Fall/Winter Gear Guide 2011: Sierra Designs Sorcery 55 Backpack

A super comfortable pack that makes 40 pounds feel nonexistent.

Making a 40-pound load feel comfortable is no easy feat, but making it forgettable? “I didn’t think to take this pack off during a three-hour hike with a 1,500-foot climb—I never felt like I needed a rest from the load,” says our tester, who hauled it through Colorado’s Indian Peaks Wilderness.

The comfort comes from both inside and outside the suspension. Outside, a pronounced lumbar pad sticks to the small of the back and keeps the load from sagging. Inside, a molded framesheet is backed by two DAC aluminum stays—one vertical and one horizontal—and the resulting T-shape is uncommonly supportive. “It’s almost like an orthopedic back brace,” our tester says. “Even with a full load, it delivers stability for hiking and skiing.” And an impressive array of snow- and climbing-specific features makes the Sorcery ideal for short mountaineering and longer hut trips.

The removable foam bivy pad pulls out easily (even with the pack loaded) for on-snow snack breaks, ski loops secure boards for A-frame carry, and indestructible wire zipper pulls on the lid make for easy access when you’re wearing gloves. A fleece-lined optics pocket safely stows goggles, and an exterior crampon pocket secures points. The rugged materials (such as 630- and 840-denier nylon) suffered no damage after encounters with ski edges and climbing tools.

Downsides: The shoulder straps are so wide and stiff, they require a break-in period to become comfortable; the external lashing options are limited (the side straps are too short to hold a bulky winter sleeping pad); and it’s nearly impossible to squeeze a one-liter bottle into the side pockets.


4 lbs. 11 oz. (size M/L)

55 liters