Best for Minimalists
"Superlight, stable, and low profile" is how our tester described this streamlined top-loader after using it for fast-paced hikes around Idaho's Boise Foothills. It's just large enough to swallow a rack and rope, or all of your essentials and clothing for a big day in the mountains. It carried 10 pounds securely for trail running, and 20 to 25 pounds for normal hiking and scrambling, thanks to its flexible backpanel and amply padded shoulder straps.
The removable webbing hipbelt is mostly for stability, not load transfer. The pack profile is narrow enough that elbow banging is a non-issue, even for cross-country skiers. There are no outside pockets, just two inside the main packbag (one on each side), and another in the lid, with an external bungee for holding an extra layer. $100; 1,709 cu. in.; 1 lb. 4 oz. Blackdiamondequipment.com
For a first time backpacker or seasoned veteran, the Trail 70 offers great durability, fit, and features, without breaking the bank.
Top and bottom access to pack bag
Reinforced V-wing hip belt
Floating top pocket
Front stash pocket with map sleeve
Dual aluminum stays
Hydration compatible; dual water bottle pockets