Backpack Review: The North Face Skareb 55

A pack that's comfortably and curiously strong.

Like an Altoid, this pack is curiously strong. Our Northwest editor hauled it for 4 days in the Alps, and he said the tubular aluminum stays-which the company claims are 50% lighter and much stronger than flat stays-handled 30-pound loads without straining his shoulders. Another 10 pounds starts to max out the belt, but the frame is easily one of the sturdiest in this weight class, which creates excellent stability and load transfer. As for comfort, we found that we could walk for several hours straight without needing a break; contoured shoulder straps and an ergonomically molded back panel are a big part of the reason why. The Skareb's streamlined profile doesn't impede arm motion (great for skiing and fastpacking), and its ripstop fabric is treated with silicone for durability. To cut weight, a roll-top closure replaces the pack lid-but you still get a large mesh pocket, three zip pockets, and a rain cover.

Price: $169

Volume: 3,350 cu. in.

Weight: 3 lbs.

(3 sizes)