The defining feature of this backpack, one which makes it highly functional for overnighters and longer day hikes, is its three-zip design for accessing the interior. Whether you need to get inside fast to grab the first-aid kit or you’re one of those people who prefers to pack everything “just so,” the lengthwise vertical zipper and two horizontal zippers allow you a quick, complete view of the main compartment.

The interior includes a hydration reservoir sleeve and separate sleeping bag compartment with U-Shaped opening and compression strap. Front and side exterior stretch pockets are perfect for stowing extra layers and water bottles. A top zippered compartment fits a rain jacket and hat, with a secondary pocket for sunglasses or a headlamp.

Mystery Ranch Coulee 40

The fit of the Coulee is customizable and, speaking from experience, comfortable all day long. There’s a carbon frame and adjustable yoke to keep weight evenly distributed along your torso, plus cushioned lumbar support. The shoulder straps and removable pocketed waist belt are likewise padded and wide enough for good weight-bearing. Compression straps let you stabilize the load even further.

Tipping the scales at 3.8 pounds for a 40-liter pack, the Coulee isn’t featherweight, but I appreciated the sturdy construction, along with the convenience and confidence the pack gave me on my outings. $239.

Author: Brad Kovach is the editor/publisher of Terrain Magazine.