Our take Many 40-liter packs fall in that no-man’s land of being overbuilt for simple dayhikes but lacking the features we want for overnights and gear-intensive adventures. Not this one from Columbia. We loved its ability to adapt to any situation. Need to carry skis and ice tools? Check. A small tent, sleeping bag, and pad? Check. Want to bring only the essentials for a light-and-fast day? Just cinch down the four side compression straps and do a few extra turns of the 8-inch-long, roll-top closure. “It’s not a specialist pack,” a tester says. “But it does so many things well that I found myself reaching for it all the time.” Gripe: We love the extra space the hipbelt pockets afford, but wished we could open and close them with one hand.
The details The combo of Omni-Shield water repellency and a removable rain cover make this pack ideal for four-season use. The huge front pocket provides fast access to snacks, headlamp, and gloves and has a water-resistant zipper that kept supplies dry during a two-hour snowstorm. The light, plastic framesheet with an aluminum stay has six fist-size cutouts to increase breathability and save weight. Closed-cell, egg-crate-shaped foam on the backpanel provides excellent cushioning without compromising breathability.
Trail cred “On a multiday hut trip around Mont Blanc, my stuff stayed dry while hiking through two straight days of heavy mist,” says an editor. “I had no qualms about flipping it over and using it as a chair on the wet ground.”