When you spend every freakin' day out in the mountains, you only tolerate gear that a) holds up to serious pummeling, and b) strips away useless features. The Chernobyl is just such a pack, declares our Jackson Hole-based tester, who also happens to be a full-time guide in the Tetons and South America. All CCW packs are sewn in New Hampshire, and the craftsmanship is obvious: Burly, 500-denier Cordura stands up to sharp edges and bomber stitching hasn't hiccupped despite serious abuse. Off the shelf, this simple, 3,000-cubic-inch, top-loading packbag is detailed to carry a mountain guide's implements: ice tools, crampons, and skis.
But this owner-operated company is happy to add or subtract your pet or peeve features, often at no additional cost. Our tester, for instance, wanted a super-clean pack for backcountry ski days and overnighters on the Grand Teton: just diagonal ski straps, an ice axe loop, and nothing more. The padded hipbelt and backpad (which is made of folded, closed-cell foam) comfortably and stably supports loads of up to 35 pounds. In addition, you can remove the backpad to use as a seat cushion for two (23 x 24 inches). "Simplicity is so hard to find in a durable, lightweight pack," she notes. "My Chernobyl is now the pack I grab year-round for day- and weekend-size mountain excursions." $175; 3 lbs. 4 oz.; 2 unisex sizes; coldcoldworldpacks.com