Bells and Whistles
If you like luxe features and don't mind carrying extra weight, consider this fully outfitted mountain pack. It has a comfortable, supportive, stay-reinforced backpanel; broad, memory-foam shoulder straps and hipbelt; and an easy, secure torso-length adjustment. (But testers noted you need to bend the aluminum X-stays for a custom fit.)
The packbag has a dizzying array of features, from stiffened mesh bottle holsters to a front pocket organizer and reinforced, quick-release compression straps, all with Velcro strap captures to prevent flapping in high wind. You also get a large shovel pocket, rubberized gear loops, built-in raincover, a small organizer pocket near the pack bottom, a three-compartment top lid with clear vinyl map flap, a fleece-lined MP3 pocket, and Velcro lash-on points for poles and tools. The usable capacity is much higher than the numbers suggest. The tradeoff: It's heavy. $249; 3,000 cu. in.; 5 lbs. 9 oz. Wengerna.com
Katahdin Ultralite Pack
The Katahdin receives excellent reviews from AT hikers, and has been to the top of Mt Everest. It offers innovative improvements for ultralite backpacking not found in other packs. The Katahdin's bottom cinch strap is aligned with the hip belt to provide "in-line" weight transfer to the hips. Three compression straps create a solid "tube-like" structure that replaces the need to use stays, minimizing the strain on the shoulders and helping to properly transfer weight to the hips. The compression straps are attached to the pocket wings in such a way as to add greater carrying capacity for the side compartments.
Constructed from 1.1oz silicone impregnated ripstop with 200 denier ripstop side panel. Hip belt and back panel are constructed from 1/2" open cell foam with a Cool-Max lamination for added comfort.
Top cinches together for easy access to main compartment
Two bottle carry pockets