Gear Guide 2012: Columbia Treadlite 22 Backpack

This daypack easily handles heavy loads and transfers weight well, making warm weather hikes a breeze.


“You can stuff this deceptively supportive daypack with rocks and carry it for a dozen miles comfortably,” says one tester, who literally did just that, filling it with 17 pounds of geodes from the fossil fields around John Day, Oregon. The 22-liter front-loader handles dense loads better than most due to its stiff frame and robust trampoline-style suspension.* An hourglass-shaped plastic framesheet combined with a crossed pair of aluminum stays creates a sturdy frame for the mesh backpanel, supporting heavy loads with a good two inches of freeflowing air between your back and the packbag.

Another tester, a guide in the Tyrolean Alps, loaded it with nearly 20 pounds of water, food, and gear. “The load was as stable as my parents’ multi-decade marriage,” he said. Support is further enhanced by a wide hipbelt and lightly padded lumbar pad. The fixed-suspension pack has tapered shoulder straps made of a stiff, cookie-cut EVA foam with a visible mesh core—a combination that negated shoulder pain and transferred weight to the hips well. We fretted about potential pack sway due to the space between the trampoline and packbag, but four easy-to-reach load tighteners snug the weight into the shoulder straps and lower back.

Testers loved the organizational features: a zip pouch on top for stashing sunglasses, a stretchy shove-it pocket with room for a puffy, and stretchy side water bottle pockets that are accessible while wearing the pack. Quibble: Excessively long webbing flaps around on the hipbelt and shoulder straps. $129; 2 lbs. 4 oz.; 22 liters;

*TRAMPOLINE-STYLE SUSPENSION A backpanel design with mesh suspended over a ventilation gap between your back and frame; great for hot weather, but can crimp cargo space

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