Get into this top-loader through the gaping mouth or the front panel that opens via a U-shaped zipper. On a weeklong backpacking and climbing trip to Red Rock Canyon, Nevada, we found it easy to load and unload bulky stuff like ropes, racks, and tent. Bonus: Side compression straps don’t interfere with the panel zipper.
The two-pocket lid detaches via two quick-release buckles (shed it to save 4.3 ounces). Gripe: We wished the straps were longer to accommodate overstuffing.
A double helix-shaped spring steel stay attaches to the nylon framesheet and dampens the upand-down movement of the load; it’s especially noticeable on downhills. It also offers exceptional torsional flexibility, which translates to stability. “A 45-pound load generally makes me weave on log crossings, but not with this pack,” one tester says.
An 8-inch, horizontal stay threads through two channels for easy torso adjustment from 15.5 to 21.5 inches. Bonus: Load-lifter straps have four attachment options to correspond with the torso length. The result: Near-custom fit and superior weight transfer.
Wicking mesh covers the scapula and lumbar pads; between them a palm-size, mini trampoline enhances airflow.
$299; 4 lbs. 13 oz; 55 liters; bergans.com