Brand: Mountain Hardwear
Model: Koa 55
Both male and female testers liked the comfort, stability, and practicality of these roll-top packs, which admirably hauled bulky ropes, climbing helmets, and camping gear up big Sierra peaks. The roll-top was well-liked for its easy access, weatherproofing, and crammable space. Thickly padded shoulder straps and a lightly reinforced hipbelt with dual pockets handled 40-plus pounds, while a mesh trampoline backpanel, stretched tightly between aluminum rods running around the pack’s perimeter, kept testers’ backs air-conditioned.
Two unique hidden zipper pockets sit on either side of the roll-top closure, offering quick access to small items–as long as you don’t squeeze the packbag down too hard. A stretch helmet pocket sits on the front, and bottom straps hold bulky sleeping pads. The huge wand/bottle pockets are easy to reach on the go, making this a good pack for folks who snack and layer frequently and on the move. Bonus: Testers could refill the hydration pocket with the pack closed, using a separate zipper compartment in the backpanel. Napali 50 is the women’s version. $190; 3,350 cu. in.; 3 lbs. 10 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. Lower sleeping bag compartment with zip access (no divider). Tensioned smooth mesh backpanel allows airflow while volume profile is designed to accommodate bulky items (e.g. bear canisters).
For experienced backpackers who have modern, lightweight kits and take weekend to week-long trips, weekend backpackers who may still have some bulky gear but keep it as simple and tight as possible, thru-hikers on any of the big trails, trekkers and travelers who are carrying a sleeping bag, and traveling trekkers who want a technical pack for comfort on long hikes.