A Scout leader should look for a backpack with:
- For carrying group gear, 60 to 75 liters; or 50 to 58 liters if your Scouts carry their share.
- Organization that suits your needs, like external pockets and maybe a side zipper into the main compartment for quick access.
- The fit and carrying capacity you need. Know your torso length. To measure along your spine, it’s from the top of your hip bones to the vertebra at the base of your neck that sticks out when you tilt your head down.
- Always important, but balance it with capacity and design needs.
Barely heavier than some ultralight packs, the men’s and women’s The North Face Banchee 50($199) is more tricked out and hauls up to 45 pounds of gear. The North Face’s OPTIFIT harness system lets you adjust the torso fit and dial in the self-equalizing load lifters on the fly. With its modest weight, multiple pockets and good compression, the Banchee 50 accommodates treks up to five days. 3 lbs. 6 oz., thenorthface.com
The Granite Gear Blaze 60($270) hits a sweet spot between weight and performance, comfortably carrying up to 50 pounds with plenty of capacity, plus offering excellent compression and low weight for short trips. Three unisex and two women’s sizes, all adjustable, practically assure a good fit. A zipper into the main compartment, six external pockets and durable fabric make it a versatile all-purpose pack. 3 lbs., granitegear.com
It’s hard to beat the value of the mid-weight Gregory men’s Paragon 58and women’s Maven 55($230). An alloy perimeter frame, fiberglass cross-stay and the FreeFloat suspension system, in two adjustable sizes, handle 40 pounds. Breathable mesh and foam in the harness, as well as a trampoline-style back panel, keep you cool. It features six external pockets and is built to last. 3 lbs. 8 oz., gregorypacks.com
For a deluxe ride, capacity and organization, the Osprey men’s Atmos AG 65 and women’s Aura AG 65 ($270) might be unmatched. Osprey’s Anti-Gravity suspension uniquely hugs your torso while carrying 30 to 50 pounds with supreme comfort. Each available in three sizes with an adjustable harness and hip belt, they are feature-rich, including an internal hydration reservoir sleeve and an attachment on one shoulder strap for tucking away trekking poles. 4 lbs. 8 oz., ospreypacks.com
When you’re the troop mule, the Mystery Ranch Sphinx 60 ($269) makes the job easier. Available in four adjustable men’s and women’s sizes, it carries up to 60 pounds and features a full-length front zipper accessing the main compartment, as well as six external pockets, including two large front pockets; dual side compression that wraps around the pack, and tough 210D and 330D Robic fabric.4 lbs. 14 oz., mysteryranch.com