User Review: Mountain Hardwear Maestro
Design: Top Loading, Hybrid Frame
Size: 4000 ci
Number of Pockets: 4
Max. Load Carried: 31 lbs
Height of Owner: 6'
Price Paid: $313.65
My wife and I have been avid day hikers for years and we finally decided to take our passion to the next level. We had no preconceived ideas about what a pack should be having never carried anything more than an 1800 Cu I daypack. After much research (including reviews on this website), we settled on these packs (my wife bought the Virtuosa pack).
After training with 25 lb dummy loads for a few weeks on a treadmill and local mountains, we hit the Presidential Range in NH's Whites with a little over 30lbs ea. We spent four days traveling 18 miles with a total of 8900 feet of elevation gain on some really tough trails (basically boulder hopping for a number of miles with steep ups and downs).
These packs worked extremely well. No shoulder aches, no back aches, no unstable loads as we hopped or stepped from rock to rock whether traveling up or down...in fact we hardly thought about the loads we carried. We love the fact that the pack sits off our backs allowing great ventilation. Also the harness is practically infinitely adjustable. By simply pulling on any of three sets of straps, we could adjust the pack to fit the terrain we were walking on as we hiked.
And did I mention that the pack pivots at the waist belt? You can even adjust the amount of the pivot! Perfect for scrambling up steep slopes.
The only knock is that the external water bottle pocket is really hard to reach and is a bit clumsy. You are better off using an internal hydration pack (which it is set up to do). We actually gave three short seminars on the trail to inquistitive hikers asking about the design. To a person they all understood the benefits of the design when we pointed them out. A number of sales people we talked to weren't sure about the design. We are so glad we went with our own intuition.
Consider this pack the I-Pod of backpacks. Most people didn't understand what an I-Pod was capable of either when they came out. Now people can't live without them. We highly recommend these packs.