Brand: High Sierra
Model: Symmetry 18
You don’t need to be on a budget to love a bargain. This backcountry ski and snowboard pack costs $20 to $100 less than the competition, and we found no tradeoffs in core performance. Plus, the Symmetry is nearly a pound lighter than its closest competitor. “I loaded up nearly 20 pounds of gear—water (it has an insulated hose sleeve), avy tools, extra clothes, and lashed-on skis,” said one tester after a half-dozen day trips in Sweden and Iceland. “It was comfortable mile after mile.” The ski/snowboard straps and the hipbelt neatly tuck away into hidden compartments. The big, inverted U-shaped zipper let us open the pack up wide for easy access to the stretchy interior slots (perfect for skins and smaller items) and the probe sleeve. And we loved the exterior stuff-it sleeve: You can open the Velcro closure at the bottom to accommodate a shovel, or close it for use as a traditional pocket. More perks: A removable pocket on the left shoulder strap holds an iPhone 6 Plus, and the microfiber-lined goggle pocket is oversized to handle big lenses with no fuss. If there’s a downside, we can’t find it.