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Bargain Load Haulers: Weekend Pack Review

High performance and low cost? These 6 weekend packs deliver.

If you’re new to backpacking or on a tight budget, you’re in luck. Unlike gas and groceries, packs seem to be getting cheaper. We scoured the market for comfortable, durable packs that hold a long weekend’s worth of gear and cost less than $150. Our testers hit the wilds from Vermont to California and narrowed a field of 20 contenders down to these top six.

Most Comfortable
Vaude Astra 55+10
Every tester achieved a perfect fit with the Astra, thanks to six inches of torso adjustability. And dense padding in the hips, lumbar, and shoulder areas minimized typical long-day soreness. Two contoured aluminum stays transfer weight efficiently to the cushy hipbelt, and the suspension flexes laterally with your stride, which helps reduce rubbing. Testers carried up to 45 pounds without complaint. The back panel vented well, even in Costa Rica’s tropical humidity. On a rain-drenched hike in Washington’s San Juan Islands, one tester deployed the built-in raincover and said, “Without even taking the pack off, I could unzip the cover and pull it up.” Expandable side pockets are big enough for liter bottles (though tight if the pack is stuffed). The top lid converts to a lumbar pack, with a fabric panel that holds gear tightly in place for maximum stability. The packbag’s polyurethane-coated Cordura is exceptionally durable. Minor complaint: The top lid zipper is too short. Reader Service #101

> Capacity 3,960 cu. in.
> Sizes 2 unisex
> Weight 4 lbs. 9 oz.
> Price $150
> Info

The Astra’s built-in raincover deploys like a pop-up umbrella

Overall = 4.4
Comfort = 4.4
Loading = 4.4
Stability = 4.6
Durability = 4.6

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