a long, wide hip belt with dual wings that pull the weight of what you're carrying close to your back at the same time that you tighten them snugly around your hips. Its back panel features strategically placed foam padding covered by mesh, leaving huge areas of your back ventilated with wide air channels. We hiked long distances on hot days over rough terrain with heavy gear and found no pack more comfortable to carry than the Sequoia 24.
The Gregory Juno 24 is another superbly comfortable pack to wear. While many daypacks seem to have their own fit that feels as small as the bag, the Juno is as secure and well-fitted as a full backpack. It handily distributes weight across a wide hip belt and has one of the most effective back ventilation systems we've tested. Other top contenders in this category are the Gregory Jade and Osprey Sirrus. The Jade features an open mesh back, well-padded lumbar area, supportive hip belt, and contoured shoulder straps. We loaded it up with 15-plus pounds of gear and went for long hikes, and we think it offers some of the best support of any model we tested. The Sirrus also offers a well-padded hip belt and shoulder straps, an innovative back panel design to aid in ventilation, and some internal framing to help keep the contents of the pack off our backs.
Our high scorers for comfort were thoughtfully designed with a lot of technology put into them, and the results are often exceptional. The mesh on the Osprey Sirrus 24 and Deuter Futura 22 never chafed (we did have a shirt on at all times), and it's impressive how cool these packs kept our backs — even in the sweltering summer months of the desert southwest. The raised pads on the corners of the CamelBak Sequoia 24 also achieve the same result while still offering padding in key places. Some packs, like the Lowe Alpine Aeon ND25 and Black Diamond Nitro 22, come close to this design, with mesh covering their padding, but the bulk of the pack still rests against our backs. This is not nearly as comfortable because it reduces airflow, and we can also feel the contents pushing into our backs.
Another design feature that affects our comfort on the trail is the hip belt. Most of the packs in this review have a load-bearing hip belt, but we still found a varying degree of comfort between some of them. The CamelBak Sequoia, Gregory Juno, and Gregory Jade 28 all have hip belts that effectively cover our hip bones with wide padding. The Black Diamond Nitro 22 hip belt also provides a good amount of coverage but has significantly thinner padding than the Sequoia or Juno. Some of the options we tested, like the Deuter Futura 22, REI Flash 18, and The North Face Chimera 18 have webbing-only hip belts. They'll help keep the bag from shifting around on your back, but don't transfer any of the load off of your shoulders. We feel less comfortable in all of those models when carrying loads in them as a result. Both ultralight models we tested, the Osprey Ultralight and Sea to Summit Ultra-Sil, lack hip belts altogether but are best used for entirely different adventures than their counterparts.
We also paid close attention to the cut of the shoulder straps. We tested both unisex and women's specific packs in this line-up. Models geared toward women tend to have less space between the straps and feature a more exaggerated S-curve that better accommodates a narrower physique.
Versatility is another key purchase consideration — even the most comfortable pack will be of little use if it can't perform the tasks you need. Versatility is often dependent on the features a pack has (or lacks) have and how functional those features are. While some manufacturers seem to be throwing every possible feature imaginable into their pack designs, not all of these features are particularly useful. For example, there may be a daisy chain running down both sides of a pack, but how useful is that? Use that webbing to hook a whole bunch of gear to your bag, and you'll soon become a walking Christmas tree, which is neither sleek nor efficient. Alternatively, some relatively featureless packs can be incredibly versatile by packing down into a teeny tiny little pouch that fits into your pocket.
The Osprey Sirrus is a top contender in this metric. It's fully loaded with super useful features that are handy for just about every possible adventure. From well-designed pockets throughout to quick-stow trekking pole cords and even a stashed rain cover, the Sirrus is convenient for all kinds of adventures. Notably, the Gregory Jade 28 and Deuter Futura 22 also come with rain covers stowed away for emergencies.
We appreciate the super functional features of the CamelBak Sequoia 24 for serious hiking missions. Its oversized hip belt has space for the largest pockets we've ever seen on a daypack hip belt — or even on most full-sized backpacks. One side has two large mesh stretch pockets that easily accommodate even the biggest smartphones, while the other side has a long zippered pocket that holds an astonishing array of snacks and goodies. The Gregory 24 has simple yet highly functional symmetrical pockets with wide openings and intuitive shapes, making this one of the more versatile models we tested, regardless of what you tend to carry while you hike.
The Osprey Tempest 20 is another exceptionally versatile daypack, full of well-thought-out sport-oriented features from top to bottom. For example, a sunglasses stow loop makes transitioning between shades forests and glaring ridgetops easier, while Osprey's LidLock bungee on the back quickly and easily stows your bike helmet. And like the Sirrus, the Tempest is seemingly bursting with pockets you didn't know you couldn't live without, trekking pole quick stow loops you'll actually use, and space for two water bottles and a hydration sleeve. The Gregory Jade is also full of useful features and hip belt pockets that can actually fit large smartphones, while its large, 28L capacity ensures nothing you need gets left behind.
The Black Diamond Nitro and Cotopaxi Batac are both unisex bags that are versatile across activities but in slightly differing ways. The Nitro is chalked full of useful features, like so many others, but can also be comfortably and easily used without wearing the hip belt, and instead, clipping it behind your bum to convert this daypack into a functional travel bag. The Batac is even simpler, with just enough pockets and features to be useful, but lacking a lot of the frills others can boast — like a hip belt, hydration hose hole, or padding. However, it's lightweight and impressively packable with a capacity that's large enough to get you through a day stuck in the airport or the office.
The Lowe Alpine Aeon has tabs for securing the bottom of the poles and straps for the tops. Other packs don't have specific holders but do have two compression straps on either side, which work equally well. A single set of straps is usually not sufficient. Most of the packs we tested also have one ice ax holder, which seems like a standard addition to a daypack even though only a fraction of hikers even use one. If you need to hold two ice axes though, look for something with two loops like the Black Diamond Nitro.
Most of the models that we tested are hydration bladder compatible in various ways, but only one, the CamelBak Sequoia, actually comes with a reservoir. Whether you prefer to drink from a bottle or a hose is a question of personal preference, though hydration aficionados avow that you'll stay better hydrated if you can take small sips of water more frequently from a hose without having to stop and drink from a bottle. It is handy for sports that require the use of your hands, like paddle boarding, biking, and even hiking with trekking poles.
Notably, the Lowe Alpine Aeon ND25, while having many other fairly useful features and pockets, is not large-bladder hydration friendly. It has an external sleeve and hook for hanging hydration, this pocket is narrow, and a bladder larger 1L makes the back of the pack bulge uncomfortably into your back. If having a hydration pouch is important to you, you might want to choose another pack.
A few packs stand out for their ability to pack up into their own very small pocket. The Osprey Ultralight Stuff Pack and Sea to Summit Ultra-Sil each weigh just a few ounces and each fold down into a package smaller than your fist. By cutting out features like a hip belt, extra pockets, and most loops and clips, these bags are instead versatile in that you can pack them in your luggage to Spain or keep them in your purse for an impromptu adventure.
Finally, some models have great features specific to one application. The North Face Chimera 18 (recently updated to the Chimera 24 which offers a larger capacity in the same design), has a great system for accessing your items on the go if you're on a speed mission. A unique side entry zipper gives access to the main compartment when swung under your right arm as you're still on the go. If you pull it instead under your left arm as you continue marching down the trail, that zipper accesses a smaller side pocket, akin to a top pocket in more traditional daypacks. The harness and waist belt are connected, tightening as one continuous system to secure your contents to your torso, and the on-the-go cinch system pulls tight under your arms to hold whatever is in your load snugly against your body during trail runs.
We like to consider the weight of all of our outdoor gear purchases. Whether it's our shoes, trekking poles, or packs, shaving ounces off our clothing and gear can quickly add up to large weight savings, which makes each mile that much easier to cover.
If there's one thing that we learned in this review, it's that it's hard to have it all in a daypack. Want a lot of padding with a frame that supports the weight you're carrying? Then you're going to end up with a heavier bag like the Gregory Juno 24. Want something lightweight that still has all the regular comforts? Then you might have to sacrifice some durability, as super-thin nylon is not as indestructible in the long term compared to a thicker (and therefore heavier) material.
The Osprey Ultralight and Sea to Summit Ultra-Sil are the obvious winners in the weight category. At just 3.8 and 2.7 ounces respectively, it's hard to beat that kind of minimalist weight. However, that kind of weight comes at a high cost to these bags' comfort and durability. The Osprey still has lightly padded shoulder straps and two extra pockets, but the Ultra-Sil has cut out those features and even removed the zipper pulls. Neither bag has a hip belt, and both are made of paper-thin nylon, which's just not as substantial as thicker, bulkier packs we tested.
Other notable packs in this metric are the REI Co-op Flash 18 and Cotopaxi Batac 16L. Both are much less technical packs, threading between the ultralight, featureless packable models and full-featured technical bags. This compromise trades comfort features like a padded hip belt and ventilated back panels for lighter weight options like a webbing hip belt (or no hip belt, in the case of the Batac) and thinner nylon construction. Bags like these are great choices for varied use, from tossing them in your suitcase for hiking distant destinations to using them to head to the gym or spend all day out running errands.
Ease of Use
Scoring how easy each pack is to use was a two-pronged endeavor. Firstly, we packed and unpacked them to see how easy their organization, zippers, and overall design were to use. And secondly, we evaluated their adjustability. Daypacks are notorious for not having as much adjustability as a full 60-liter backpacking pack. Many manufacturers only offer them in one size, and there are often limited options for further adjustment, like load-lifting straps on the shoulders or hip belt tensioners. We considered all these potential adjustable pieces and how they affected each bag's overall usability.
In general, packs with long zippers that extend far down the sides of the bag tend to be easier to load, unload, and find what you're looking for without dumping the whole thing on the ground. Additional pockets both inside and outside also help keep your things organized even during a Class 4 scramble. Most of the over-the-top, traditional backpack-style zippers allow for good access to the bottom of the pack. On the other hand, the increasingly popular U-shaped zipper that opens a flap on top of the bag, as well as drawstring tops, make it much harder to load the pack through their smaller openings and greatly increase the likelihood that you'll have to pull things out to find anything hiding near the bottom.
We are impressed with the models that have adjustable back panels. One of the most important things to getting a good fit is having the back panel line up with your torso length so that the shoulder straps and hip belt can be in the right place. If it's not, the hip belt won't work well, and you'll carry more of the load on your shoulders. Most of the packs in this review come in one size only, so learn how to measure your torso before choosing a pack to buy. The Osprey Sirrus and Tempest, Gregory Jade, and Lowe Alpine Aeon are the packs we tested that have an adjustable torso length — though even those have limits.
Some models are offered in two sizes to cover a greater range of torso sizes, including the Gregory Jade and Osprey Tempest 20. Our chief tester is 5 feet, 4 inches tall with a 17 to 17.5-inch torso, often falling on the cusp between sizes. The Tempest and the Jade run a bit on the small side. The padded section of the hip belt on the Tempest barely comes around to our hip bones, resulting in less support. The Gregory Jade 28 and Juno 24 have much better hip belt coverage.
We do appreciate that some packs have load-lifting straps on the shoulders, but we found that they are often ineffective. Once you've adjusted your hip belt and shoulder straps, the load-lifters are supposed to shift the weight closer to your back and stabilize your load while reducing the weight on your shoulders. For these straps to work, the body of the pack has to extend above the shoulder straps, which isn't usually the case with a daypack, since the body of the bag is so small. We really only noticed a slight difference using the load-lifters the Gregory models, likely because they're slightly larger bags and with bigger gaps between the back panel and shoulder strap anchors than most of the others we tested.
Lastly, we rated each different pack in this review for durability. A few of our top-rated bags, we've been testing for several years now, but all models went through a minimum of several months of regular use and intense testing. We combed through online user reviews to look for durability concerns and patterns from the hundreds of other day packers out there. And we also evaluated them based on our extensive experience with outdoor gear.
We are quite impressed with the durability of the Osprey Sirrus 24, Black Diamond Nitro, Gregory Juno, and Camelbak Sequoia. The Sirrus, Nitro, and Juno are all three made of impressively sturdy 210-Denier nylon in the body with a double layer on the bottom, while the Sequoia is made of seriously beefy 420-Denier oxford nylon throughout. All four of these packs also feature reinforced seams, thick adjustable straps, heavy-duty plastic pieces, and minimal or thickly reinforced mesh. The Gregory Jade is also constructed of the same thick, 210-Denier nylon with a double layer on the bottom, but we aren't quite as wowed by the vast amount of holey mesh this pack presents for the world to snag on.
No pack will last forever, and some terrains are less forgiving than others. If you're hiking on well-maintained trails in "gentle" forest ecosystems, this might be less of a concern for you. If you're scrambling up craggy peaks or squeezing through sandy slot canyons, thicker material will offer more abrasion resistance, and you should consider this when making a purchase decision.
Finding the perfect daypack can feel like an overwhelming challenge. With so many models, even from the same manufacturer, it can be challenging to find the perfect one for you. We hope our extensive testing and ratings help you in your quest.
— Maggie Brandenburg & Cam McKenzie Ring
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