This pack wins the price-to-performance contest by a long shot. “There are no function or feature sacrifices,” says a tester. “With a large front shove-it pocket, convenient hydration sleeve, removable rain cover dual zippered pouches on the hipbelt, and easily adjustable shoulder straps, this pack is a dayhiking machine,” he concluded after using the Brenta on a score of day trips in the mountains around Lake Tahoe. To surprise his girlfriend, he loaded up a blanket and a gourmet picnic replete with a bottle of Two-Buck Chuck (naturally), with room to spare.
The biggest surprise for the price? You can increase ventilation by pulling straps on either side of the hipbelt—raising the pack an additional half-inch off your back. (Bonus: The pack gains stability when the straps are engaged, as they pull the bottom of the pack tightly in the hipbelt.) The feature is literally a breath of fresh air—a welcome upgrade in hot, humid weather. An exterior, bone-shaped stay gives the packbag enough rigidity to comfortably support loads up to 25 pounds. Another tester stuffed the top-loader with bivy supplies for an overnighter to New Hampshire’s Crawford Notch and he praised the stability, giving it a B+ due to the pack’s excellent load transfer and effective side compression straps. Ding: After 23 days of hiking and climbing excursions, the stretch mesh used in the side water-bottle pockets and front shove-it pouch showed signs of abrasion. $130; 2 lbs. 10 oz.; 35 liters; multiple volumes available; vaude.com
Deuter’s Guide 45+, is a high performance alpine pack for mountaineering, climbing and snowsports that require excellent load carrying ability, gear access, and flexibility. The Guide 45+ packs utilizes a low profile aluminum X- frame back, a height-adjustable lid, bottom compartment, side access zipper, lid pocket, snow skirt, combination ski and compression strap system, crampon attachment straps, gear loops, 2 or 3-liter hydration compatible, and ice axe loops. The Guide packs utilize Deuter’s Alpine-Back-System and Vari-Flex hipbelt. This system utilizes two padded foam stripes that provide carrying stability and comfort with "chimney" effect ventilation between the stripes. The breathable 3D Air Mesh is used on all points of contact, and is very durable. The Guide 45+ also features a dividable main compartment for separate sleeping bag and gear storage.