Day-bagging or overnight-bagging? If its the former, then a pack with less than 2,500 cubic inches of capacity will do nicely. Osprey is turning out great packs these days, and the companys 2000-cubic inch Talon 33 ($129; ospreypacks.com) would fit the bill. Its designed so that gear is easy to organize, and it has an excellent suspension that contours to your body. It can manage 30 pounds pretty easily. REIs new Jet UL ($55; rei.com) is a super-light (one pound, six ounces) pack with 1,830 cubic inches of capacity. Not a big-load pack, but it has a clean, simple design and plenty of places for attaching crampons, an ice axe, and other climbing accoutrements. The beauty of the Jet is that its so light and flexible that it can be rolled up and stashed into a bigger pack. I long ago gave up the notion of hauling a day pack on overnight trips or climbs, but the Jet makes that a reasonable proposition.
If overnight, then 3,000 cubic inches or more is probably what you need. Gregorys Z55 ($189; gregorypacks.com) offers 3,350 cubic inches in size medium and is widely acclaimed as one of the best light weekend packs out there. The comfortable, hefty suspension will manage 35 pounds fairly easily, just enough room for what you need without creating the temptation to stuff a lot into the pack. Arcteryxs very spiffy Bora 50 ($245; arcteryx.com) is just a touch smaller but still has weekend capacity. And it has a very tech-y carbon-stay suspension, big outside pockets, and watertight zippers (the pack itself is water-resistant, but not waterproof). If youre on a budget, then Keltys Morain ($130; kelty.com) offers good quality and 3,300 cubic inches of capacity at a very good price.
Packs are like shoesfit really does matter. So take the time to try on several packs with simulated loads and get a sense of how they feel. You want good contact over your shoulder with the straps (no gaps), the hip belt to hit you right atop the hips, and an adjustment system that offers options but isnt so complex that you need a degree in physics to figure it out.
The Gear Guy reports from 2007 Winter Outdoor Retailer, the bi-annual gearapalooza in Salt Lake City. Check out his top picks for gear to watch in 2007.