Gear Guide 2012: Black Diamond Mercury 65 Backpack

This pack is equipped with a suspension system that helps increase mobility and overall stability.

[big-load stability]

“The novel suspension seriously changed my view of how comfortable packs can feel,” says our Oregon tester, who used the Mercury for two weeks in the Cascades. Credit the ball-and-joint pivot system on the padded hipbelt and the self-adjusting shoulder straps, which make for a dynamic carry* that moves with you on every type of terrain. The shoulder straps are key: They balance the load across your back, unlike static designs that weight each shoulder separately as you walk.

The swivel mechanism of the hipbelt accommodates the 3D motion of the hips, allowing for in-motion weight transfer via elastic “tendons.” On a Colorado Fourteener, our tester said her bulky, 45-pound load didn’t rub her shoulders, even during an epic 16-mile summit day. But there is a learning curve: The pack requires you to adapt your movement to account for the increased motion in the load. But once testers stopped fighting it, what initially felt like instability turned into freedom—their hips moved independently from their torsos. Caveat: It’s on the heavy side for the capacity. $260; 4 lbs. 11 oz.; 65 liters; blackdiamondequipment.com

*DYNAMIC CARRY Suspension systems that pivot at the hips or otherwise move with your body, increasing mobility and reducing pressure at load-bearing contact points