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Vaude Expedition Rock 50, $98
Germany-based Vaude has recently returned to the U.S. market, and if this pack and its two-figure price tag are any indication, it’s going to give the home crowd a run for the money. The Expedition Rock pack is only available in one size, but the “Flash Adjusting” shoulder straps can be set for five different body types (XS, S, M, L, and XL). One area of concern: The shoulder pads are sheathed in a very thin material that can generate hot spots. The hipbelt is large and heavily padded, and can also be detached for climbing. The internal frame is as minimalist as they come, consisting of a single, thin aluminum stay, but even with the stay removed the nicely padded suspension is quite comfortable carrying an alpine load. One caveat about the padding: The mesh surface picks up snow and holds it like a moisture magnet. The pack bag itself is clean, very durable, and with good, basic features like a built-in hydration-bladder pouch and big, glove-friendly buckles. It seems, however, that almost no manufacturer can fight the urge to stray from the tried and true — and in this case it’s tool tubes. Instead of securing the end with a simple buckle, Vaude has incorporated a sort of triangular pick pouch (that still requires a buckle!). As a result, this was the only pack that gave us real trouble mounting curved-shaft tools.
are designed to nestle between the tool tubes, but we’d have felt a lot more confident with straps rather than thin bungee. Nevertheless, this is a solid B-grade alpine pack with an A+ price.
Internal stay. Clean design. Adjustable shoulder straps. Removable hipbelt. Hydration pouch. Amazing price.
Mesh padding traps snow. Tool attachment may be problematic with some curved shafts. Crampon attachment is thin bungee cord. No removable bivy pad.