Count high points, not ounces? This pack is made for going up—with hardware-dense loads—and in rocky terrain that will shred ultralight materials. The two key ingredients: a dynamic suspension and 440-denier packbag fabric. The suspension incorporates a swivel system that enables the (removable) hipbelt to move with you, plus self-adjusting shoulder straps that keep weight evenly distributed as you reach. The result: less friction, eliminating rubbing and sore spots even with 30-pound loads.
“When I was climbing Upper Washbowl Cliff, the belt rotated smoothly and the load stayed snug against my back,” says a tester who used the Axis 33 in the Adirondacks. At first, he was skeptical about the capacity of the panel-loading design, but concluded, “It actually fits plenty for a big alpine day, and on the approach, it felt stable even with a rope and helmet lashed on the outside.”
The streamlined design improves stability further and minimizes wear and tear when you’re bushwhacking or dragging the pack across rock. External attachments include gear loops and ice axe holders. Our only wish: bigger zipper pulls, for easy grabbing with cold-weather gloves. $150; 3 lbs. 7 oz.; 33 liters