The latest version of Lowe Alpine’s popular Airzone pack has a softer mesh on the back and shoulder straps designed to fit any shape. It has a sprung frame that holds the pack away from the back with the mesh panel suspended between the top and the hipbelt. This creates a big air space that makes a sweaty back far less likely than with a body-hugging pack. However it can also affect stability and lead to a cold if dry back when the wind whistles through the gap (which can also fill in with snow – this design is definitely not one for winter storms). The curve in the back can also make the pack harder to load. Overall I much prefer body-hugging designs. That said, the Airzone is one of the better curved frame packs I’ve tried. The curve isn’t so great that packing is affected much and the pack is relatively stable. The harness is quite supportive for loads up to 12kg. It’s adjustable too. The hipbelt and shoulder straps are designed to fit different shoulder and hip shapes. This works well, especially for the hipbelt.

Access to the pack is excellent as there’s a long curved zip down one side. The lid is extendable to cover oversize loads and can be removed if not needed. The lid pocket is roomy and the deep mesh side pockets will hold water bottles. There’s a large flat pocket on the front that is good for items like maps, hats and gloves. The AirZone Pro is well-made and the fabrics are tough. The weight is quite high but this is a good pack if you like styles with curved backs.

First published: March 2014