Arc’teryx Altra 65
$475, 5 lbs. (men’s regular)
Sizes: men’s and women’s regular and tall
Most packs have one or two strengths or features that stand out; I find few that actually deliver everything I want in a pack intended purely for backpacking. Then along comes the Altra 65. I carried it loaded with up to 40 pounds on a three-day backpacking trip with my nine-year-old daughter in Idaho’s Smoky Mountains, and with up to about 35 pounds on a weeklong family hut trek in Norway’s Jotunheimen National Park, and judged it just about perfect, from fit and comfort to organization and durability.
Comfort originates in a slightly flexible framesheet with 6005-T6 extruded aluminum stays that provide plenty of rigidity to support loads up to around 50 pounds. Plus, the molded hipbelt is mounted on a pivoting disc to rotate with your hips as you walk, keeping the pack from shifting side to side (which is fatiguing and can give you sore hips). High-density polyethylene foam in the back padding and hipbelt delivers a nice balance of support and cushion, and the hipbelt is wide and curved to stay in place in your hips, not slipping even on long trail days with a heavy load. Plus, the top attachment point for each shoulder strap can be micro-adjusted to nine different positions to create a precise fit.
I like the organization a lot, including the huge, U-shaped front zipper accessing the entire main compartment; a deep front pocket big enough to fit a rainfly and jacket; the two lid pockets that have much more capacity than found in many large packs; and zippered side pockets large enough for a liter bottle (and that you can reach into while wearing the pack). The lid pocket is extendable and removable. Okay, I have one nitpick: The spacer mesh hipbelt pockets are big enough for a couple of bars and a small map, but not a spacious as found on other large-volume packs.
All in all, you get your money’s worth in a really dialed fit; incredible detailing (example: the lid slides on and off the pack as smoothly as a sock sliding over your foot); durable construction (210D nylon ripstop throughout the pack bag means no delicate external features that will tear); plus a clean design that’s not over-engineered, yet has all the backpacking features you’d want—or I want, anyway.
There’s also a men’s Altra 50, Altra 75 and Altra 85. The women’s version is the Altra 48 and Altra 62.
BUY IT NOW You can support my work on this blog by clicking this link to buy an Arc’teryx Altra backpack at backcountry.com.
NOTE: I’ve been testing gear for Backpacker Magazine for 20 years. At The Big Outside, I review only what I consider the best outdoor gear and apparel. See all of my reviews by clicking on the Gear Reviews category at left or in the main menu. See more reviews of backpacking gear I like by clicking on the “backpacking gear reviews” tag in the tag cloud in the left sidebar. For reviews of other backpacks I like, click on “backpack reviews” in the tag cloud in the left sidebar.