REI Talus 50, $125
This pack nearly led to civil war. Some loved the full-length side zipper that gave them ready access to buried gear without having to unbuckle, unfasten, and unload. Others saw this as a blow-out waiting to happen. The “pro Talus” camp rallied behind the removable contoured frame sheet with an integrated yet adjustable Y-shaped stay that gives good support and — along with the molded-foam back panel and nicely padded shoulder straps and hipbelt — a very comfortable fit. The skeptics countered by pointing out the shortcomings of the tool and
attachment scheme; tools attach by threading adjustable loops, and are then diapered under two flaps that buckle together over the crampons — you can’t just remove one tool. “But there’s an ingenious system for turtling away all the pack straps when hauling, plus a sleeve for a hydration system,” suggested the boosters. “You’ll need it after hauling this heavy sack, not to mention fighting for gear racked on loops mounted way back on the sides,” cried the minimalists. In the end, we did find one thing we could all agree on: For the price (not even including any Co-op dividend), this pack is a bargain.
Internal frame. Full-length side zipper was useful. Hydration sleeve. A good value.
Heavy. No removable foam pad. Tool and crampon attachment system is overly complex.