Brand: Granite Gear
Model: Stratus Access FZ 5500
Our tester loved the “load and go” simplicity of this single-compartment pack. After a heavily laden overnight on the south slopes of Longs Peak, he reported “no pack-flop at all when I jumped rocks and creeks,” and credited the shallow, back-hugging pack shape and suspension, which consists of a dual-density framesheet, twin aluminum stays, and closed-cell foam bivy pad. The framesheet, stays, and pad are all removable, so testers could beef up support or shave ounces, depending on the trip.
The thin, soft-flexing, removable hipbelt did a decent job of transferring weight, but like most climbing packs, the emphasis is on freedom of motion, low bulk, and easy high-stepping. Stripping all frame and hipbelt components trims almost two pounds.
The narrow packbag proved tight for bulkier sleeping bags, but quick-release compression straps and a front bungee net compensate. The top lid extends for high stacking, plus you get the usual gear loops and tool attachments. Bummer: no hipbelt or bottle pockets–although a hydration sleeve located in the top lid makes refilling easy, even with the pack loaded. $249; 3,661 cu. in.; 4 lbs. 4 oz. Arcteryx.com