Gear Guide 2012: Sierra Designs Discovery 30 Backpack

Keep air circulating with this highly ventilated daypack.

[best ventilation]

The trails around Lake Tahoe are hot in the summer, but the highly ventilated framesheet and backpanel on the Discovery kept air circulating, even in triple-digit temps. We didn’t think it possible that a perforated framesheet could out-ventilate a trampoline-style back, but our testers discovered otherwise.

One tester hauled the Discovery over more than 80 miles of trail and up and down the crags at Lover’s Leap and Pie Shop. “I filled it with a full rack of climbing gear (35 pounds), which it handled comfortably and with no perspiration buildup. Later, I packed three gallons of water (for two dogs) plus food, a small bivy sack, and clothing for an ultralight overnight—and despite the hot day, I didn’t get a sweaty back.”

The ventilation comes from the supersized molded-foam fingers that wrap around the framesheet and force air into the small cavities. Also credit the removable molded hipbelt that slips under a raised lumbar support with ventilation grooves to boost airflow (and allow for a smooth, fitted wrap with superb load distribution). The molded plastic framesheet (with oval-shaped cutouts for even more venting) is flexible and light.

Our testers gave the pack bonus points for the lightly padded shoulder straps that can be easily adjusted for an extra inch of torso length. A single vertical DAC aluminum stay helps the pack bear weight vertically while still twisting and flexing in concert with your spine. Inside the roomy packbag is a single zip pouch for keys and phone. The outside features a stowaway rain cover, a stretch-mesh shove-it pouch*, and secure water bottle pockets that unfortunately aren’t accessible when you’re wearing the pack. $170; 2 lbs. 12 oz.; 30 liters;