“The Anthem cinches bulging loads for a super-stable carry that sucks the weight directly into my spine,” reports our tester, who packed a shovel, beacon, warm layers, food, and water during four powder-filled days of heli drops in Blackcomb, Canada. A unique cord system provides one-handed, even compression. The cord zigzags up the sides of the pack, then tunnels under the shovel pocket. “Excess cord tucks into its own little pouch, and the tension kept awkward loads compact and close to my back and hips,” says one tester after logging nearly 200 miles with the top-loading Anthem.
The backpanel features a corrugated plastic framesheet covered by channels of compression-molded EVA and mesh: It offers a good combo of load transfer, stability, and airflow with loads up to 30 pounds. Testers raved about the stable diagonal ski carry and tool attachments. Bonus: The pack is AvaLung*- compatible (add the system for $110, a fraction of the price of heavier air bag systems). $160; 2 lbs. 12 oz.; 28 liters; 2 sizes; blackdiamondequipment.com
*AvaLung BD’s avalanche survival system. Rather than keep skiers afloat (like ABS systems), AvaLungs allow buried skiers to breathe through a mouth tube for up to 58 minutes.