“I couldn’t believe how well I could high-step, straddle, and stretch in a tricky slot canyon,” said one tester after toting the Nitro through an acrobats-only crevice in Utah’s San Rafael Swell. The unmatched mobility comes from a dynamic suspension that has both a swiveling hipbelt and pulley-connected shoulder straps. For maximum rotation, the hipbelt passes behind the lumbar pad and is attached to the pack only by the stabilizer straps. And the shoulder straps connect to each other via a tiny concealed steel cable, which allows movement for overhead reaches and arm-swinging without compromising stability.
Result: comfortable scrambling with loads up to 25 pounds. A New Hampshire-based tester hauled it on 11 dayhikes—up to 12 miles each, with loads as heavy as 20 pounds—and noted that despite its flex, the pack never felt off-balance. “The stabilizer straps pulled weight into the small of my back so that the load aligned with my center of gravity. I always felt stable,” he says. A compression pocket surrounds the main packbag, blending into reachable stretch pockets on each side (both big enough to hold a quart bottle and filter).
The single hipbelt pocket is large enough for a point-and-shoot. The tough packcloth showed no signs of wear, and each model (Pulse is the women’s) is available in two sizes. One quibble: The hydration pocket is too tight for full 100-ounce bladders. $100; 1,340 cu. in.; 2 lbs. 5 oz.