Photo Credit: Caveman Collective
Not that anyone wants to carry 80 pounds. But if you must, do it with this pack. The Sphinx (Mystic is the women’s model) uses a suspension that’s both stiff for support and flexible for comfort. Two vertical stays are made of fiberglass, which flexes better than aluminum. They’re stabilized by a horizontal carbon-fiber crossbar, which maintains tension so the frame only flexes about 15 to 20 degrees—in sync with how your body moves. “The pack snugged to my lumbar and hips and transferred weight so well that it made a 60-pound load feel like a weekend pack,” says one editor. Great fit is also key, thanks to multiple harness sizes, a shaped hipbelt that spreads the load comfortably, and a Velcro flap that lets you fine-tune torso length.
Durability is also top-notch, which should be no surprise, given this pack’s roots. Mystery Ranch was founded by Dana Gleason, who earned a reputation for building last-forever packs at his previous company, Dana Designs. Turns out it’s in the blood: Gleason’s son, Dana III, designed the Sphinx with a 210-denier nylon fabric that’s used by the military. “It even withstood crampon abuse,” said one tester after a weeklong climbing trip in Montana’s Beartooth Mountains.
The pack also scored top marks for organization. Two vertical “torpedo” pockets provide easy access to essentials, and a long center zip lets you splay open the top-loader.