Big packs with small prices usually sacrifice comfort, weight, or durability. Not this one. One Alaska tester jammed in a week’s worth of cold-weather gear and experienced a sway-free ride as she trekked from the Alaska Pipeline to the Delta Range south of Fairbanks. “It never distorted or scrunched, even with 50 pounds, and I was able to focus 100 percent of the weight on my hips,” she says.
That’s because the cost savings come from organizing features, not suspension. The semi-rigid backpanel and aluminum stays that cross in an X are big-load capable, and a padded dual-layer back/lumbar pad literally pumps air off your back as the foam compresses and expands. The sack has few amenities other than deep wand/bottle pockets, a giant sleeping bag compartment, and a stretchy shove-it pocket.
Quibbles: “The side pockets are too tight for bottles when the packbag is stuffed,” says one tester. “The hipbelt pocket is too small for energy bars or point-and-shoots. And the triangular stretch shove-it pocket holds clothes well, but ejects items like bottles and bladders.” $189; 4,550 cu. in.; 3 lbs. 15 oz.Deuter's answer for the lightweight crowd who does not want to sacrifice all the features.