HOW WE TESTED
Outdoor brands release dozens of new packs each year. Of these, few are technical enough for real wilderness backpacking and fewer still for heavy, expedition-style trips. This year, we looked at about two dozen contenders on the market, then whittled them down to meet our guidelines: Each one had to have a frame, hipbelt, and suspension capable of supporting multiday loads of at least 40 pounds. We also looked for durable fabrics that could take the strain of a long trip, and prioritized thoughtful features and layouts designed to keep adventurers organized on the go. We then deployed 20 different testers, from Arizona to Alaska, who started taking notes. For some, those reports detailed blistered hip bones and achy shoulders, busted zippers and major tears— all of which disqualified packs early on. Others discovered the bliss of a pack that finally fi t, and the joys of a suspension hearty enough to handle their dream trips. Of those, we picked our top six performers reviewed here.