Our top pick for adventure travel, the Mountainsmith Apex 60 gives the people what they want: Tons of giant pockets in all the right places. If you’ve ever spent two-thirds of a snack break hunting for your snack, lost your headlamp in your top lid, or had to dump your entire pack on the ground to find a lighter—well, you know what we mean. From the Wyoming high country to the Central American rainforest, the Apex 60 kept us organized and on the move.
The hipbelt features two stretchy, 2.6-liter pockets that “absolutely swallow gear,” said one editor. “I put two packets of dried mango, a protein bar, and a jerky stick in one, and my smartphone, inhaler, and sunglasses in the other. My partner takes fewer snack breaks than I do, so having food handy while I hiked made the experience that much more enjoyable.”
The lateral side pockets are deep enough for trekking poles, and the massive shove-it sleeve has a zippered portion on the outside for maximal quick-access storage. A curved top lid zipper lets you easily locate that pesky headlamp, and adventure-traveling testers loved the U-shaped perimeter zipper for quick packing and grabbing gear at the airport.
The other good news? Even when you load up all those pockets, the Apex retains its streamlined shape and comfortable carry. The perimeter hoop frame, made of a stiff-but-flexible tubular aluminum, efficiently transfers up to 35 pounds of weight to the plush hipbelt. The entire suspension is padded with a EVA/PU foam, which both evenly distributes weight and reduces chafing. So far, no rips or tears to the 210-denier Robic nylon material (or the 420-denier Oxford on the pack bottom), even after bushwhacking in Wyoming’s Wind River range.
The only thing we didn’t like? “The molded foam back panel isn’t the most breathable,” reports one tester after her jungle hike. “The area beneath my hipbelt and lumbar were perpetually soaked.”