This pack amazed testers with its super-stable carry and 100-percent load transfer. The trick? A rigid polycarbonate external framesheet and a hipbelt that pivots off an A-frame bolted to the bombproof backpanel. The shoulder harness yoke attaches to that same backpanel with a torso adjustment rail that makes fitting a snap and totally kills harness sway. The pivoting hipbelt made for excellent freedom of motion and leg flexibility when testers climbed Class II-III gullies on the east face of Flattop Mountain in Rocky Mountain National Park.
In contrast to the sophisticated suspension, the packbag is simple, just a single-compartment top-loader with a vertical front-access zipper. The two-compartment top lid raises, lowers, and detaches with a ski-boot style ratchet system that works great for cinching down oversized loads. Other than that, there are no hipbelt pouches, wand pockets, hydration ports, or other frills.
The torso length adjusts super short, but lack of head clearance against the frame makes this unisex pack best for hikers with torsos longer than 18 inches. $300; 4,270 cu. in.; 5 lbs. 5 oz. Vaude.com
Welded Seams, Twist2Fit system. This system has a dial on the waistbelt that allows the wearer to adjust the waistbelt while wearing. Eliminates the need for mens/women's versions.