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Visible technology may be the buzz at most design shops, but on trip after trip, this pack scored top marks because of what you can’t see: two hinges hidden behind the lumbar pad. Each side of the hipbelt swivels independently, allowing it to conform perfectly to your body shape…

LIGHT AND VERSATILE Consider the Talon an experiment in reduction: Every detail has been whittled down to bare essentials, making it a great warm-weather ultralight. But it's no one-trick pony. Thanks to a stiff aluminum/composite suspension, smart external lashing options, and a large stretch-woven shove-it pocket, one tester was able…

During blizzard conditions on a 40-mile backcountry ski race, this 800-fill-down, highly water-resistant shell kept our tester’s core “warm without the bulk of a traditional Michelin Man coat.” Also available in a hooded version called the Catalyst for $20 more. 1 lb; thenorthface.com…

Your perfect weekend: packing a frying pan, camp chair, fishing gear, and 12-pack and marching 12 miles to a secret trout pond. Your perfect pack: the Catalyst. It features a dynamic suspension with a wide, firmly padded hipbelt linked directly to a pivot point in the middle of the…

BEST FOR HOT WEATHER Beat sweaty-back syndrome with the Z 55's ventilated suspension. The frame's concave shape creates a pocket of cooling air between your back and the pack. Most impressive: There's zero drop-off in load support. The perforated framesheet efficiently transfers weight to a perfectly sculpted hipbelt, and a…

On a spring heli-ski trip in British Columbia, this synthetic-filled jacket provided a near-perfect balance of warmth, protection, and breathability. Credit the Windstopper shell, long pit zips, and removable hood. 1.9 lbs; mountainhardwear.com…

Innovation usually comes in fits and starts: a zipper here, a strap there. But Arc’teryx dispenses with the nickel-and-dime approach with this revolutionary pack. Any other year its every detail—from welded seams to dynamic suspension—would have been noteworthy. In this case the sum is much, much greater than the…

OVERACHIEVER This streamlined pack performed above its weight class on every trip, thanks to durable polyurethane-coated nylon throughout and a suspension—framesheet and aluminum stay—that can handle a heavy load. One tester took a larger version (called the Quest, 4,250 cu in, $175) on a weeklong trek in Wyoming's Wind River…

Weight saver: Don't be fooled by this stove's tiny dimensions. It cranks out big heat, adjusts down to a simmer, and has four serrated pot supports that are surprisingly stable for the size. A hingelike joint enables the Flex to fold flat and pack away like a deck of cards.

The fuel miser: It's freezing and the wind's howling—a perfect time to fire up the Reactor, which has a completely enclosed, windproof burner. The integrated pot/burner system puts the Reactor in a class by itself: It's compact, incredibly fuel-efficient, and boils a liter of water in a fast three minutes.

AN ELEGANT BRUISER Imagine the offspring of a Ferrari Testarossa and a Toyota Land Cruiser: precise handling, hard-duty construction. That's the essence of the Alpine Pack 50. It's a no-nonsense, climber-oriented pack with zero bells and whistles to create weak points. The 420-denier nylon—reinforced with 1,000-denier fabric on the bottom—should…

We may buy a small pack with the aim of paring down, but the Massif’s designers know us better than we know ourselves—we’ll still cram it full. And thus they have installed the best load-carrying system we’ve seen in a lightweight pack. Mammut’s aluminum Butterfly frame delivers rigid vertical…

Deluxe two-burner: Are you a stealth car camper? Hide this stove in the trunk. The clamshell design is much more compact than traditional two-burner units yet unfolds into a sturdy, propane-burning stove that rivals your dad's old Coleman for performance. 4.5 lbs; coleman.com      …

CLASSIC WEEKENDER If today's stripped-down packs are a little too austere for your tastes, but full-featured packs are too heavy, you'll find the Ridgeline just right. It's light enough for weekend duty but doesn't require a minimalist approach to packing. Go ahead and throw the espresso maker and extra vino…

If your ultralight pack gets kicked around like a stray dog, buy this Rottweiler. The tough-skinned Endeavor Summit is made with VX07 sailcloth, which is incredibly abrasion- and tear-resistant for the weight. (For the price, the bottom should be similarly reinforced.) The stiff single-stay-and-framesheet suspension is mated to low-bulk…

Ultimate versatility: The Stella+ is light enough for long-distance trips and stable enough for a big group (it'll hold a four-liter pot), plus the remote-canister design allows you to use it with an Outback Oven. Smart: The automatic-ignition switch is located far from the burner, where fingers won't get singed.

POCKETS GALORE Are you forever looking for ways to stash small items, like camera, snacks, GPS, sunscreen, first-aid kit, and more? The Nimble, with no fewer than seven pockets and three storage compartments, is your pack. “It's more organized than my kitchen!” said one tester. Even better, the Nimble still…

Aigle Shems – Midweight Jackets: Reviews   With a soft fleece interior and warm, durable merino wool/nylon exterior, this jacket combines our favorite fabrics in one versatile top. 1.9 lbs; aigleusa.com         Patagonia Pau – Footwear: Reviews (Terry Heffernan) The coolest mocs we’ve ever laid eyes…

1. Comfort: Go ahead, try and overload it. On treks in New Mexico's Pecos Wilderness and even ski touring in the Tetons, testers were unanimous: The Meridian carries like a champ. Credit the firm yet flexy composite frame-sheet that moves with your body, dual-density foam in the hipbelt that cushions…

A quick-connect hose makes these reservoirs easy to refill (you can remove the reservoir without rethreading the hose and bite valve through the pack's hydration port). 48–100 ounces; nalgene-outdoor.com      …

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