Finding gear in a pack this big can oft en be a dumpand-dig affair. But the Thunder—with its yawning top-loading mouth—is all about access. Two parallel 17-inch zippers (connected at the top by a Velcro swath) let you peel open the entire front of the pack, which came in handy on gear-intensive trips up Mt. Rainier and Mt. Shasta. The extendable lid has two zippered pouches, each big enough for a puffy or big lunch (or shed the lid to save 8 ounces). Two hipbelt pockets hold a phone or snacks.
The light-but-effective suspension system managed a 45-plus-pound load on a Mt. Rainier climb (our tester carried the whole load up and over the summit on the Kautz Route), thanks to a single vertical aluminum stay and a shoulder-spanning horizontal bar to support the plastic framesheet. Load lift ers attach the dense foam shoulder straps directly to the crossbar frame (rather than the top of the framesheet like most packs), allowing for excellent load balance. We found the dual-density foam hipbelt extremely comfortable: A soft er inner layer molds to the pelvis while the ﬁrm outer layer provides structure for stability and load distribution.
$289; 3 lbs. 8 oz; 70 liters; exped.com