Gear Reviews

A backpacker in the Ten Lakes Basin, Yosemite National Park.

The 10 Best Backpacking Packs of 2022

By Michael Lanza

Backpacks come in many sizes and designs for a reason: so do backpackers. Some of us need a pack for moderate loads, others for heavy loads, and still others for lightweight or ultralight backpacking. Some prefer a minimalist pack, others a range of features and access. Everyone wants the best possible fit and comfort, and almost everyone has a budget. But no matter which type of backpacker you are, this review covers the best packs in each of those categories.

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Backpackers in upper Titcomb Basin, Wind River Range, Wyoming.

The Best Ultralight Backpacks of 2022

By Michael Lanza

Do you need an ultralight backpack? Many backpackers might answer “no” when, for many reasons, their answer should logically be “yes.” These packs aren’t just for thru-hikers. Typically weighing roughly between under two pounds and three pounds empty, ultralight packs have support for carrying 25 to 35 pounds—making them ideal for more than just ultralight backpacking. For many backpackers, that represents the range of pack weight they either carry on most trips—or could carry on most trips, with smart packing and reasonably light gear.

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Gregory Baltoro 65 backpack.

Review: Gregory Baltoro 65 and Deva 60 Backpacks

Backpack
Gregory Baltoro 65 and Deva 60
$320, 65L/3,966 c.i., 4 lbs. 14 oz./2.2kg (men’s medium Baltoro)
Sizes: three adjustable men’s and women’s sizes
Baltoro 65: backcountry.com
Deva 60: backcountry.com

If you tend to fill up a backpack with lots of stuff (read: beaucoup weight) on your backpacking trips, trying to do that with a pack that’s inadequate to the task will strike you as a fool’s errand before you get far up the trail. In reality, very few packs handle heavy loads well. From the Teton Crest Trail to the Sawtooths, the men’s Gregory Baltoro 65 once again demonstrated that it belongs in that elite stable of backpacking packs.

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The Mountainsmith Zerk 40 ultralight backpack.

Review: Mountainsmith Zerk 40 Ultralight Backpack

Ultralight Backpack
Mountainsmith Zerk 40
$220, 40 liters/2,440 c.i., 1 lb. 13 oz./822g (including removable accessories)
One unisex size, fits torsos 16-19 inches
moosejaw.com

Within the rather exclusive category of ultralight backpacks weighing two pounds or less, one sees similarities, most commonly and conspicuously a frameless, roll-top design with large external pockets. The Mountainsmith Zerk 40 takes that template and juices it with some smart details and add-ons, tougher materials, and a touch of modularity while keeping it significantly under two pounds. That suited my needs quite well trekking hut to hut for six days on Iceland’s Laugavegur and Fimmvörðuháls trails—and I think much about the Zerk will also appeal to many ultralighters and thru-hikers.  

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Scarpa Rush Mid GTX boots.

Review: Scarpa Rush Mid GTX Boots

Hiking and Backpacking Boots
Scarpa Rush Mid GTX
$199, 2 lbs./907g (pair Euro men’s 42/US 9)
Sizes: men’s Euro 40-48/US 7.5-14, women’s Euro 36-42/US 4-9
moosejaw.com

Having backpacked numerous times through the Wind River Range on summer’s tail—and more than once been greeted with buckets of cold rain and wind for days or finding out that over a foot of snow fell the day after we got out—for my latest trip, I wanted to stick my feet in boots that can handle any unpleasant surprises. Still, I also didn’t want to feel like I was lifting a cement block with each step or like my feet spent each day in a hot yoga studio. Our five-day hike showed me the Scarpa Rush Mid GTX were a smart choice for what we encountered as well as what we might have encountered—and an all-around superior hiking boot.

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