Q:

What backpack's best for lightweight trekking?

For the last five years, I've been lugging around a seven-pound Dana Design Stillwater pack. But recently, I've seen the "light" and have gone lightweight. Can you recommend a solid, 4,000-cubic-inch pack that weighs less than four pounds? I was looking at the Osprey Aether 60 and the Mountainsmith Auspex, but which would you recommend? Thanks for always being the "go to" guy when it comes to gear. Jake Irvine, California

Sep 30, 2003
Outside
Outside Magazine
A: I will get on my soapbox for just a minute and say something that I think most people miss: Pack weight is not as important as the weight of stuff like your tent, stoves, and clothes. That's because, in some cases, a heavier pack will feel lighter than a pack that is, well, lighter. Why? Because a heavier pack usually also has a better suspension. If the load's not sagging around your torso, you'll feel better and breathe better, and the load won't get you down.

That said, I'm with you—I'm working hard these days to pare weight. Part of that effort has been to acquire an Osprey Aether 60 ($199), which carries 3,700 cubic inches in the medium size and weighs three pounds, six ounces. My conclusion: It's fabulous. Carries well, holds more than the size would indicate, and is very cleanly designed. The suspension in particular is first-rate. I wasn't entirely dazzled by the construction, and had to have a mesh bottle pocket repaired straightaway when it blew out. Also had Rainy Pass Repair replace the fixed pad loops with plastic buckle-style loops (for ease of attaching and detaching stuff). Otherwise, I love it. Carries 30 to 35 pounds effortlessly, and is ideal for three- to four-night trips.

Mountainsmith's Auspex ($250; www.mountainsmith.com) carries a bit more and weighs about the same. I haven't used it myself, but I know it's highly regarded. So nothing wrong with that choice, either. The best solution is to find a store that carries both, try them on, and see what you think.

Good luck!

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