Brand: Bergans of Norway
Model: Helium 55 Backpack
Heavy zippers are normally the antithesis of ultralight packs. But in a nod to function over gram cutting, the Helium has a 27-inch, dual-headed zipper to open the pack top to bottom.
Two carry-all monsters measure 11 inches deep and 10 inches wide. “They handled extra water and my entire rain kit on a hike in the Oregon Cascades,” one tester says.
“The tear-drop design makes this my pick for anything where I use my arms,” says one tester. “The narrow profile doesn’t interfere with arm swing.”
Thin side-compression cords shave weight, but some testers found them annoyingly prone to tangling. Everyone, however, liked the ability to reconfigure the cords across the front of the pack to strap on wet items or sleeping pads.
Durability is one of the first things ultralight packs often sacrifice. Not the Helium. “I dragged this pack across sandpaper-rough granite in Yosemite and it didn’t get a scratch,” says one tester. Credit the 420-denier ripstop nylon used on the bottom panel. Elsewhere, 210-denier ripstop strikes an attractive balance between weight and abrasion resistance (100-denier ripstop is used on the lid, which sees less abuse).
Many 2-pound packs forgo the lid. This one has a removable lid (2.3 ounces) with a single zippered pocket and four rubber-coated attachment points on top for lashing on a rope or other gear. Note: It doesn’t convert to a daypack.
This is rare in such a light pack: The torso length adjusts 5 inches (from 16 to 21 inches on the men’s model). The foam-padded yoke peels back to reveal a clever daisy chain and hook system, which allows the straps to slide up and down twin aluminum stays.
The dense, padded hipbelt has 3D molding. The perimeter has a soft, rounded lip that cups the hips—which improves fit, support, and comfort. Load transfer is great up to 40 pounds. “When I moved, so did the pack,” says a tester, “even when I was carrying a third of my weight in gear.”