Mt. Rainier - The Daily Hiker hits up the Washington Big One!
Deuter, the German manufacturer of backpacks (for adults and kids alike) as well as kid carriers has been around for over a century, but has only been in the US market for a much shorter period of time. Over these many years, they have developed an extensive line of packs for a wide range of outdoor pursuits. We took the Aircontact (ACT) Lite 60+10 SL for an extended test the many miles of training hikes leading up to our Rainier climb, as well as the climb itself. Read more for our full review.
When faced with the task of choosing a pack for the Rainier climb, I had a few options of women's specific, large capacity (at least 65 liters) to choose from. Ultimately, the Deuter ACT Lite 60+10 SL made the cut because it had the fine balance between providing all the features I was looking for, but without adding too much additional weight to the already 45-pound load I would be carrying for most of the climb. Weighing in at 3 pounds 12 ounces, it was over a pound lighter than other packs with identical features. Every ounce counts!
Even with the reduced weight, the ACT 60+10 SL doesn't compromise on features. It's a top-loading pack, but the bottom compartment of the body has it's own access zipper, with the option to zip out the divider as needed. This makes it easy to separate and access gear like hard-shell pants and insulated gloves without having to dig through the depths of the pack to locate the item you need. A large lid with top and bottom access, two stretchy mesh water bottle side pockets, a large stretch stuff-it panel pocket and a small zippered hip pocket provide plenty of other places to stash small and medium-sized items that you may need to access on a more regular basis. It's also hydration compatible, these days a pretty common feature in packs.
So where does the reduced weight come from? It's constructed from lighter-weight fabric (Ripstop 210 and Duratex Lite), but it isn't so thin that you worry about it's durability. After multiple training hikes and some long days on Rainier with a wide range of weather conditions, the pack still looks brand new. And where many packs of similar size feature multiple strap systems, ice axe loops, trekking pole stays, and fancy compression strap systems, this pack keeps it simple. Featuring only two ice axe loops and a basic compression strap system is what helps to keep the weight down.
However, what really sets the Deuter ACT Lite 60+10 SL apart from others in the same class is the VariQuick shoulder harness system. Unlike most packs, which have the shoulder straps in a fixed location and an adjustable hip belt, the ACT Lite 60+10 SL has a fixed hip belt (contoured for a woman's hips) and an adjustable shoulder harness. This allows for complete customization for torso-length fit, as you can move the straps up or down along the length of the back panel to get the perfect fit. Hollow-core aluminum X-stays help the pack distribute weight evenly over a slightly thinner frame, and a channel-padded back panel keeps weight off your spine. These features combined made for a comfortable ride, even at the most grueling points of the climb on Rainier.
Overall, this was a great pack and I would definitely recommend it to anyone looking for a pack with a larger capacity to use on longer (multi-day) trips. Though it doesn't boast lots of bells and whistles, you'll get a lightweight and durable pack that's priced competitively at $189.