At first glance, Black Diamond’s ergoACTIV backpack suspension system seems like a gimmick. But it really works. The hip belt has a unique rotating ball joint that pivots as your body moves. The result is a much more comfortable pack that does a really good job of transferring the pack’s weight to your hips.
I tested the Mercury 55 ($249.95 MSRP, blackdiamondequipment.com) on a weeklong backpacking trip deep in Patagonia, Chile. My pack was heavy and the trail was rough with lots of scrambling and climbing, but the pack felt like it was a part of my body. And once it was adjusted, I didn’t find myself having to fiddle with straps and adjustments.
This suspension system is available on several BD packs, including the smaller, more affordable Boost ($159.95 MSRP), a top-loader with a 34-liter capacity (2,075 cubic inches) that can swallow a surprisingly large amount of gear.