Carry anything, and get to all of it quickly with the Altra, an update of our 2010 Editors’ Choice Award winner (favorite new feature: zippered water-bottle pockets). As a wilderness ranger, our tester logs about 2,000 backcountry miles every season, much of it battling forest fires in the Pacific Northwest. “When I need gear, I need it quickly, especially when there’s a fire that’s jumped a line,” he says. “I can access the interior contents of this top-loader from all sides—the full wrap-around zipper on the bottom is especially useful when I’m in a hurry.” On comfort, he says: “After I fill it to the brim with all of the equipment I’m required to carry, generally more than 50 pounds, I groan as I pick it up. But then I marvel as it melts into my body and feels as though it’s an extension of my back.” Credit the molded hipbelt that delivers both support and cushioning. Load transfer is provided via the pivoting hipbelt, which increases stability and reduces pack rub. Other key 2013 updates, like a wider base and lower packbag, also enhance stability. A nearly rigid framesheet, strengthened with twin aluminum stays, provides support for loads up to 60 pounds. Not changed: the built-to-last construction. $399; 4 lbs. 14 oz.; 65 liters; 2 sizes each for men and women; arcteryx.com
Gear Review: Arc’teryx Altra 65 Multiday PackBest all-around: this pack will melt into your body and accomodate any quick-access needs as it supports over 50 pounds.