I am fortunate enough to receive and test many items of outdoors kit and clothing. On the whole, I like what I try but sometimes there are products that stand out because they are just so brilliant/clever/innovative/useful.
The new Mountain Hard Wear Scrambler 30 OutDry rucksack immediately grabbed my attention. This is a fully waterproof pack that can be used for walking, climbing, cycling or skiing and does not require you to pack your kit in inner dry bags.
It’s a 30l size so this is not the sort of pack you would be using for heavy-duty winter mountains days but for lighter weight and shorter days of activity it’s a great size.
On first impressions, the pack looks really appealing. I was sent the Dark Raspberry coloured pack and while I am not a huge fan of pink and girlie products, the Scrambler looked so perfectly “outdoors woman”. (Because of the colour it also means the G-Force will be less keen to steal it rom me… see below!)
Of course, looks shouldn’t matter because it’s how the products work that count but first impressions are important.
The other thing that struck me when I first saw the bag was the durable and robust fabric with which it has been made. It turns out this is HardWear Tarp 18. I have no idea if this fabric will be long-lasting but it feels very strong and robust, and far more so than any other rucksack that I own.
Because the fabric is heavy duty it does make the rucksack heavier than others of its size but I don’t think you can have good waterproofing without a bit of extra weight so the compromise is good
- It’s the OutDry® construction, designed and created by Mountain HardWear, that promises a “guaranteed watertight” rucksack. The company states that it has tested the waterproof qualities of the main compartment and seam-taped top pocket in a rain room for 24 hours
- Comfortable back system, aided by a “HardWave suspension” that is meant to “conform to the curve of your back and distribute weight evenly”.
- Easy access hydration sleeve with drainage under top pocket
- Rope strap under top pocket
- Side compression straps to keep any size of load stable
- Two deep side pockets for water bottles or other gear
- Padded shoulder straps
- Stowable webbing belt for added stability when needed
- Adjustable sternum strap adds stability while on the move
- Carry loops for ice axes or trekking poles.
On test: Mountain HardWear Scrambler 30 OutDry rucksack
The perfect conditions presented themselves recently for testing many of the features of this waterproof pack. I had a mountain bike/hike planned on what turned out to be on a very windy, wet, snowy and hailstormy day.
The pack has one main inner section into which I managed to pack a surprising amount of kit. For the mountain bike section of the outing I needed to carry my winter walking boots as well as a spare baselayer, insulated jacket, waterproof jacket and over-trousers, walking leggings, spare socks, two pairs of gloves, hat, glasses in glasses case, mobile phone and lunch.
Most of the kit stayed with me when I swapped mountain bike for walking, although I did wear the hiking boots and stow my cycling shoes in a bag near our bikes.
I didn’t need to worry about the items getting wet inside the rucksack and did away with all my usual (many) dry bags.
With everything inside the pack I pulled the top together easily with a drawstring to form a cinched hole over which the top lid goes. The lid is deliberately big so as to ensure that it keeps everything inside the pack dry.
If I am going to be picky I am not keen on the way that the lid straps down. Instead of a plastic clip, there’s a slightly fiddly metal hook that slots into a fabric loop in the strap. While the pack is new the hook and strap are not too difficult to fit together but in wet weather or when the strap wears a bit I can imagine this affixing system becoming worn and annoying.
Perhaps Mountain HardWear has decided to use a metal hook instead of plastic to future-proof the bag. I know that plastic clips are more easily broken.
The hood is also white. On the first outing the white ended up scuffed black in a couple of places. There are three other pack colours and one have a white hood so if you are fussed about kit looking used then choose a pack that does not have a white hood.I really don’t mind the odd “used” mark because brand-new kit can look a bit showy-offy!
What I did like about the back, however, was the ability to use the compression straps to increase or reduce the volume of the pack, depending on what was in it. The compression system works in a zig-zag system up the two sides of the pack to offer a really good volume adjustor.
The deep side pockets are also perfect. Too many rucksacks have shallow side pockets and I have lost many water bottles and bits and pieces because they are not deep enough.
The grab handle is a good size and looks to be well-made and long-lasting. How many packs lose the grab handle after only a few months due to weak fabrics and wear and tear?
I would have preferred to see a wider hip belt and a couple of hip pockets. I really like a good-sized belt but I guess for a 30l pack this isn’t entirely necessary. It’s just my preference.
The shoulder straps and back system are nicely padded and really comfortable even when carrying a full pack. I was surprised by how comfy it all felt with a full load.
I am not a climber so I doubt I will ever make use of the rope and tool carrying features of this pack but the G-Force was impressed. He thinks it is outrageous that Mountain HardWear chose to send me a raspberry coloured pack and not one of the other colours so that he would use (steal!) it.
And the true test came at the end of the bike/walk when I checked how dry my kit and equipment was after hours of being pelted by the wet weather. I am pleased to report that everything was bone dry.
This is a really well constructed pack that offers a huge bonus of keeping everything inside fully waterproof. I doubt I will be using any other rucksack this summer for walking and mountain biking.
Mountain HardWear Scrambler 30 OutDry rucksack retails at around £85 in a number of on-line and high street stores. For further info about the pack see Mountain HardWear