Mountain Hardwear Kanza 55/Tadita 50
“I felt as nimble as a deer, despite hauling 30-plus pounds of gear up steep, rocky slopes,” reported one Oregon tester after a 10-mile ramble in the Steens range. The secret is the superior compression system: It sucks the weight into the pack frame, which then transfers it directly (and comfortably) to your best load-bearing anatomy (the hips).
Compression consists of the usual side and bottom straps, plus two more that pull in the middle of the pack to cinch the payload toward the large, sticky lumbar pad (smart: these extra straps can be threaded either over or under the external pocket). The full plastic framesheet has horizontal accordion ridges, so it flexes torsionally and vertically to conform to the shape of any spine in any position; a single stay creates the vertical rigidity needed for load transfer to the hips.
Compared to the other packs in the test, the Kanza did the best job of carrying big, awkward loads (heavy climbing gear and ropes) without throwing testers off balance or creating hot spots under the hipbelt or shoulder harness. The packbag has a middle-way approach to organization—a bungee lash on the top for a shell, a big zippered front pocket for lunch, a floating toplid with two pockets, and stretchy mesh side pouches for quick access to bottles. Bonus: Compression straps all tuck into concealed holes, allowing a clean profile and eliminating flapping in high winds.
Capacity 55 liters
Sizes 2 men’s (17-22.5 in.); 2 women’s (14-19 in.)
Weight 3 lbs. 2 oz.