Gear Guide 2009: Osprey Variant 52 Review

Climb, scramble, and mountaineer with the stable Variant pack.

Best for Climbers

“It has everything a rock climber or mountaineer would want, but it’s not over-engineered like many technical packs,” wrote one tester after a trip to Nevada’s Red Rocks Canyon. The Variant didn’t shift when he scrambled with 40 pounds aboard, thanks to a rigid, back-hugging framesheet. The hipbelt is thin and flexible for unencumbered high-stepping, yet it transfers weight just enough for heavy loads (we crammed in 55 pounds).

The top-loader yawns wide to accept bulky ropes, and cinches down tightly with Z-pulley compression straps that enhance stability. The tool attachments have glove-friendly, quick-release buckles and cords, and you also get a puncture-resistant crampon pocket, zippered front stash pocket, and wand pockets.

It’s surprisingly light at less than four pounds–considering the features and tough materials–but you can strip the top lid and hipbelt to shave another pound. One wish: hipbelt pockets. $199; 3,200 cu. in.; 3 lbs. 12 oz.

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