Gear Guide 2012: Marmot Drakon 35 Backpack

Ultralight and climber-friendly, this pack can carry large amounts of gear while remaining light and stable.

[mountaineering lightweight]

“This is the biggest 35-liter pack ever,” raved a tester after lugging it with 40 pounds on a three-day Grand Traverse—an enchainment of the 10 highest peaks in Grand Teton National Park that involves technical climbing, a lot of scrambling, and thousands of feet of elevation gain and loss. Despite being filled with an unholy amount of gear, he says, the pack was very stable on the super-exposed, knife-blade arêtes.

What makes it different is the climbing-friendly shape—the packbag tapers like an upside-down pear, from slightly wider at the top to narrower near the hips. This gave our tester maximum arm freedom for reaching tough handholds, and it transfers weight directly onto the thin, low-profile foam hipbelt. The soft and flexible backpanel, with a removable framesheet stiffener, allows the pack to stick to your back like duct tape, handy when you’re balancing on dicey terrain 1,000 feet off the deck. Tradeoff: The clingy, climber-friendly fit means minimal ventilation. $149; 2 lbs. 9 oz.; 35 liters;