Altitude Sports was kind enough to let me test a Mountain Hardwear Scrambler 30 OutDry Backpack. This pack has a number of very impressive features, and I was eager to take it out and see what it was all about.
Arguably, the most important feature of the Scrambler is that it is completely waterproof, without the need of a pack cover. The pack body is constructed from 400D HD Nylon, with a waterproof-breathable membrane bonded directly to it. The resulting material seals out water completely, and has a slightly rubberized feel to it that seems very durable. The lid that covers the single opening into the pack is even more durable. Pack covers are great, but they need to be taken out and put on, they get snagged on branches, and prevent you from getting into your pack unless you remove them. If you’ve ever become angry about your pack cover getting wet on the ground while you were rooting around in your pack in the middle of the rain, you know what I mean.
The pack’s back material is a lightly padded mesh. There’s no suspension frame of any kind in this pack, but it really doesn’t need one. This does mean that you’ll need to pack carefully, and keep pointy things away from the immediate back of the pack, or they may make your day uncomfortable.
One design constraint of having a completely waterproof pack is that you probably won’t find any external pockets or zippers on it. This is obviously a precaution against water ingress. The pack has a single pocket on the the top lid. At 30 litres, it’s not a huge bag, and you probably won’t miss something like a side access zipper all that much.
There are many things that I like about this bag. Let’s go through those first.
First, there are gear loops. You have no idea how much I appreciate any pack that has gear loops. With these, you’re good for attaching a set of trekking poles, as in the photo, or a pair of ice axes, or just about anything else that you think you can attach to the bag.
To further cement the pack’s climbing pedigree, there is a rope loop attachment under the lid. This will help keep everything nice and tidy, and prevent your climbing rope from sliding out of one side of the pack.
There are two very deep side access pockets. As you can see in the photo, these pockets completely swallow a 32 ounce Nalgene bottle. You can easily fill these pockets with all sorts of trail snacks and gear that you need to access quickly. The side pockets have no enclosure zippers, but there is a thoughtfully placed vinyl loop right below each of the pockets that can be used to attach whatever is in the pocket to, via a small carabiner or other pack clip attachment. If you needed to keep something dry in these side pockets, I’d suggest using a small rolltop dry bag, and then attaching the dry bag to the loop to keep it from falling off of your pack during your hike or commute.
Speaking of commuting, for a moment. While this bag would be perfect for day hikes or climbing because of the aforementioned gear loops, there is a hydration sleeve in this pack that also perfectly fits a 13″ laptop.
The sternum strap attaches on the left side of the pack. I’m sure this is to prevent buckle rub on your sternum, but I’ve never noticed this happen to me on other packs. I really appreciate the whistle on the sternum buckle, though. It’s a little thing, a nice touch, and I wish all packs had one.
Speaking of straps on this pack, the shoulder straps are quite wide for a day pack, and padded slightly, which is really appreciated. As a small guy, I find that packs with thin straps often cut into my collar bone and shoulder area when carrying heavy loads for long periods of time. Not so with the scrambler.
So, what would I change, if I was designing the next version of this pack? Well, given what the intended use is, I appreciate the slightly minimalist approach. I would probably add a kangaroo or mesh pocket with some of buckle enclosure on the front of the pack, or tie down straps, in order to store things that do not need to be kept dry, like a climbing or bike helmet. I would also include a key hook in the top lid pocket for making sure things like car keys did not get lost.
I’m not entirely sold on the stylized buckle. That’s an entirely personal preference, and I must say that the buckle does its job very well.
I would change the zipper pulls, though. The black plastic caps kept pulling off of the cords when I used them. I’m not sure if this was because of the cap, or the stretchy material the cords are made from. You can fix them easily enough, with a pair of pliers, but something knotted might work better.
Small quibbles, these. The important thing is that the main features that Mountain Hardwear put into the pack work the way they are supposed to. It is absolutely water proof. Slush, wet snow, and a “let’s see if it really is waterproof” shallow brook sit didn’t phase it. You don’t want to submerge it, but that’s what dry bags are for. I wish my other packs were waterproof without needing rain covers. It holds a surprising amount of gear and remains comfortable.
I’d love to hear what you think.