Osprey Argon 70
Price Paid: $250
I tried on nearly a dozen comparable pack and walked around with weights in several before buying this one on sale at REI. This pack just seems to fit my back perfectly.
It's not the lightest model out there, but the internal frame, hip belt and shoulder straps are all so comfortable that I find it's far more comfortable to carry this rig with an extra pound or two than to go super light, but have to suffer this straps, etc.
The frame on this pack does an amazing job of transferring the weight toward the sides of the belt, helping to avoid the shifts in balance that come when you lean forward to negotiate rough terrain. It almost feels like Osprey took the best load-bearing benefits of external frame packs and translated it into an internal frame pack.
Compared to similar size pack, the Argon 70 sits a bit narrower and taller. This makes it a bit better for activities where you need some elbow room (skiing?) and is great for bushwacking.
This pack is actually a bit larger than what I was originally looking for and easily swallow all the gear I use for a weekend of peak bagging. I love light gear, but I hike with my young son, so I carry ALL the group gear (food, kitchen, fuel, tent, H2O filter, etc...) I also often pack a length of climbing rope, a few nuts and runners to provide a safety net of Class 4 pitches and the occasional boulder, and this pack swallows it up.
But what I really love is that when I'm heading out for a simple overnight and am leaving the climbing gear and extra layers at home, the pack has a system of compression straps that let you reduce volume to something that's probably closer to 50-55 liters. The strap system not only affects volume, it also does it in a manner that cinches the weight tight to the frame so you don't have a sloppy back swaying around on your back. I love having one pack that is this flexible.
The pack has plenty of pocket, without breaking up the space too much. It has a front opening panel (J-zipper), but I've never used it as I much prefer just using the top load. Also has an easy-to-load bottom compartment with an adjustable separation from the main bag.
The separation panel does not seal off the sleeping bag compartment from the main top part of the pack. Some folks dislike this feature because small items can drop down when you pull your sleeping bag out, but it's a non issue for me. On the bright side, it makes the bottom compartment super adjustable, which is great for me because I'm still dragging around a super bulky 3-season synthetic bag.
One drawback of adjusting the lower compartment for a sleeping bag this big (besides being taunted by fellow campers) is that it takes up enough space in the main bag that there's not enough additional length to easily carry my tent poles. Thankfully, these are easily carried in the right side pocket, held in place by a side compression strap.
Note that it does NOT have any pockets on the waist belt. I've never had a pack with those, so I don't miss them, but I know some hikers love them. I like the fact that the waist area is clean -- making it easy to do a quick below withouth shedding the pack.
One neat feature is that the Argon has a removable hydration sleeve (reservoir sold separate). Pull it out and attach the two removable sleeping bag compartment compression straps and you have a bare bones 3-liter hydration pack for a quick summit push.
The pack's lid compartment becomes a fanny pack too. Fanny pack plus hydration sleeve looks a little ghetto, but it saves you from needing a separate day pack. Just be sure to face forward for the summit pics.
Design: Long Backpacking Trip
Size: 70 liters, 4272 cu. inc.
Number of Pockets: lots
Max. Load Carried: 60 lbs.
Height of Owner: 5'9"
Price Paid: $320
The Cadillac of backpacks. The Argon is a beast of all trades. Versatile in most every way, the pack soars to the top of my favorite gear recently. Features to mention: day pack, compression system, harness, waistbelt, comfort, and frame design.
Osprey packs have always suited me well. I'm of the opinion that in the world of backpackers either an Osprey or a Gregory will fit you perfect, rarely both, and I am an Osprey man.
The 70 liter pack is big enough for a weeklong expedition if packed with some sense and planning, and the pack holds the weight well. The lid converts to a day pack with a waist belt that is hidden under a square of closed cell foam that acts as a frame sheet when the lid is removed. It has two pockets with welded zippers and they are big: I fit raingear, a bladder, a water filter and some granola just fine with no zipper strain.
Additionally, the straps at the bottom of the pack that would hold the sleeping pad/etc. unbuckle as does the bladder sleeve and they combine to make another day pack, much simpler--now just a bladder sleeve with shoulder straps.
The straight jacket compression system is one of my all time favorite Osprey innovations, and the Argon twists it slightly. Rather than cordura pack material making up the strap attachments, they are made of a thin super durable material that I have put loads of strain on and they show no signs of budging. The harness is incredible comfortable as well as the hipbelt. They both give the feeling of being hugged without a choking feeling.
The bioform hipbelt is heat moldable and feels amazing with or without being molded (although I recommend it).The frame design is pretty cool too, being shaped to stay open or collapse as a triangle against your back longways if your load is lighter/smaller than needed.
Overall I rate this pack as excellent, and plan on it lasting forever.