Packs designed specifically for women seem to top out at around 5,000 cubic inches of capacity. You could go to the NOLS site and purchase the Deuter/NOLS 110+10 Expedition Pack ($285; www.nols.edu), which is custom designed to meet the requirements of NOLS fieldwork, and at a very reasonable price. Its a monster, capable of swallowing more than 7,300 cubic inches of gear. They also carry a 90+10 version that holds 6,100 cubic inches and costs $250. The suspension is good but not great, meaning loads of more than 50 pounds are going to be a little uncomfortable. But itll definitely pack the freight.
For something a little more high-end, Gregorys Denali Pro ($459; www.gregorypacks.com) is just the ticket. Its a huge pack (6,450-cubic-inch capacity) with a superb suspension and rugged construction. Itll hold all the NOLS gear imaginable, with easy interior access and lots of tie-on points on the outside. And it will carry even heavy loads in decent comfort.
I also like the Cirrus Access FZ 7000 from Granite Gear ($420; www.granitegear.com). This is one of the biggest packs on the planet, with 7,000 cubes of capacity. Your niece wont need a tentshe can just climb into the pack. Granite Gear stuff also is extremely durable, and the Cirrus has a stiff carbon-fiber frame that really does a great job of transferring the load from the back to the hips for more comfort.
Lastly, Marmot (www.marmot.com) has taken over the venerable (and venerated) Dana Designs packs, given them a bit of an update, and put them on the market under the Marmot label. So you can get what is basically a Dana Astralplane (still called the Astralplane)another 7,000-cubic-inch monsterfor $399. The Astralplane can be custom-fitted by swapping out its hipbelt and shoulder straps, and it has a clean design that has remained largely unchanged for 20 years. I have a 15-year-old Terraplane, the Astralplanes slightly smaller sibling, and it remains my No. 1 big pack.
The votes are in: Check out the winners of Outside's 2006 Gear of the Year awards, including the year's hottest backpack.
Filed To: Extended-Trip Backpacks