Brand: Mountain Hardwear
Model: Koa 35
Dense, heavy climbing gear can easily overwhelm a pack’s suspension—but the top-loading Trad made even a 40-pound load feel stable and secure. “Its uncluttered, low-profile shape makes it great for scrambly approaches and leading ice on New Hampshire’s Franconia Notch,” says our tester, who deemed the Trad his favorite not just for rock and ice climbing, but also for backcountry skiing, mountaineering, and general backpacking (up to three days).
The proprietary HardWave framesheet (with horizontal ridges that let it bend vertically, to conform to your back, but remain torsionally rigid for outstanding load support), paired with an aluminum stay in the center, keeps heavy loads from sagging or rounding out the backpanel. Wide ski straps made of ballistic nylon on the sides secure skis and stand up to sharp edges. Nice: The top can be opened and closed with one hand thanks to a smartly integrated cordlock that’s sewn to the pack, not the drawcord. “That let me keep my gloves on during frigid weather on Mt. Washington’s summit,” says our tester. $130; 2,150 cu. in./40 liters; 3 lbs. 9 oz.; mountainhardwear.com
SoftEdge Shoulder Straps. FL Suspension combines Flow-though ventilation with effective Load transfer abilities and maintains smooth contact surfaces and transitions for long-term comfort. Trapezoidal lumbar pad shape allows back of hipbelt to wrap hips better. Tensioned smooth mesh backpanel allows airflow with minimal impact on interior pack volume.
For experienced backpackers who have their gear really dialed down for weight and bulk, weekend backpackers with compact gear and a focus on keeping it as simple and light as possible, thru-hikers on the AT or other warm-weather long distance trails where gear needs are trimmed, traveling trekkers who want a technical pack for comfort on long hikes, adventure racers on long technical courses, and day hikers carrying larger/heavier loads looking for comfort.