Why: You won't believe the comfort and features this top-loading weekend pack offers for the price. V-shaped aluminum stays and a plastic framesheet provide plenty of support and weight transfer, as two editors found after hauling 30 pounds on stiff climbs and descents in New Zealand's Southern Alps. But the Summit's secret weapon may be its hipbelt-the thin yet firm foam contours closely around your hips, and it's wide enough that it didn't sag on long days in the Rockies and Poconos. The solidly constructed packbag easily swallows enough food and gear for 3 or 4 days in three-season conditions, but the Summit is versatile enough to double as a technical daypack or hut-touring pack. Best of all, it has features rarely found in this price range: a handy (if somewhat stiff) shove-it panel for crampons or a shovel blade; a fleece-lined sunglasses pocket in the lid; axe loops; and a 3-liter Nalgene bladder (a $25 value).
Who: The Summit's harness doesn't adjust, but only the shortest torsos won't fit the regular (17"-19") and long (19"-22") sizes.
How much: $109
Weight: 4 lbs. 14 oz. (with hydration bladder),
Size: 2,860 cubic inches (regular)
Contact: (888) 463-6367, www.ems.com