The holy grail of backpacking is a suspension system that makes your pack carry as if you have nothing on at all. It's an admirable goal, and pack designers are making progress toward it. Black Diamond made solid inroads with its reACTIV and ergoACTIV suspension—shoulder straps that slide through the backpanel, freeing your shoulders. And manufacturers including Ergon have used lumbar swivel balls in the suspension to let a pack bag rotate more freely.
Bergans, the company that invented the frame pack, says its new suspension takes the no weight on your back challenge to the next level. Bergan's Glittertind pack provides not only freedom of movement but shock absorption with suspension that “follows the body's contradictory movements.”
Translation: When you walk, your hips and shoulders go up and down with each step. Shoulders move in the opposite direction of hips, which makes the back bend alternately to the right and to the left in time with each step. The shoulders and hips move up and down and they also move forward and back—a twisting of the torso that most backpacks restrict.
Bergan’s helix-shaped frame bends both ways, twisting and morphing with your body as you move. And it does it without compromising the stability of your load. The greater your movement, the greater the resistance of the spring frame. You can further brace the system by tightening the stabilizing cords on the shoulder straps and the hip belt.
The double helix-shaped spring steel frame is attached to the center of the pack's back panel. It lets the shoulders and hips move freely without compromising load support. But it also acts as a shock absorber. Will be made in both 3,000-cubic-inch and 3,950-cubic-inch volumes. Available spring 2013, $240-$250; bergans.com.
MILLET AXPEL: Millet's solution to easy striding—even with a baby elephant-sized load—is perfecting the pivot point. Other companies have tried this, but Millet rethought the positioning of the pivot, moving it up from the lumbar just behind the waistbelt to a point closer to mid-back. Millet is introducing its new pivoting system in its Axpel pack, which the company tested with a team of French alpine guides. The results: The guides reported a 20 percent or better increase in perceived comfort and efficiency compared to other pivoting packs and even older Millet designs.
The pivot is located on a raised pin closer to the center of mass of the pack. Additionally, Millet uses a cumberbund of material around the main carry compartment of the pack that's tied directly into the suspension for the easiest tuning of the load. Cinch the straps and it sucks the load into your back, reducing fatigue and strain. Will be made in both 42- and 48-liter models. Available spring 2013, $190-$220; millet.fr.