This climbing-oriented pack has a sleek, narrow packbag that’s fully and easily accessed with a J-shaped zipper that runs three-quarters of the way around the pack. Says a California-based tester who hauled it on more than 30 day trips: “With the big zipper, I could unbuckle, drop the pack, fish out a shell or lens—regardless of where they were situated in the packbag—and be back on the trail in 20 seconds.”
The long zipper let him pack gear for the best balance and center of gravity, rather than for accessibility from the top. Other testers used it as a crag bag: You can lay it open on its back for easy, dirt-free coiling, and there’s an inside loop to attach one end of your rope. A removable hipbelt (save a half-pound when you don’t need it) has a waterproof pocket (with a leak-proof zipper and impermeable membrane) that easily holds an iPhone or GPS.
The lid (also removable) and hipbelt marry to create an 11.5-ounce fanny pack with a one-liter capacity. Comfortable for loads up to 25 pounds, the Lightning holds enough for an ultralight overnight, and there are plenty of discreet little organizers inside, including a waterproof pouch for guidebooks and another zip pocket for sunglasses and headlamp. A reinforced, 500-denier nylon base is plenty durable, as one tester attested after towing it up Yosemite’s Snake Dike. The upper six inches of backpanel are stiffened with two aluminum stays that tapped one tester on the head during bike-commuting; we recommend the pack for people with torso lengths longer than 17.5 inches. $160; 2 lbs. 5 oz.; 25 liters; ortovox.com