“This pack defies pigeonholing,” says one tester who used it for everything—rock climbing, backcountry skiing, dayhiking, and winter mountaineering—for seven months in the Cascades. The top-loader offers great support and organization, with seven pockets scattered throughout the roomy packbag, and two side zips for easy access. “What I like most is the minimal bulk,” he reports, pointing to the lightly padded foam shoulder straps and backpanel that curve around the torso and hips for a precise fit. “And it’s so rugged it would win American Ninja Warrior,” he said after a four-day trip on Smith Rock’s Misery Ridge.
The highly water-resistant, urethane-coated 420-denier nylon even thwarted a crampon spike when our tester accidentally stepped on it. On a ski traverse of Oregon’s South and Middle Sisters, the same tester toted 45 pounds comfortably. And on a fast-and-light ascent of nearby Mt. Thielson, he stripped the toplid and stays, shaving 13 ounces. The stiff foam hipbelt is thinner than most, but wrapped securely around his hips with no hot spots. $325; 3 lbs. 6 oz.; 48 liters; 3 sizes; arcteryx.com