Short Excursions

Oct 1, 2001
Outside Magazine

Marmot Muir l $250 l 4,500 c.i. l
Whether you're a backpacker, cross-country skier, or mountaineer, this might be the best long-weekend pack around. The Muir's frame—a large HDPE panel with two aluminum stays in a V—achieves a near-perfect balance of flexibility and load-carrying rigidity that works equally well whether you're scrambling down trails or up couloirs. Nicely curved shoulder straps and a dual-density hipbelt ally for comfort with a broad back panel (which, made from closed-cell foam, is a bit sweaty in hot weather, even with the air channels). Despite the fact that the Muir (below right) has separate sleeping-bag access and five exterior pockets to keep a three- or four-day load organized, it's narrow enough not to interfere with skiing. The frame stays remove in seconds for personalized rebending; however, the shoulder harness is not adjustable for torso length, so make sure you get the right size pack (the hipbelt can be moved up and down, but that's not the optimum way to compensate).

Osprey Crescent 75 l $390 l 4,500 c.i.
If other packs balance well enough for climbing, with the Crescent (below left) you could walk tightropes—while juggling. This fine-tuning is achieved through two radically curved exterior fiberglass rods, which cinch the load tight to your back and up and over your shoulders, seemingly without a millimeter of excess play. Combine that with a remarkably flexible twin-stay/framesheet combination, and this pack does just what you tell it to. There's room inside the 4,500-cubic-inch bag for four or five days' worth of stuff, yet it's narrow enough not to interfere while you're swinging an ice ax. On the trail, the 6-pound, 5-ounce Crescent is comfortable with loads up to about 40 pounds. Beyond that, the hipbelt gets increasingly uncomfortable because it lacks an adjustment for cant—it squeezes your hips more than it cradles them. Nice touch: The dual zippered pockets, each of which easily holds a one-pound bag of M&Ms, are reachable while walking. Another boon: It's handcrafted in Colorado.
Gregory Palisade l $285 l 4,700 c.i. l Put the Palisade (middle) next to a 20-year-old Gregory Shasta and you can hardly tell them apart visually. But don't assume that the company that revolutionized backpacking has gone retro. It's simply taken the parallel-stay frame, tall, narrow pack bag, and widely adjustable harness of their original design, and refined them with updated features and materials. The result is—still—one of the best-fitting packs in the world for all-around backpacking duty. The addition of a reinforcing HDPE framesheet joining the tops of the aluminum stays means the 7-pound, 3-ounce Palisade can easily control loads of 55 pounds or more while retaining most of its ancestor's flexibility. The shoulder harness adjusts automatically to fit the slope of your shoulders, relieving pressure points, and the grippy fabric on the lumbar pad (a direct carryover from the Shasta) locks the pack to the small of your back. Best of all is the Palisade's $290 price tag—an increase of just $60 in two decades.

More at Outside

Elsewhere on the Web