Near perfect functionality and design in outdoor equipment is an ephemeral thing: what works for one user lacks for another, what sells in Scotland doesn't always trade well in France. Often when we visit gear shops in the UK were are subject to the geographical variability in product markets and end up getting the 'Euro version'. Given that during the Scottish winter we are often out in what other nations might describe as 'storm', kit that is tough, keeps out horizontal rain and snow, is operable quickly and efficiently with gloves on in foul weather is valuable. Really valuable! In this series I'm going to describe what has worked for me and why.
First off is this lightweight, climber-orientated sack from Osprey - the Mutant 28. I bought it for two reasons. First, it is entirely zip access and second it has a 'helmet sock' on the lid, meaning quick no fuss entry, and because of the helmet storage on the outside I don't lose valuable space inside. I had reservations around the lightweight build and the size, 28 litres is pretty much a summer cragging sack
and I wanted one that would do me the year round. If anything it was a bit of an experiment.
After a year of heavy use.
It may be quite small but with careful packing you can get a fair amount in it and for a big load it's possible to attach items secure and stable on the outside. The top of the pack is fitted with an elastic 'stocking' for storing a helmet which, by the way, does not impede access to the lid pocket. Additionally there is a rope carrying strap, both of which stow away in a pocket when not in use.
Compression straps on both sides, with ski loops make for a versatile carrying system.
The ice axe attachments are easy and super slick to use with gloves on - I find many other packs use systems that seem to be ridiculously fiddly.
There are no buckles or drawcords on this pack, just zips so very quick and easy entry into the main compartment. I must say I've never been a fan of strings and buckles; I have another pack from a different manufacturer which is pretty good on the whole but requires five different actions to get inside it!
I often get asked by clients why my bag is lighter than their's despite carrying more stuff! In some cases their rucksack may be the single heaviest item of equipment that they are carrying, which is fine for long distance load carrying but a climber is going to spend a good part of the day with the sack half empty whilst on route .
The Mutant is built from abrasion resistant PU and comes in at 960g with a further reduction of 280g possible by removing strippable parts, which is really light when you consider some 'climbing' sacks weigh 1.5kg plus!
EVA and mesh shoulder straps are helpful for keeping heating down and the chest strap features a whistle/buckle, which I think all rucksacks should have!
The helmet stocking in use.
A fully laden winter pack.
So is it any good?
It's comfy and lightweight, so that you hardly notice it whilst unloaded; it's quick and fuss-free to get at the contents; the fact that it has survived 18 months of successful use and abuse: guiding work in the Cuillin, being scuffed around on rough gabbro, soaked, dried in front of a fire, taken a full-on Scottish winter of sliding, thrutching and over loading followed by roasting drying rooms at night and is still going is a pretty good result as far as I'm concerned!
So yes, it's good.