The Baltoro
The Baltoro

What pack is good for both quick weekend trips and longer outings?

I am trying to decide between a Gregory Whitney 95 or the Gregory Baltoro 70 for the best-all around pack for anything from weekend trips to taking on the Appalachian Trail, and hopefully further reaches of the planet. Just trying to decide if the Baltoro offers enough space for the AT or if stick with the Whitney.—DavidOcala, FL

The Baltoro

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That’s kind of a 1990s question (“Don’t the Red Hot Chili Peppers rock?!?”) versus a 2010 one (“Is Coldplay the greatest band of all time?”). Because the Gregory Whitney ($350) is very much a 1990s pack. It is HUGE—5,700 cubic inches in the medium size—and designed for big, heavy loads. The Baltoro ($290) is a much trimmer pack (5 pounds, 9 ounces versus 6 pounds, 9 ounces for the Whitney), and has a relatively compact 4,300 cubic inches of capacity.

The Baltoro The Baltoro

The Whitney was designed in a day when tents weighed six pounds, Gore-Tex parkas were a pound or more, and boots were five pounds a pair. Once upon a time, I would have said that was the pack to get, because only a pack such as the Whitney could handle long trips on the AT or elsewhere. But these days, the Baltoro should be plenty of pack for a trip of even five or six days or more (provided this is not the winter and you aren’t lugging a big load of cold-weather gear). And it’s much better for weekend trips. Really, if you have a good light gear setup, it will take up only half the pack. The rest of the space can be for food and fuel.

Then again, Osprey’s Aether 70 ($260) has the same room as the Baltoro, weighs pounds less, yet still has a suspension that is well up to the task of carrying gear on a long trip. You even could tryREI’s new Flash 65 ($170) which is just a tad smaller than the Aether or Baltoro, yet users have found that it manages trips of up to a week.

So, my advice: Get a smaller pack and join the modern era. Big backpacking packs are just so…Dawson’s Creek.