Stability and comfort are two key requirements for a pack designed to carry heavy loads for several days.
Usually between 50 and 80-litres, multi-day packs will have a single or double compartment, with the lower compartment used to hold a sleeping bag. Numerous pockets provide ample gear storage.
Most harnesses are adjustable to suit the user’s back length. Fixed harnesses usually come in several sizes to ensure a good fit. All harnesses are designed to keep the load stable, directed to your hips and allow freedom of movement. A suspended mesh or ventilated foam back panel promotes airflow while supporting the back muscles.
The padded hipbelt will sit just above the hips so that around 80 per cent of the pack’s weight is supported by the hip bones. The belt pivots to move with the body, ensuring a natural gait and aiding stability over uneven ground.
From the top is standard, but it’s also common to have zippered access where the pack can be opened at the front, making it easier to find items.
Straps, gear loops, stash pockets and daisy chains allow tents, walking poles, ice tools and other equipment to be carried outside the pack for easy access.
Detachable day pack and top lid
A detachable day pack and lid add to a pack’s overall capacity and allow the user to fine-tune their pack weight – leave it at home if you won’t be needing it, or carry it and use the daypack or lid on short side trips.
Nylon is light and protects well against the elements. Canvas is heavy but tough and long-lasting. More durable nylons or canvas fabrics are used in high-wear areas like the pack’s base.
Packs are water-resistant, not waterproof, so it always pays to use a pack liner to ensure your gear stays dry in even the worst conditions. Some packs come with a rain cover, which is useful but can be blown off in severe weather.
How is pack capacity measured?
There is no industry-wide standard for measuring capacity, and techniques include packing bags with beans or balls. This means two packs of the same advertised capacity may have different actual capacities, and consumers should try before they buy to see how packs compare.
Many packs come in women-specific options. These have smaller harnesses and shorter hipbelts. Shoulder straps will be narrower and contoured differently to a standard pack.
Cactus Outdoor Foray $749
Fixed length harness with 3D-shaped framesheet for customisable fit, large removable lid doubles as a pillow or day pack, single compartment, large compression panel, twin ice axe/walking pole and crampon holders. Made in NZ. Fabric C-Canvas with C-1000D base Capacity 75-litre Weight 2995g. www.cactusoutdoor.co.nz
The North Face Griffin 75 $600
Dyno Carry System allows back panel adjustment on the go, self-equalising adjustable load lifters, swivelling hipbelt, detachable summit pack, front mesh stash pocket, detachable lid, wraparound front zip access, hydration sleeve, FlashDry back panel, stretch side pockets, two tool keepers. Fabric 210D nylon, 420D nylon base. Capacity 75-litres Weight 2296g. www.thenorthface.co.nz
Macpac Cascade AzTec Pack V2 from $549.99
Adjustable Liberator harness, large main compartment with base divider, two lid pockets, zippered front pocket, dual walking pole/ice axe attachments, side pockets, compression straps, hydration compatible, optional bungee attachment. Fabric Eco AzTec canvas, 500D Cordura nylon base Capacity 65-, 75-litre Weight 2250g, 2650g. www.macpac.co.nz
Lowe Alpine Manaslu $499.95
VT Plus carry system with ergonomic wrap-around harness and hipbelt, TipGripper walking pole attachment, HeadLocker axe attachment, front zippered access, rain cover, side mesh and front stash pockets, daisy chain lash points, hydration compatible. Fabric 210 Micro Rip, 500D nylon base Capacity 55+15-, 65+15- (m), 60+15-, 50+15-litre (w) Weight 2350g (m), 2160g (w). www.outfitters.net.nz
Lowe Alpine Cerro Torre $599.95
VT Flex carry system with ergonomic wrap-around harness, adjustable back length, stabilising load transfer bar, removable lid converts to daypack, TipGripper walking pole attachment, HeadLocker axe attachment, zippered front and lower entry, side and front stash pockets. Fabric 201D ripstop, 500D Kodra nylon base Capacity 80+20-, 65+20-litre, 60+20-litre (w) Weight 2880g (m), 2800g (w). www.outfitters.net.nz
The North Face Terra $400
Dyno Lift System with self-equalizing adjustable load lifters, OPTIFIT suspension system, foam and breathable mesh back panel, front stash pocket, removable floating lid, wraparound front zip access, hydration compatible. Fabric 210D nylon, 600D polyester base. Capacity 55-, 65-litre (m/w) Weight 1644g (m), 1616g (w). www.thenorthface.co.nz
Osprey Aether AG / Ariel AG from $399.99
Ventilated Anti-Gravity harness, customisable fit, zippered sleeping bag compartment, side-zip entry, front stretch mesh pocket, integrated FlapJacket for lidless use, suspended mesh back panel, removable lid converts to daypack, stow-on-the-go hiking pole attachment, dual ice tool loops, external hydration sleeve. Fabric 210D nylon dobby, 500D nylon base Capacity 67-, 70-, 85-litre (m); 55-, 65-litre (w) Weight 2365g (m); 2215g (w). www.ospreypacks.com
Macpac Torlesse $399.99
Adjustable AirFlo Flexi-Fit harness, large main compartment with base divider, lid and front zip pockets, dual walking pole/ice axe attachments, side pockets, compression straps, hydration compatible, rain cover. Fabric 210D nylon ripstop, 630D Cordura nylon Capacity 65-litre Weight 2410g. www.macpac.co.nz
Macpac Rhyolite 47 $299.99
Front zip opening with double storm flap, tension hook closure, drawcord storm throat, Helium harness, dual walking pole/ice axe attachments, self-draining hip belt pockets, mesh side pockets, side compression straps,
top zip pocket, hydration compatible. Fabric 210D nylon ripstop, 500D Cordura base Capacity 47-litre Weight 1530g. www.macpac.co.nz
Osprey Atmos AG / Aura AG from $349.99
Ventilated Anti-Gravity harness, removable lid, integrated FlapJacket for lidless use, stow-on-the-go hiking pole attachment, hydration reservoir sleeve, front stretch mesh stash pocket, stretch mesh side pockets, hip belt pockets, zippered sleeping bag compartment, dual ice tool loops. Fabric 100D nylon dobby, 420HD nylon base Capacity 50-. 65-litre Weight 1910g (m); 1860g (w). www.ospreypacks.com