[best weight-to-capacity ratio]
Easy: make a lightweight pack. Hard: make a lightweight pack that performs like a load monster. “I used the Contour on a hot, humid, six-day family backpacking trip in Oregon’s Eagle Cap Wilderness, carrying up to 45 pounds of gear, extra layers, and food,” reports our tester. “The more I packed, the better it carried.” The pack’s precise, effective compression resulted in “excellent stability,” according to another tester, who deemed it “supercomfortable” after five days on the Pacific Crest Trail with 65- to 70-pound loads. The secret is a lightweight, wishbone-shaped frame and hipbelt wings that pivot independently of one another to prevent the pack from shifting and throwing you off balance. That gives it big-load comfort and minimizes big-load sway.
“I noticed the added stability while humping rock-heavy loads up steep terrain,” adds our PCT hiker, who stuffed the Contour’s three main storage compartments with a three-person tent, old-school-heavy synthetic sleeping bag, inflatable down pad, and a five-day supply of food. Testers called the Contour (and its sister pack, the Cairn 68 for women) “great for the thru-hiker who wants to slip in some luxury items.” The front shove-it pouch holds a shell, and there’s a roomy zippered pocket behind it. Tip: The integral rain cover came in handy during a downpour, but if you leave it at home, the seam-sealed top lid has a waterproof, roll-top closure that turns the lid into a mini drybag. $299; 4 lbs. 4 oz.; 70 liters; 3 sizes each for men and women; gregorypacks.com