No other pack we tested offers so many useful features for the price. “The designers put everything I’ve ever wanted into this do-it-all hauler,” says one tester, who carried the lightweight Matrix on his successful, mid-winter traverse of New Hampshire’s White Mountains. The 210-denier nylon (with 420-denier reinforcement) top-loader is at home in venues ranging from backcountry skiing to mountaineering to dayhikes to ultralight overnights.
The vast packbag has an interior pouch for avy gear or a reservoir, but the real treasure-trove is on the outside. The burly, open-top, bellowed crampon pocket made it quick and easy for our tester to access her frontpoints. The slick, wide, double loops on the opposite side allowed her to easily grab her axes with the pack on—no fumbly hardware or complicated lashing systems. The pack has a sturdy diagonal ski carry and the straps attach directly into the backpanel, boosting carrying stability. “I hauled dense (up to 33 pounds), awkward loads,” she says, “and the compression really sucked everything in close to my back and over my hips.”
The hipbelt affixes to the frame via a swiveling pivot point, which afforded testers ample comfort, freedom of movement, and stability, even when one was postholing in thigh-deep snow up Wyoming’s South Fork Canyon with 40 pounds of gear. Nitpick: The hydration port is small and difficult to thread. $180; 2 lbs. 9 oz.; 30 liters; 1 size; milletusa.com