For technical cold-weather ascents, or long approaches to basecamp, you want a stripped-down, cavernous carrier with a suspension system that rivals a snowmobile’s. That’s the Mission. Its high-and-slim, alpine-style design easily kept 45 pounds close and stable as a tester scrambled up steep slopes and across tightrope-thin ridges in Great Sand Dunes National Park. Much of the Mission’s performance starts with what’s missing: There are no exterior or interior separators—no pockets or straps to hold a water bottle or wet jacket. Pretty much everything goes inside, except technical tools (ski poles, ice axes, crampons), which can hang from gear loops on a utility hipbelt that’d make Batman jealous.
The external ski-sling accommodates an A-frame carry, and a hidden strap secures a coil of climbing rope under the lid. Plus, the whole pack weighs less than most mountaineering boots. Drawbacks: For summer hikes, the design translates into frequent stops for hikers who use water bottles (it is hydration compatible, though). The nonadjustable neoprene backpanel gave summertime testers on the Appalachian Trail sweat-soaked backs, and the thinly padded hipbelt felt best over a few layers of clothing. $230; 3 lbs. 14 oz.; 75 liters
See all backpack reviews from the 2011 Gear Guide