Gear Guide 2009: The North Face Skareb 65 Review

Scramble over rocks and hike in a downpour with the stable and weather-resistant Skareb 65 pack by The North Face.

Best All-Around

This pack offers a great combination of stability and weather resistance, in a size that's suitable for weekend peakbagging and weeklong thru-hikes alike. It's virtually rainproof (but not submersible) thanks to a waterproof top pocket, water-resistant zippers, and thickly coated fabrics.

Testers of both genders thought the shoulder harness, the rubberized, vented backpanel, and the soft-and-wide hipbelt offered a good combination of stability and support for loads up to 45 pounds. Freedom of motion proved excellent on scrambly hikes in Rocky Mountain's Glacier Gorge and on a 4,000-foot climb to Sahale Glacier Camp in the North Cascades. Testers could crank down the harness to eliminate shifting on boulder hops, yet it didn't feel stiff or restrictive.

A pleated packbag opening yawns wide when the top lid is flipped. Several speed-hiking features help keep you on the go: There's a bottle holster on the shoulder harness, trekking pole loops, and a hipbelt attachment for holding unneeded poles in sword-scabbard position. $249; 3,720 cu. in.; 3 lbs. 8 oz. Thenorthface.com