Rating: 5 / 5
The Whitney 95 is not a lightweight piece of equipment, but for hikers who need to bring a lot of gear deep into the backcountry, it has to be one of the most cavernous and still comfortable packs on the market.
I've used similar packs before (Janssport, The North Face, Lowe) and all of those were ok up to about 30 pounds of weight. Beyond that they all started to hurt, because they simply don't fit right. I've been looking at the Gregory Denali for it's brute durability, but the weight of that pack scared me off. The Whitney 95 still comes in at 3140g or 111oz with my medium sized hip belt and straps, while it doesn't sacrifice on features.
Super adjustable, excellent back ventilation, many compartments to shift load weights to the best location, and very durable zippers and straps are a given at that price point. The part where the pack beats all others I've used before is how well it hugs your back and more or less attaches the load to your entire back, rather than just on shoulders and hip bones. Hard to describe, but it was a revelation when I first hit the trail with a full pack.
Not perfect: it isn't water proof. Laying flat in the rain for an hour, water will penetrate and get gear soaked inside. Nothign a bag liner or rain cover won't fix. The water bottle pouch is in a place I have a hard time reaching myself to return the bottle, but I rarely hike alone, so that's not a big deal.
It is HUGE once you extend the top. Last summer on one leg of the John Muir Trail, I carried my regular load and two full bear canisters, probably the heaviest pack I ever carried since my military days. The load was high and located well above my center of gravity. Even though the pack was a bit more tipsy to the sides, this extreme load was no issue, even when descending 6000 feet on a very rough trail that day.
Features like the little zipper pockets on the waist belt are details that add to the pack - keep your coins handy to open the Bearikade canister, lip balm, etc.
Colors could be more intersting than light blue and green, but I'll cope.
Find it on sale for $250 for a fantastic pack when ultra lights are just not big enough.