The North Face Ligero (Seth Hughes).
The North Face’s new x-frame (Genny Wright Fullerton).
Best Overall | Most Stable | Best Organization | Best for Winter | Bargain
Tricky terrain ahead? TNF’s X-frame suspension yields a unique blend of vertical weight transfer (read: comfort) and lateral flex (read: mobility). “It moves with your body, but it’s also stiff enough to support 35 pounds,” says Dax. The design starts with tubular stays, which have more multidirectional flexibility than flat stays. They’re slightly curved at the ends (like your back), and the intersection in the middle creates a torsional flex point that mimics the movement of the spine. With traditional vertical stays, you get terrific straight-down weight transfer and some twist, but not this level of dynamic support.
The idea? Your back and hips move independently in three dimensions, with different permutations when you’re climbing or hiking or skiing—so your pack should, too. The streamlined packbag keeps loads uncluttered; there are few lashing options, and the zippered, top-loading access doesn’t permit overstuffing. Compression is stellar, says Nyquist, because, “The two side straps are attached to stiffened wings that distribute the pressure along the length of the bag.” But testers found the packbag a little too compact, and they wished for one large top pocket rather than two small ones, which caused unnecessary searching. And the stretchy, angled bottle holders need retainers: Flowers leaned over to tie his boots and his bottles tumbled down a cliff.
> Capacity 3,051 cu. in.
> Weight 3 lbs. 2 oz. (M)
> Sizes Unisex M, L
> Price $160