Gear Guide 2012: Kelty Rally 45 Backpack

A pack made for curves that can easily haul 40-pound loads.

The bigger the payload, the bigger the consequences of an ill-fitting pack—but the Rally tailors the cargo to women’s curves and levitates big, 40-pound loads as if by magic. Credit the dogbone-shaped aluminum stay (aligned vertically, with flared loops at the top and bottom of the back panel) that transfers weight to the lumbar zone of a women’s-specific hipbelt: Its conical shape (the top edge has a smaller circumference than the bottom) adapts to women’s wider hips and proved more comfortable than flat belts over hours of wear. Raised padding in the shoulders and lumbar area further cushions heavy loads, and contoured shoulder straps reduce chafing around women’s necks and arms.

A mesh trampoline backpanel maintained a three-inch airspace between the pack bag and our tester, who praised the Rally’s ventilation on hot hikes along California’s John Muir Trail. “The pack moves in unison with me, which is a real asset for log crossings and boulder-hopping,” reports a tester. Gripe: The side waterbottle pockets are cut so tight they’re impossible to use when the pack is full. $175; 4 lbs. 1 oz.; one size: 14.5 to 18.5 inches; 45 liters; kelty.com