Think of the High Sierra Lightning 35 like a small, economical car with a monster roof rack for storage: A big, stretch-mesh pouch on the front and bungie lashing on the lid gave us a place to secure a sleeping pad and tarp (respectively) during a wet, two-day hike on California’s Lost Coast Trail. We like the detachable shoulder strap pocket (perfect for a smartphone or small camera), multiple daisy-chain attachment options, and spacious hipbelt pockets.
The wire perimeter frame and light, plastic framesheet attach to a stiff, padded hipbelt with a pivot joint, which kept 25-pound loads stable over tricky terrain. Tradeoff: The well-padded suspension let us carry big loads but makes the Lightning a bit heavy for the capacity.
It’s ideal for medium and short torsos (less than 19 inches). “Finally a pack that doesn’t bump the back of my head when I look up!” says a tester with a 15-inch torso.
$120; 3 lbs. 7 oz; 35 liters; highsierra.com