“It’s basically a no-frills workhorse,” our tester said of this 40-liter pack. This simple bucket carrier offers maximum durability at an airy weight. Using Polyvant VX21, a carbon composite fabric, the exterior of the Zen was burly enough to withstand being stomped on by crampons repeatedly in the name of testing. The backpanel is ergonomically formed with heat, so it’s comfortable even with heavy loads, without the need for a heavy-duty suspension system, thus reducing weight while maintaining a cushy carry. One tester did find that it seemed to hold snow while ski mountaineering in the Tetons and climbing alpine routes in Montana. The unpadded hipbelt, though not removable, barely weighs anything but adds support and “was actually useable when climbing, which is necessary for climbing with a pack this size.” Testers appreciated the bungee straps on the outside for carrying crampons or a helmet, and two ski-carry options make it great for climbers who spend winters skiing. Plus one: When not in use, the bungees tuck neatly away so as not to catch on trees and rock features.
If you’re looking for a light, tougher-than-nails pack for long days in the mountains, this pack holds its own, taking heavy abuse and still performing.
$200; 38 oz.; libertymountain.com
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