Head into the backcountry well-equipped this summer with one of these three new overnight backpacks from MountainSmith, Osprey or MEC.
MEC Brio 75 — $130Weight: 2.3 kg (5 lbs)
Best for: Your first backpack.
There are daypacks that cost more than this solid introductory backpack. It’s ideal for summer camp or your first backpacking forays, yet feels tough enough to last for years of abuse. Half-inch torso adjustments allow room to grow or to share with someone else. And MEC included all the features we look for in a pack — fast access hip pockets, a generous top pocket, a zip-access sleeping bag area and an outside stash pocket. We also liked the two long vertical pockets for keeping other essentials easy to find. If there are any drawbacks, it’s in the padding; it’s not plush. A women’s-specific fit comes in 65 litres (pictured).
Bottom Line: A whole lot of pack for not very much money.MEC
MountainSmith Apex 80 — $210Weight: 2.2 kg (4.8 lbs)
Best For: Loading up for the long haul.
Don’t be insulted if your trail-mates always want to be in front of you when you wear this pack. It’s not you, it’s the pack. It towers over the shoulder straps, so watch how you pack it, but do it properly and the narrow design hugs your back; perfect for really heavy loads and long hours on the trail. Burly-but-cush padding on the hips and shoulders can handle big loads too — even when overloaded with rocks, we couldn’t get the waist strap to bite. Sorry ladies, this is a unisex design.
Bottom Line: Lots of zip pockets make this gear-swallowing top-loader easy to keep organized. MountainSmith
Osprey Aether 70 — $300Weight: 2.1 kg (4.7 lbs)
Best For: Die-hard backpackers looking for dependable versatility.
The fourth-generation of the Aether comes with everything that has made this model an Osprey best-seller as well as a new, more comfortable, heat-moldable hip belt. The mesh-over-foam back-padding creates plenty of room for venting (and also the chance to get fir needles stuck in there for good, so watch which way you put this pack down). Other than that, we loved the layout of pockets, which keep essentials handy and the rest of our gear easily organized without getting too complicated. The comparable women’s version is the Aerial 65.
Bottom Line: Tough exterior fabric, soft and supportive padding and durable hardware are balanced with a weight and volume that works for everything from overnights to weeklong trips. Osprey