Get a lot of pack for a little money with the Manang. "I hauled more than 40 pounds on a 35-mile trip through the Wind River Range," said one tester, "and this top-loader performed way above its price range." How? The Manang's well-padded suspension includes shoulder straps with extra-cushy gel inserts, and the frame is plenty stiff for big loads, thanks to two aluminum stays and a rigid U-shaped tube.
The packbag is easy to load and organize, with a cavernous main compartment that has a vertical access zipper, lid and hipbelt pockets, and plenty of lashing options. Even more impressive: The mix of 840- and 420-denier fabric is bushwhack-durable, yet the pack is reasonably lightweight for the capacity. The catch? No sleeping-bag compartment, and the ladder-style, adjustable harness is not as stable as the best in this category. $180; 5,190 cu. in.; 5 lbs. 2 oz. Lafumausa.com
Trusted by guides and avalanche professionals, the Borea is a first choice for ski mountaineers. Equipped for multi-pass traverses with Hypalon ski holsters, study tool space, a probe sleeve and a kangaroo pocket that holds a shovel and other essential ingredients.
Dual density shoulder straps
Ice axe loops
External compression straps
External daisy chains
Full-length side zip
Hypalon quick release ski attachments
Modified kangaroo pouch to hold skins, mitts and most shovels
Pit pocket for loupe, thermometer and pit card
Removable seat mat that slides into its own pocket
Side probe pocket and large front pocket
Thermoformed back panel
Thermoformed interchangeable hipbelt