Best Overall | Most Stable | Best Organization | Best for Winter | Bargain
“An awesomely simple design,” says Nyquist of the lightest pack in the test. The panel-loading packbag eschews multiple zippers, excess pockets, and internal dividers, but don’t be fooled by the stuff-it-and-go cleanliness: The Lite-Speed was also the most comfortable pack in the test. GoLite manages the feat by judiciously carving weight from places you won’t feel it (the packbag) and leaving key components intact where you will (the suspension, which has dual aluminum stays and a narrow plastic framesheet and easily carried 35 pounds).
Result: a pack that both ultralighters and traditional backpackers can love. The slim, body-contouring shoulder straps and hipbelt enhance mobility; with the pack fully loaded, Rochfort boot-skied down a snowfield in California’s Ansel Adams Wilderness. On the Colorado Trail, Dax carried six days’ worth of ultralight gear in the cavernous single compartment, and he raved about the expandable front shove-it pocket, which easily swallowed inevitable overflow. Other features: a top pocket for gloves and snacks, and two hipbelt and two water bottle pockets.
Tip: Look for closeout deals on the 2009 Lite-Speed this winter. The 2010 model ($150), available in February, will have the same internal suspension (with slightly more padding) and an updated packbag. GoLite says the low weight will not change.
> Capacity 3,000 cu. in.
> Weight 2 lbs. 10 oz. (men’s M)
> Sizes men’s M, L; women’s S, M
> Price $150