Dense, heavy climbing gear can easily overwhelm a pack’s suspension—but the top-loading Trad made even a 40-pound load feel stable and secure. “Its uncluttered, low-profile shape makes it great for scrambly approaches and leading ice on New Hampshire’s Franconia Notch,” says our tester, who deemed the Trad his favorite not just for rock and ice climbing, but also for backcountry skiing, mountaineering, and general backpacking (up to three days).
The proprietary HardWave framesheet (with horizontal ridges that let it bend vertically, to conform to your back, but remain torsionally rigid for outstanding load support), paired with an aluminum stay in the center, keeps heavy loads from sagging or rounding out the backpanel. Wide ski straps made of ballistic nylon on the sides secure skis and stand up to sharp edges. Nice: The top can be opened and closed with one hand thanks to a smartly integrated cordlock that’s sewn to the pack, not the drawcord. “That let me keep my gloves on during frigid weather on Mt. Washington’s summit,” says our tester. $130; 2,150 cu. in./40 liters; 3 lbs. 9 oz.; mountainhardwear.com