Mountain Hardwear Kanza 55
Man, these guys can make packs. I know there are several other companies that make just backpacks, but MH puts a simplicity into theirs that no other company can seem to figure out. I own several MH packs (fluid, dihedral, direttessima, trad) and I just picked this one up for a lightweight large volume backpacking pack. Took it for a short test drive and my first impressions are awesome. The key to a pack, in my opinion, is simplicity. I dont want a pack that requires tools to adjust, nor do I want a pack that has more moving parts than my car. The "alpine" suspension/harness is very comfortable and moves with your body without all the "pivot points" or "floating shoulder straps", basically, things that can break. The weight of the pack is transferred by one flat metal rod that goes the length of the pack vertically. On the upper half of the suspension, it has the "hard wave" plastic frame-sheet which is such a simple idea but works great at keeping the pack rigid (horizontally), but also flexing with your back (vertically). The waist belt holds comfy and tight, and is very soft and flexible (removable and replaceable). It is very effective at supporting transferred weight, without being full of techy crap. This pack hugs your back and feels like it becomes a part of you. Pockets; one lid, one big front, and two side stretch. To keep the overall weight of the pack low (3 lbs) the material is light (100D, 315D), and silicon impregnated (repels water awesome), which is sufficient for most alpine/backpacking outings, however probably wont hold up as good as say, 600D packcloth. If I was going on a weeklong bushwhack in the ADK's, I would probably consider a burlier pack. Nonetheless, the 100D Cordura fabric on other packs I own has been through some off trail adventures and is still going strong. The outside straps are lighter and thinner than most normal pack straps, but are still sufficient enough to handle most gear (also to keep weight low). The design of these straps is genius (as with other MH alpine packs). Side compression straps to shrink load or strap gear, and also front compression straps that tuck away into the front pocket when not in use (for a clean look). Bottom straps also can shrink load or strap gear, and tuck away. With all of the straps tucked in, the pack is very streamlined and simple, and with the straps deployed, you can fix a butt load of gear. Great pack, great design, great price. FYI I'm 5'10 and got the medium; great fit.