This cavernous, single-compartment top-loader offers big capacity and comfort in a pack that barely tops three pounds. The combination of plush harness and huge, minimalist packbag immediately made it one tester's go-to sack for weeklong trips and cold-weather jaunts with puffy (read: light but bulky) gear. "It's like a new genre of expedition pack," he noted. "Roomy, simple, tough, and big-load capable, but still lightweight."
A ladder-adjusting shoulder harness (16- to 22-inch range for this unisex version) is buttressed by a plastic backpanel, crossed aluminum stays, and wide, thickly padded ridges running up the lumbar and rib areas for spinal padding and good airflow in hot weather. The harness yoke proved stable even when we overloaded the pack with 50 pounds. A mesh shovel pocket, two huge bottle pockets, an extendable two-compartment top lid, and lightweight lash-on loops round out the features. It lacks hipbelt pockets, but the sweet price leaves you plenty of change to buy accessories. $169; 4,250 cu. in.; 3 lbs. 1 oz. Deuterusa.com
These packs allow the experienced backpacker/mountaineer to carry all the necessities without the added weight.