Gear Shed

Q:

Can you recommend a reasonably priced, mid-sized backpack?

Can you recommend a mid-sized backpack? I have been looking at the new Arc'Teryx Bora 65, which is nice but really expensive! Is there a comparable backpack for less? Petter Boulder, Colorado

Granite Gear Nimbus Ozone     Photo: courtesy, REI

Granite Gear Nimbus Ozone

A:The Bora 65 costs so much ($350; www.arcteryx.com) because it's so darned good. Not a big pack—the medium size holds 66 liters, or about 4,000 cubic inches—but its suspension is such that you could fill it with lead shot and, assuming you can pick it up, still find a way to accommodate the load. It's a dream to pack, with a full side zip, sleeping bag compartment, and lots of places to tie stuff on. It's a rugged pack, too, with a double-layered bottom to resist abrasion.

That said, the Bora also falls in the sweet spot of pack sizing these days, so there is plenty of competition. One of the best is Gregory's Reality ($229; www.gregorypacks.com), which can handle 4,350 cubic inches in the medium size. I've had a Reality for several years, and it's still a great pack even though the newer models are much improved. It'll handle loads between 35 to 45 pounds nicely, packs well, and is plenty durable.

Another option to consider in this category is Granite Gear's Nimbus Ozone ($195; www.granitegear.com). It's about the same size as the Bora, and while it weighs a wispy three pounds, its suspension will manage 40-pound loads. Granite Gear stuff is always aptly named—in other words, it's very tough. Finally, you should also check out Mountainsmith's Auspex (www.mountainsmith.com), an enormously popular pack since it was introduced in 2001. The Auspex's 2004 incarnation sells for $230; it carries well, is pretty tough, and is easy to pack with 4,000 cubic inches of capacity (in its long-torso configuration).

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