Gear Guide 2012: More Tester Picks Multiday Backpacks

These multiday packs provide excellent load support with comfortable designs that will help you move easily with any kind of terrain.

Mountain Hardwear SummitRocket 40

For summit bids and ultralight overnights, this minimalist, strippable (save 13 ounces by removing the foam pad, framesheet, and hipbelt) pack satisfied our gram-pinching testers. Dual-density foam shoulder straps, a padded lumbar pad, lightly padded foam hipbelt, and plastic corrugated frame sheet effectively transfer loads of up to 30 pounds. A tunnel-like collar adds an extra 10 liters in vertical capacity (but be careful with loading for proper balance); the roll-top closure negates the need for a lid. $200; 1 lb. 16 oz.; 40 liters;

The North Face Prophet 52

This mountaineering-oriented top-loader is most at home on steep slopes and alpine rock. With excellent load compression, the narrow, tall packbag won’t interfere with poling or reaching for awkward handholds. “It swallows a rack and rope,” says one tester who frequently filled it with 40 pounds of hardware, side-country ski gear, or his overnight kit. $189; 3 lbs. 6 oz.; 54 liters;

High Peak USA Lightning 50

On an overnight into Washington’s Alpine Lakes Wilderness, one tester comfortably hauled 30 pounds with the Lightning, thanks to a lightly padded, adjustable (14 to 23 inches)suspension system. Comfort and durability are the only bells and whistles on this pack, which offers very little in the realm of pockets and straps. Note: It lacks the support for loads over 35 pounds. $148; 3 lbs. 6 oz.; 50 liters;

Mammut Trion Guide 45 + 7

With an exceptional harness that transfers weight to the hips, this alpine climbing pack has a huge main compartment with removable lid and hipbelt. “The pack proved stable when I boulder-hopped down from the 12,804-foot Middle Teton,” says one editor. “Credit the tensioned, hourglass-shaped tubular aluminum frame stay, which focuses weight on your hips while flexing torsionally* with upper-body movement.” Testers loved this pack for hiking, alpine guiding, and everything in between. $200; 3 lbs. 11 oz.; 45 liters;

Black Diamond Epic 45

Heavy gear, steep, uneven terrain, and high winds can easily overwhelm a pack’s suspension. One tester, who lugged survival essentials up Alaska’s Mt. Hunter in subzero conditions and 20-mph winds, credits the dynamic suspension (floating shoulder straps and a ball-joint pivot system on the hipbelt) and uncluttered, streamlined profile for alpine-worthy weight distribution and stability. $190; 3 lbs. 11 oz.; 45 liters;

Arc’teryx Kata 45

“It’s the pack version of an assault vehicle,” wrote one tester after a rough-and-tumble long weekend in the Wind Rivers. Testers took the Kata everywhere—skiing, climbing, and for ultralight four-day trips. The roomy, polyurethane-coated nylon packbag is “bombproof” and the extremely light, molded-foam hipbelt can handle 40-pound loads with no hot spots. $259; 3 lbs. 11 oz.; 45 liters;

Granite Gear Crown 60

Following a two-day trip into Washington’s Tatoosh Lakes, one tester reported that this top-loading pack’s stiff plastic framesheet (with big circular cutouts) and thin-but-comfortable molded-foam backpanel provided excellent load support and transfer to the hips (up to 35 pounds). “The skinny profile hugged my back and let me thrash through brush without getting hung up,” he says. $200; 2 lbs. 2 oz.; 60 liters;

Millet Miage 60+10

Got a bulky pile of gear for a week on the trail? With plenty of capacity for longer trips—thanks to a capacious floating lid, gusseted side pockets, and expandable storm collar—this stable, comfortable top-loader can carry it all. The plushly padded backpanel and cushioned lumbar pad subdue loads up to 50 pounds, and the suspension adjusts to fit 17- to 21-inch torsos. $190; 4 lbs. 9 oz.; 60 liters;

Terra Nova Quasar 55

Diehard minimalists: This waterproof, welterweight pack has the guts to handle 30-pound loads in dicey terrain, like when our tester skinned 4,000 feet up Highland Peak near Aspen. It’s not a plush ride (with minimal padding and a simple, double-layered fabric-and-webbing hipbelt), but that’s not the point. The crinkly waterproof polyethylene (plastic) fabric is nearly indestructible. Gripe: spendy. $300; 2 lbs.; 55 liters;

MontBell Expedition 70

Designed for light alpine ascents, the Expedition 70 is a rugged, single-compartment sack with compression straps, ice-axe loops, and a lid. This classic has all that you need and no more: zero frills, core function, durable materials, and the chops to handle 70 pounds. $220; 3 lbs. 14 oz.; 70 liters;

Wenger Zernez 60L

If you like luxe features and don’t mind carrying extra weight, consider this fully outfitted mountain pack. Organization is thorough, and it has a comfortable, supportive, stay-reinforced backpanel; broad, memory-foam shoulder straps and hipbelt; and an easy, secure torso-length adjustment. $215; 5 lbs. 1 oz.; 60 liters;

*TORSIONAL FLEX A good frame will twist with your shoulders and rotate with your spine so you’re not fighting it.

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