Load your average daypack with 100 ounces of water plus gear, then try hammering down the trail or scrambling up some boulders. Chances are, you’ll get some sloshing and thumping as the water weight pulls on your shoulders and shifts back and forth as you move. Not so with the Manta. This daypack features an easy-to-fill 100-ounce reservoir (it has a handle) and a stiffened holder that locks the water in place. Load lifters clip directly to the top of the back panel to compress the top of the reservoir. Not only does this further stabilize the load, it improved testers’ balance, whether they were scrambling up ladders on Vermont’s Mt. Mansfield or just hightailing it down a trail in California’s Santa Ynez Mountains.
The stretchy shoulder straps and hipbelt—which hugged our testers’ every curve—also contribute to stability. “It’s not like wearing your average daypack,” said one tester. “It’s like the pack is actually integrated to your back.” Nice details abound: elastic hipbelt pockets that accommodate a digital camera and a couple of bars, an integrated rain cover, a magnetized sternum strap buckle for attaching the bite valve (no more fumbling), and a stretchy pocket for securely stashing a helmet or bulky jacket. Capacity is enough for lunch, extra clothes, and safety gear for a big dayhike. $139; available in two torso lengths: S/M is 1,300 cu. in.; M/L is 1,500 cu. in.; 2 lbs. 1 oz. (S/M); osprey.com.