Big-Load Comfort Need room? This cavernous top-loader gulps gear. The suspension handled winter mountain loads with ease, and the perimeter rod/center stay-reinforced framesheet didn't start wimping until well north of 55 pounds. Padding is firm but thick on the stable shoulder harness and ultra-supportive hipbelt. Testers found they could customize the belt by shifting the outer stiffened layer against the inner padding–nice for maximizing hip freedom. The packbag has huge, accessible holster pockets, a roll-top extension that seals against the elements and opens easily, and a detachable front pocket/summit pack.
You can fill the hydration bladder with the pack loaded, thanks to a separate zipper sleeve. Steel-buckled side and top compression straps handle bulky pads and poles easily, and compress the packbag down to overnight size. By stripping the daypack/top lid (and using the roll-top closure), you can drop the weight on this spacious hauler down to four pounds. $295; 4,600 cu. in.; 6 lbs. 5oz. Mountainhardware.com
Advanced FitLock Hipbelt and SoftEdge Shoulder Straps. Aluminum stay behind lumbar area gives hip compressor straps an active anchor point and effectively traps framesheet, improving load transfer. Reduce pack weight by approximately one pound by removing lid and daypack. Signature fold top closure seals main body of the pack allowing it to be used effectively without the top lid.
For backpackers with bulky gear, backpackers covering a lot of ground without resupply, backpackers carrying extra gear for their family/others, 4-season backpackers, and/or backpackers who appreciate the extra comfort, support, padding, and adjustability that comes from a slightly heavier pack.