Brand: High Sierra
Model: Ascender 40 Backpack
The average price for packs in this capacity range (according to our last two Gear Guides) is $178, which is why this 40-liter, panel-loading pack—less than half that amount—initially turned our heads. But its performance kept us hooked.
It has a suspension robust enough to comfortably manage 35 pounds and capacity to hold a small tent, sleeping bag, and supplies for a weekend. Effective V-shaped compression straps morph it into a roomy daypack. $80; 3 lbs. 6 oz.; 40 liters; highsierra.com
“The lightly padded hipbelt and shoulder straps provide a snug, wobble-free fit without any chafing,” said a tester after a weekend in Oregon’s Opal Creek Wilderness.
“The 1,680-denier nylon held up to six months of abuse,” says one tester, “and plentiful pockets make this pack easy to live out of.”