Gear Review: Deuter ACT Zero 50+15/45+15 Backpack

Beefy and adaptable, the Deuter ACT Zero shrinks sizes from week-long adventurer to afternoon excursioner without compromising comfort.

Most Versatile

With a suspension that has a half-foot of torso adjustability and a top-loading packbag that expands from weekend to weeklong size, this pack morphs to accommodate a broad range of hikers and trips. The plush, contoured shoulder straps, lumbar pad, and hipbelt attach to a stiff aluminum X-frame and offer up enough support and stability for loads up to 50 pounds. (With equal weights, testers found the BD Epic slightly more comfortable, but appreciated this pack’s extra cargo space and organizing features.)

One tester carried it on a three-day traverse of Oregon’s Three Sisters and had plenty of room for a bulky sleeping bag and two-person tent, plus food, clothing, and other gear. When his partner twisted her ankle, he unfurled the roll-top closure and piled on a good deal of her load as well, with no great sacrifice in terms of comfort or stability. And despite the ensuing grind, he says, “The back padding’s two raised foam strips allowed great airflow down the center of my spine and kept me from overheating—even in baking sun.”

The rugged packbag (made of 210-denier ripstop nylon with burly 500-denier panels in key wear points) is convenient without being fussy, with dual collapsible mesh bottle holders, a roomy-but-compressible mesh front pouch, wide top-loading collar, and two zippered pockets on the removable lid. Caution: As with most adjustable-torso packs, stability is somewhat inferior compared to packs with fixed suspensions, especially when you combine a short torso size with a fully extended toplid. Testers deemed it fine for trail hiking, but wobbly when they were skiing or climbing. The women’s version is the 45+15.

Capacity 65 liters (m’s); 60 (w’s)

Sizes 1 men’s (15-21 in.); 1 women’s (14-19 in.)

Weight 3 lbs. 5 oz.

Price $169

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