Which lightweight backpack will comfortably haul 20-something pounds?

I've introduced my three teenage boys to backpacking over the last few years and managed to get my backpack from 40-plus pounds to about 20 for four- to five-day summer ventures. What's a good lightweight backpack to haul 20 to 30 pounds? Steve Fishers, Indiana


That’s pretty darned good; you’ve cut your load basically in half. You could come out here and give me some pointers. But then, it’s probably too obvious what my problem is, when I insist on packing a coffee press and a half pound of Starbucks’ finest.

Gregory Z55 Backpack

Z55 Backpack

For the load you’re looking at, there are all sorts of good packs out there. One of the best is the Osprey Aether 60 ($219; The Aether has 3,700 cubic inches of capacity (in the medium), which should be just about right, and is light itself at just under four pounds. Yet it has a suspension that works great up to around 40 pounds or so, with a moldable hip belt and sophisticated design that puts the load where you want it, on hips or shoulders.

If you’re REALLY cutting the load, then Gregory’s Z55 ($189; might work well. Capacity is a bit less than the Aether—about 3,350 cubic inches (in the medium), enough for a multi-day trip, but perhaps on the tight side. It also has an excellent suspension and a design that combines top-load and side-access features. And its hip belt has little pockets for lip balm and the like, which is handy.

REI’s Cruise UL 60 (, meanwhile, is about the same size and weight as the Aether 60, has a suspension that works perfectly fine for those lighter loads, yet costs just $130—a real bargain.

Have a great summer!

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.

Filed To: Overnight packs
Lead Photo: courtesy, Gregory