Brand: Mountain Hardwear
Model: Shaka 70
After a four-day trip into Oregon’s Three Sisters Wilderness in sweltering July heat, our tester reports that his water bottle was sweating but his back remained surprisingly dry. He’d loaded the cavernous Shaka (the Lani is the women’s model) with 45 pounds of gear and food for the slog into Green Lakes, and after 4,800 feet of elevation gain in temps pushing 90°F, he praised the suspension’s ability to support the heavy load without turning the trip into a sweatfest. The backpad and framesheet consist of a sheet of corrugated plastic covered with rhino-tough, mesh-and-foam scapula pads. The ridges create air channels and vertical flexibility so the pack can conform to your spine, while maintaining horizontal structure to prevent round out.
The payoff? A pack that hugs your back for a stable carry and excellent load transfer (see right), thanks to an aluminum perimeter stay that runs down the sides of the pack and connects at the lumbar pad to channel weight there. The roomy, top-loading bag has a handy J-shaped zipper for bottom and side access. A front pouch keeps a shell handy, while the floating lid (remove to save 7 ounces) holds valuables in two zippered sections. The canted bottle pockets are easy to reach while wearing the pack, but skinny bottles tended to pop out. $300; 4 lbs. 6 oz.; 70 liters; 3 men’s and 2 women’s sizes; mountainhardwear.com