A multi-week expedition into the freezing wilderness demands three things: a tough body, strong mind, and high quality equipment. And what good is even the best gear if you can't get it where it needs to go?
When your next long-term winter hiking trip comes around and you aren't sure what backpack will be able to stand up to the challenge, look no further than the following three monster-load carriers:
Approximate cost: $500
One of largest backpacks sold by any of the major outdoor retailers, the Gregory Denali Pro has been on the market for quite some time. According to Gregory's website, the largest version of this pack comes in at a whopping 7,000 cubic inches and weighs in at only 8 pounds. It features a heavy-duty frame and waistbelt along with all the bells and whistles you would expect from a well-known manufacturer. Made in the USA, the Denali Pro is viewed by long-term hikers the world over as one of the best in its class.
Approximate cost: $550
Let me start by saying that this is not a backpack you're likely to find hanging up at your local REI store. Mystery Ranch packs, made in central Montana, are primarily geared toward military personnel, wildland fire crews, and hardcore hunters who require the absolute toughest gear. The G7000 is part of the company's "Adventure Packs" line and as its name suggests, it has a capacity of 7,000 cubic inches while weighing in at a little over 8 pounds. With a comfortable frame and space for even the bulkiest winter sleep sack, the G7000 should easily handle anything you throw at it.
Approximate cost: $700
Like Mystery Ranch, Kifaru products are made in the USA and aren't exactly targeted at the average weekend backpacker crowd. The Duplex Timberline 1 is actually classified as a hunting pack, but this camouflage monstrosity could transition to the trail without any problem. This particular model is the biggest of the group at 7,200 cubic inches and just over 8 pounds. A selection of lids are available to add more space to the pack and according to Kifaru's website, these massive rucks are extremely customizable and should be able to handle loads of 100 pounds, or more, without much trouble.
If you want the highest quality and most comfortable gear possible and are willing to spend the extra cash to get it, you aren't likely to be disappointed with any of the above-mentioned expedition packs.
B.L. King is a former backpacking guide in New England and a certified Wilderness EMT.