Deuter ACT Zero 50+15/ACT Zero 45+15 SL
$185, 50 L/3,050 c.i., 3 lbs. 4 oz.
One size, adjustable to fit torsos 15 to 21 inches
With advances in gear making everything lighter and less bulky, the 3,000-cubic-inch (50-liter) backpack occupies a broad niche, serving trips from weekenders to five days or more for ounce-counters, and hitting the sweet spot for thru-hikers. I think the best packs in this category are light without compromising load support and comfort, in part because they’re not over-engineered with gewgaws you don’t need. That’s exactly why I like the new ACT Zero 50+15.
I recently hiked 57 miles over four days through Idaho’s Sawtooth Wilderness with a max of almost 30 pounds in this pack. On days as long as 18 miles, the pack remained comfortable from start to finish. In fact, it felt great the first time I buckled its nicely contoured hipbelt, which blends softer and firmer foams with a mesh lining to achieve an ideal balance of cushion and support. Deuter’s mesh padding in the back and shoulder straps, and air channels between the back pads, really deliver a cooling effect. An internal frame of X-shaped stays allowed the load to move with my torso and kept most of the weight on my hips.
Besides using light yet durable materials, the pack achieves its low weight through simplicity. It has deep mesh side pockets and a capacious front stuff-it pocket, a lid pocket, and one hipbelt pocket—and other than external attachments for an ice axe and trekking poles, that’s basically it. The lid is removable and the spindrift collar has quick-clips that mate with the front straps, for when you’re really concerned about dialing down grams. And the price is nice. The women’s version, the ACT Zero 45+15 SL, is $169, 2,750 cubic inches (45 liters), weights 3 lbs. 2 oz., and fits torsos 14 to 19 inches.