This two-pound pack wowed testers with a suspension that easily carried 40 pounds. And the Exos proved very stable on an epic Cascades thrash with 30 pounds of camping and climbing gear. Then the same (unisex) pack kept a female tester's shoulders comfy when she scaled Sierra fourteeners with similar loads. Another tester found it "unbelievably stable for such a light pack, with a springy feel to the harness and belt." Credit the exceptional stability to the taut mesh trampoline back, which is suspended from a tubular aluminum frame, augmented by horizontal cross braces.
Despite the light weight, there are plenty of smart features, including giant side and hipbelt pockets, a huge shovel pocket, and a handy shoulder mount for holding trekking poles (lets you deal with snacks, scrambles, or glove changes without stopping or dropping your sticks). A stretchy shoulder strap pocket holds gel packets or a cell phone. Tradeoffs: Be gentle with the lightweight buckles, and don't expect bushwhack durability. Bummer: The shoulder strap adjustment requires periodic re-tightening. $219; 3,500 cu. in.; 2 lbs. 3 oz. Ospreypacks.com
Active light pursuits
The Talon series offers new colors for 2009.
Osprey has teamed up with MountainFund.org to create the Pass on the Passion program. You can send your used Osprey Pack to the Mountain Fund to be sent to people/programs around the world in need of them.