Rating: 5 / 5
I reluctantly gave this pack a 5 rating; it deserves a 10. This is, hands down, the best internal framed lightweight pack I've ever used. The best feature is the backpad: wide, thick, comfortable. Combined with a framesheet, but no stays, this pack is like putting on a favorite jacket. I've heard some complaints that the backpad makes the pack too hot, but I've never found it to be any warmer than any other pack (including the Atmos series) - but it may be that, in the Ohio Valley area where I hike, it just gets too hot and humid to sense any difference between packs. (They're all hot on your back in 90 degree temperatures with 80% humidity!)
The hipbelt is lightly padded, but just right. The suspension is solid and supportive. The pack has plenty of room (I never fill mine up) and the compression system (6 straps around the sides and two on top) do an unparalleled job of controlling a load, even as it shrinks from day to day on a long trip. I've heard others say they find the outside pockets to be skimpy or awkwardly placed; I like them just fine. I can't comment on the unique "internal-external" hydration sleeve, between the pad and the back wall of the pack, since I haven't become a "hoser" yet. I have used the internal hydration pouch once or twice to hold an extra two quarts of water I was carrying to an overnight camp, and that worked well. It kept the extra weight high and close to my back, for a well-balanced carry.
An unexpected bonus that helps lighten my load is that the large backpad doubles as a sleeping pad extender. I simply put my pack at the foot end of my three-quarter length Prolite 3 or Prolite 4 sleeping pad and have the same effect as a full-length pad without the extra weight. This also neatly solves the problem of where to store the pack when you're using a solo-sized tent.
I've never had any durability issues with my Vapor Trail. I don't treat it hard, but I don't baby it, either.
I've also tried the Vapor Trail's frameless cousin, the Virga. However, in cooler weather or longer trips, I have trouble holding my load below the 20-pound capacity of the Virga. The Vapor Trail's 30-pound capacity is just right for the 17 - 23 pound loads I usually carry (depending on weather and trip length), and leaves me a margin for comfortably carrying 2 or 3 extra quarts of water if I have to. Right now, I use the Vapor Trail about half the time, and am getting better (with a few new pieces of gear) at consistently staying under 20 pounds - so ultimately, I may use the Virga more. But that doesn't detract from the Vapor Trail at all.
I've loaded my own gear into a few other similar packs in the store: a Gregory G and Z pack, and an Osprey Atmos 50. All were fine packs, but I found nothing in them to justify their extra weight (nearly a pound) over the Vapor Trail. Also, none of these packs remotely approached the Vapor Trail for comfort (and good luck trying to use the Atmos 50 as a pad extender.)
By the way, I second the use of the GG collapsible bowl (see Don's review below.) It also comes in handy when the only water is a seep, or a creek too small for using the filter inlet hose.