Gear Guy

Q:

What's a comfortable, large-capacity backpack?

I'm a 40-year-old dad planning to be a mule for my young family of five (wife, two daughters, ten and 12 years old, and seven-year-old son). I'm looking for a large capacity (6,000-plus-cubic-inch) backpack. I'm currently looking at the Osprey Crescent 110, Dana Designs Terraplane, and Arc'Teryx Bora 95. I realize pack comfort will differ based on individual size and body shape. Of these three I mention, and possibly others I haven't, which carries the heaviest loads and provides the most comfort. Frank Hahn Chula Vista, California

A:Well, good for you. When you get to heaven, people will lug stuff around for you. Of course, why people would go to heaven and then be assigned to carry a heavy pack is a mystery to me, but that's a theological question for a different forum.

I can say this much with certainty: You will not go wrong with a Dana Terraplane, now available in a slightly trimmer version called the LTW for $439. Just a superb back, capable of handling 50- to 60-pound loads comfortably, heavier loads (God forbid) tolerably.

But then, the other packs you mention all are fine too. Both the Osprey Crescent 110 ($459) and Arc'Teryx Bora 95 ($395) carry big loads and have high-quality, easily adjustable suspensions. For sheer volume, the Crescent 110 is the winner, with 6,900 cubic inches of capacity versus a maximum for the Terraplane of 6,300 and about 6,200 for the Arc'Teryx. A lot would depend on how well the pack fits you -- have a shop load one with at least 30 pounds before you try it on -- and whether you find its arrangement of pockets and straps convenient.

I'll throw one more pack into the mix: Gregory's Denali Pro ($460). A big pack, with 6,450 cubic inches of capacity, and a suspension that matches anyone's. So you might give it a look, as well.

Other than that, my only advice is to do everything you can to trim pounds. Otherwise, man, you're gonna hurt yourself. And definitely invest in a good pair of trekking poles, such as REI's Traverse ($75). They'll help a lot with balance and shock distribution, and even improve your hiking efficiency. And once in camp, see to it that wife and kids take care of your every need. Foot rubs, back rubs, fresh-brewed coffee, the softest, flattest sleeping spot -- none of that is unreasonable for a guy like you.

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