Model: Wizard Air 24 + 4
This pack easily won a recent test of affordable load haulers (8/08), in part because every tester achieved a perfect fit from the six full inches of torso-length adjustability. Dense padding in the hips, lumbar, and shoulder areas make for a comfortable ride with 45 pounds. Two contoured aluminum stays transfer weight efficiently to the cushy hipbelt, and the suspension flexes laterally, which helps reduce rubbing. The backpanel vented well, even in Costa Rica’s tropical humidity.
After a rain-drenched hike in Washington’s San Juan Islands, one tester praised the built-in raincover: “Without even taking the pack off, I could unzip the pouch and pull the cover up.” Expandable side pockets are big enough for liter bottles (though tight if the pack is stuffed). The top lid converts to a lumbar pack, with a tough fabric panel that holds gear tightly in place for maximum stability. The coated Cordura packbag fabric is built for abuse. Minor complaint: The top-lid zipper is short, which makes it a struggle to stuff or retrieve bulky items. $160; 3,960 cu. in.; 4 lbs. 15 oz. Vaude.com