Updated May 2017
For spring 2017, the Arc'teryx Alpha FL 45 is available in two new colors. The individual review is freshly updated to display the new shades.
Best Overall Mountaineering and Alpine Climbing Backpack
Arc'teryx Alpha FL 45
Our Editors' Choice Award goes to the Arc'teryx Alpha FL 45
. This rucksack rewards the savvy packer with a good weight-to-volume ratio and an amazing durability-to-weight ratio. For most people who squeeze in their alpine climbing on the weekends, the capacity is great. It is perfect for car-to-car alpinism, manageable for 1-3 night trips if you employ a light bivy kit, and we even took it out for a 5 day ultralight alpine rock climbing trip. If you don't need quite that capacity, it also comes in a 35 liter size. This pack is dream to climb technical terrain with. The fabric is extremely durable, it can ride on your back when climbing chimneys and corners and when butt-scooting on the descent. It can even stand up to some light hauling. This is the mountaineering backpack of choice in our review for alpinists who want to do more with less. This was the pack our testers consistently pulled out of the pile when gearing up for difficult routes. For the 2017 season, Arc'teryx switched up the color palette including two new colors to the mix. Check out the individual review to see the pack in Cardinal Red and Black.
Best Bang for the Buck
Black Diamond Speed 40
Although heavy for its size, the Black Diamond Speed 40
has all the features you need and costs less than the other packs in this review. We like all of the thoughtful weight-shaving features: smaller webbing, smaller buckles, and minimalist ice tool attachments. When the lid of a pack is removed, the lid straps become unnecessary and are therefore removable. When stripped down, this pack handled technical terrain with aplomb. This pack would have been a strong contender for the Editors' Choice Award if the fabric had been more durable. Our testers would have liked to trade the weight of the SwingArm suspension for more durable fabric on the sides of the pack. This pack is also available in 55L and 30L with the same feature set. If you need a pack for alpine climbing and also do a lot of multi-pitch rock climbing, we recommend this budget set-up: the Black Diamond Speed 40 and the REI Co-op Flash 18
Top Pick for Long Trips
CiloGear 45L WorkSack
The number one pack in the test for versatility had all of the features we wanted and the option to remove the ones we didn't, the CiloGear 45L WorkSack
. The WorkSack is one of only two packs in this review (the other was the Wild Things Guide Pack) that let us remove all of the foam padded suspension parts. When stripped down, this thing is an empty envelope on your back. The modular strap system let our testers manage any load and strap even the weirdest items to the outside. Alpinists can break this pack down then build it up into whatever they need it to be. This versatility makes this pack ideal for trips more than 5 days in the summer and more than three in the winter, which is what earns it award status. Though heavier than some other packs in the review, it has a good weight-to-volume ratio. Our testers had problems with the durability of the shoulder straps and with the abrasion resistance of the side panels. CiloGear makes packs in a number of sizes with a similar versatile feature set.
Best Mountaineering Backpack for Specific Applications
Max Neale approaching Mt. Katahdin, Maine with the Hyperlite Mountain Gear Ice Pack.
If you are going to be spending a lot of time in inclement weather (especially rain) and will be spending minimal time on rock, the somewhat fragile but Hyperlite Mountain Gear 3400 Ice Pack
| highly water resistant Hyperlite Mountain Gear 3400 Ice Pack]] could be a good choice for you.