BEST FOR: Alpine scrambling.
THE TEST: Pivoting hipbelts have become the norm, but the Axpel brings that pivot up out of the belt and further up the back. The design enables torso-hugging stability when you’re executing athletic moves on technical or uneven terrain. The French climbing guides who tested it for Millet found it 20 percent more comfortable than packs with traditional rotating hipbelts; our data wasn’t as precise, but it was overwhelmingly positive. “Feels extremely nimble,” said one tester, “even when just cruising down the trail.” We also liked the cooling mesh windows in the hipbelt and the removable aluminum stays (we took them out often for smaller loads).
THE VERDICT: The most dynamic pack here. 3.4 lbs.
HAULING COMFORT: 5