Reducing the bulk and weight of the gear you put in your backpack means you can also reduce the size and weight of the pack itself. Mountainsmith returns to its ultralight roots with its new Phantom 40L backpack, which weighs in at three pounds, nine ounces. The 40-liter capacity pack holds everything you'll need for 2–3 days on the trail, so long as it's all lightweight, low-bulk gear. Also, the suspension system makes the trip comfortable, thanks to adequate padding and firm support for loads of 30–35 pounds. The 210-denier ripstop pack absorbed a substantial beating as we scrambled around the desert on multiple trips. Available in two sizes to fit torso lengths of 15 to 21 inches. [$150; mountainsmith.com]
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