Our toughest tester would criticize his mother's cooking, but he had nothing but praise for the ACT Trail, calling it "a near-perfect all-purpose daypack" after using it in Montana's Lee Metcalf Wilderness. That's because the ACT Trail 32 (and the women's SL 28) delivers the rock-solid stability and neat-freak organizational features you'd expect from an expedition pack.
This top-loader's U-shaped zipper provides easy access to the main compartment; a mesh panel on the front stashes a jacket and hat; zippered pockets on the lid, side, and hipbelt stow a camera and snacks; and adjustable shock-cord loops secure trekking poles or ice tools.
Despite the many features, the pack isn't cumbersome: One tester hammered up a multipitch ice climb in Montana's Hyalite Canyon, unimpeded by shifting loads or restricted reach. The suspension (a plastic framesheet reinforced with a Delrin rod) handles up to 25 pounds.
Two mesh-covered foam panels on the back provide outstanding comfort and ventilation. Bonus: The built-in raincover kept our gear dry during a five-hour slush storm on Colorado's Hahns Peak. The pack's 210-denier nylon fabric should handle years of abuse. Downside: It's heavy.
- Capacity 1,950 cu. in.
- Sizes 2 gender-specific; 16"-21" torsos
- Weight 3 lbs.
- Price $129
- Info deuterusa.com
Featuring Deuter's ventilated Aircomfort back system.