I put this pack through hell for more than 1,700 miles during my southbound thru-hike of the AT last summer. It’s light for a 50-liter pack, and it swallowed all of my gear plus about five days of food at a time (up to 30 pounds). The minimalist suspension relies on a removable, corrugated hard plastic framesheet—it prevented my load from rounding out and conformed nicely to my spine—combined with a thin, 48-by-20-inch foam pad, which is removable and can augment an air mattress on cold ground. Without aluminum stays, careful packing is required to keep the pliable frame from slouching; I often used tent poles inside the bag to act as side stays when I was loaded up with food and water. The roll-top packbag is bomber thanks to Dyneema reinforcements along the pack’s bottom and front and tough mesh side pockets that never frayed. A front compression panel effectively cinches in smaller loads. $200; 2 lbs. 15 oz. (M); 2 sizes (M, L); mountainhardwear.com
Hikers who want minimum weight but maximum durability
When July to Nov.
Where Along the AT from VT to GA; 30°F to 90°F; flat groomed trails, steep, off-trail scrambles; rain, sun, and sleet
“It hugs my back closely for a stable, sway-free carry, yet the perforated, mesh-enclosed padding allowed plenty of ventilation.”