Gregory Katmai 65/Kalmia 60
The most comfortable backpack of 2021
It’s hard to feel giddy while carrying a heavy pack, but the Katmai (the Kalmia is the women’s version) kept us smiling. “The load felt lighter than it was, thanks to the well-padded hipbelt and shoulder straps, in addition to supportive tension across the backpanel,” says one tester who used the Katmai to lug 40 pounds during a luxe weekend trip to Michigan’s Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. The Katmai’s cargo-hauling chops come from a spring steel-alloy perimeter frame that’s reinforced with a fiberglass cross stay. The frame transfers weight directly to the center of the seamless, wraparound hipbelt. Breathability kept pace, even while we toiled in 80°F temps. The Katmai cleverly evades the shirt-to-back suction characteristic of most trampoline backpanels via two channels that create an inch of blessed separation (and no testers reported pack sway). Pockets abound: The toplid alone has three, and even though the mesh shove-it pouch is small, it conceals a massive dorsal pocket that splays open via a U-shape zipper to hold lunch, a first aid kit, a headlamp, and a windshell. And if something didn’t fit in those pockets, it didn’t matter: We could access any point of the pack’s interior via the arching, full-length side-zip or the bottom sleeping bag compartment.
m’s S/M and M/L, w’s XS/S and S/M