Testers loved this pack’s airy mesh-and-foam backpanel: It maintains a full three inches of space between the packbag and your torso for a sweat-free carry—even when they were grunting up sun-baked slopes. After a nine-mile uphill slog on Oregon’s Mt. Washington in 85°F temps, our tester’s back was dry.
The Ghost isn’t new, but this year’s upgrades add a vastly improved suspension to its tough-as-nails construction. A rigid plastic framesheet flexes toward the spine via an hourglass-shaped, spring-steel hoop that’s suspended at the top and bottom by a mesh- and foam-padded trampoline; the design helps with weight transfer and dynamic movement. The torso length easily adjusts from 17 to 21 inches with a Velcro wrap that testers loved for its one-handed simplicity.
Our testers carried the pack on nine weekend trips of up to 20 miles and consistently praised its load transfer with up to 30 pounds (credit the new ultracurved hipbelt). They also lauded its well-armored backpanel and spongy, mesh-covered lumbar and shoulder blade pads, which kept sharp items off their spines. In lieu of a spindrift collar and lid, a U-shaped zipper opens the entire front panel for easy stuffing and grabbing. Several zippered exterior pockets hold a shell, snacks, and other essentials. Downside: When the hydration sleeve is full, it creates a bottleneck midpack, limiting access to gear at the bottom. $180; 3 lbs. 15 oz.; 50 liters; mountainsmith.com