Backpack Review: Mountainsmith Circuit II

A bargain pack with enough room for winter gear, a week's worth of food, camera supplies, and more--as long as it's all under 45 pounds

"This bargain pack is a bottomless pit, with enough space for winter gear, a week's worth of food, and all the camera gear I needed for several solo trips in the Colorado Rockies," says map editor Kris Wagner. A rigid framesheet backed by aluminum stays and well-placed compression straps kept a 45-pound load stable even on steep, off-trail terrain. Numerous pockets organize gear, and the Circuit comes with both water bottle and bladder holders. But the thin hipbelt won't handle more than 45 pounds, and construction isn't as durable as pricier load monsters; one shoulder strap seam ripped after hard use.

Price: $140

Sizes/Weight: men's (1 size/

17"-22" torso, 6,000 cu. in., 5 lbs. 12 oz.); women's (1 size/15"-19" torso, 5,000 cu. in.)

Contact: (800) 551-5889;