“The airflow between the packbag and my back was noticeable,” says our tester after a brutal 2,000-foot ascent in sweltering 90°F temps in Washington’s northern Cascades. “The cooling was especially effective when a crosswind blew through. The tautly stretched mesh backpanel kept the pack a good inch from my body, even with a bulky, heavy load,” he says, adding that the supportive backpanel protected him from odd-shaped containers and marshmallow skewers that his wife insisted he carry. The top- and front-loading Fleet incorporates a butterfly-shaped aluminum stay that channels weight to your hips via a vertically stiff but torsionally flexible frame system. Testers report it handled 45 pounds. Moderately padded hipbelt and shoulder straps (and cushy lumbar and scapula pads) proved comfortable without blocking airflow; our tester says even his shoulders and hips stayed sweat-free.
In addition to the well-ventilated backpanel and comfortable harness, you get a full set of features: a removable lid with two pockets, a U-zip front panel that allows quick access to hard-to-reach items in the pack, an integrated rain cover, and roomy zippered mesh pockets on the hipbelt. $200; 4 lbs. 1 oz.; 55 liters; 3 sizes (2 for men and 1 for women); kelty.com