At 55 liters, the Falcon is quick-trip compact, but easily accommodated a 50-pound load for a gourmet weekend in Klamath National Forest. It carried comfortably with that much weight because the beefy suspension—crossing twin aluminum stays and a molded-foam backpanel—transfers the load directly onto the thin, wide hipbelt, which effectively distributes pressure.
The top-loader has easy access and good organization, and a stretchy shovel pocket proved great for storing wet raingear. The long side-compression straps can wrap around the front of the pack to secure bulky items like snowshoes.
Basecamp bonus: The top lid converts to a lumbar pack. Nitpick: There’s only one (right-side) hydration port, and the side pockets are small for bottles. $179; 4 lbs. 12 oz.; one size (17- to 22-inch torsos); mountainsmith.com.