Brand: Bergans of Norway
Model: Istinden 26L
Overall Score: 4.7 / 5
The 4-inch-wide hipbelt with a Velcro-like closure provides additional stiffness. “I appreciated the extra support when I was toting my heavy, fat skis,” says one tester after logging more than 160 miles through a season of unpredictable weather in the Montana backcountry. “I’m always shedding or adding layers. I can micro-adjust the hipbelt to my changing girth with a gloved hand.” Bonus: Hook-and-loop is quicker to operate and less prone to failure than standard plastic buckles.
One tester, who racked up nearly 100,000 vertical feet ski mountaineering, raved about the pack’s ability to carry up to 35-pound loads, crediting the snug-fitting, supportive hipbelt and the molded framesheet with its flexible U-shaped aluminum perimeter stay. “It mimicked my every move on a dicey traverse on France’s Mt. Blanc, when a misstep would have meant tomahawking down a steep slope.”
Two crescent-shaped side pockets house snow safety tools, leaving the main packbag and seven smaller pockets for clothes and doo-dads. A stretchy helmet sling holds lids tightly, with no irritating jiggle.
The secure diagonal ski carry has a tether from the shoulder strap to the ski tips: When cinched, the tips come forward and the tails pendulum up and back, away from your heels.
$175; 2 lbs. 9 oz.; 26 liters;