The exterior 3-liter reservoir storage means easy access and no chance of leaking or condensation in the main packbag (the fabric is highly water resistant).
The giant J-shaped zipper lets us peel back the entire front of the pack. A 9-inch storm collar extends upward in a V shape to make stuffing easier (a bear canister fits easily inside).
The pillowy hipbelt (it comes in three sizes each for men and women) has a rigid internal frame for support and ample adjustment options. We achieved a perfect wrap and excellent load transfer. Bonus: Thule offers a hipbelt option for big folks: up to 51 inches.
The stretchy mesh hipbelt pockets are spacious, measuring a full 9 by 6 inches; they keep cameras, lip balm, hand sanitizer, and snacks at the ready. “I stuffed six mandarin oranges and two Cliff bars in each pocket,” one tester says.
Designers built a 10-by-15-inch waterproof pocket—big enough for an iPad and then some—into the front of the pack.
The aluminum framestay and thick, plastic framesheet attach to the hipbelt via a pivoting joint and springy, steel wires that extend from the joint throughout the length of the hipbelt. We logged more than 200 miles with loads up to 60 pounds in the Cascades, Sierra Nevada, and Grand Canyon, and we can testify: It’s effective. The packbag selfadjusts as you walk, and the wires add rigidity to the hipbelt, dispersing weight across the entire hip shelf. Downsides: Packs this big need maximum contact with your back to maintain good load control, which means poor ventilation. And all that hardware makes this one of the heaviest packs we’ve tried in years, with some testers calling it “overbuilt.”
This hydration-friendly pack has two different side pockets; one opens vertically for easy access (it has a shock cord closure for added security); the other is tilted (to better hold bottles). “I didn’t have to dislocate my shoulder to reach my Thermos,” one tester says.
The torso length adjusts (from 17 to a generous 23 inches) as you slide the shoulder straps up and down an aluminum stay. You can also micro-tune the width of the shoulder yoke to accommodate narrow or brawny frames: Each strap has three attachment points, each with an inch of play.
$330; 6 lbs; 65 liters; thule.com