This pack’s pared-down silhouette belies its outsized stability and versatility. A U-shaped plastic frame steadies loads—it’s just as strong as metal, but lighter—and we were able to comfortably carry 25 pounds on a 12-mile out-and-back along Rocky Mountain National Park’s Glacier Gorge Trail. The Guide Lite’s trim but thoughtful feature set maximizes storage options: We appreciated the removable rope carry and ice-axe toggles for technical summit pushes in the Rockies, and the extendable toplid flap that let us add five extra liters of capacity for big days. One front pocket, which can hold a wallet, keys, a PLB, and a sandwich, is accessible even with the toplid buckled down, and you can retrieve energy bars or a smartphone from a side zippered pocket without breaking stride. The 22 SL is the women’s version.
$130; 1 lb. 6 oz. (w’s); one size each, m’s and w’s