Mountain Hardwear Scramble 35l
Mountain Hardwear has become a preferred brand of the outdoor community. Their dedication and continuous research towards the most innovative solutions to serve any sport and condition — from rock climbing to high altitude mountaineering — has won them a diverse but loyal following. I started getting interested in the brand when they paired with the alpinist Ueli Steck, and together they prototyped a series of incredible gear designed for the specific condition the alpinist was requiring. For this reason, when they launched a new backpack made in x-pac, I couldn't refrain from buying one.
The Scrambler is designed for technical mountaineering approaches but works perfectly as an urban day pack (maybe in the 25L all-black version) or a variety of other activities.
The structure of the Scrambler is the result of years of user testing through his previous version, the old Scrambler, from which it takes the suspension system and the name, but with a newly built structure and durability. The material used this time is the ultralight X-PAC, a "composite fabric comprised of multiple layers laminated into a single sheet." It's right to mention that an era dominated by Dyneema composite, X-PAC sounds less luxurious. However, it remains a prime, durable, ultralight material at a stellar price under 200 bucks (and if you want to be picky, they also made a Dyneema backpack now).
This backpack is born for mountaineering. The top lid of the 35L is spacious and can contain quite a lot of gear. I've been using it on a multi-pitch winter climbing, and I fitted inside the lid the following pieces of equipment: Heavy guide gloves, headlamp, emergency kit, snacks, GPS, balaclava, ski goggles, GoPro, batteries, couple of spare biners and slings.
The overall capacity is 35L but can be pushed to 37L if using the top lid to his full size. The top lid close the backpack with a single buckle that I found not as performant as I thought; I noticed on several occasions when the pack is half empty, the clasp doesn't hold in place, and the lid remains open. For this reason, I tend to remove the top when I carry less gear than 35 liters in it.
The back panel is a fixed plastic sheet inserted in a padded fabric that could have been improved. I stress the word "fixed" cause in near competitors like the Mountain Equipment Tupilak 37 and the Arc Teryx Alpha ar35; the back frame-sheet is removable. It is a simple and technical detail that changes the versatility of this backpack entirely.
The pockets on the sides are made to carry trekking poles, snow pickets, and not so much more. Since it's a climbing backpack, the overall shape is supposed to be slim to maintain agility. The small gear loops, at the bottom of the pockets, are an incredible addition to the capacity of a climber's harness.
The front of the backpack has the ice tools attachments that I found comfortable to carry one ice-axe but slightly tedious when carrying technical "curved" Ice tools. The daisy-chain style gear loops serve as an attachment point for paracord; It would be great if Mountain Hardwear sold a crampon back that fit these attachments.
Straps are moldable foam, very comfortable at loads that are less than 10 kg. On one occasion, I carried winter alpine gear rack and 60m ropes plus minimal bivouac gear for two days on a mountain. The second day, on the way down I felt the overall backpack quite uncomfortable, in that occasion I carried something like 16kg of gear, I recommend never to exceed 10 kg instead.
I didn't notice any issue while climbing with the backpack.
This backpack transitions gracefully into the urban environment. Even though X-PAC is not weather-sealed, it can still fend against heavy snow and rain. I use it as my climbing gym bag-to-go; it can carry the change of clothes, my work EDC, a MacBook Pro, an iPad, climbing shoes, and a rope.
The "look and feel" of the material in the black version, make the backpack suitable for more business situations.
This backpack suits climbers, skiers, and all the outdoor enthusiasts in search of a sturdy daypack in the ultralight spectrum. The Scrambler 35L also works perfectly as an urban pack; in those days, when you need to carry a little more stuff like gym gear.
Scrambler might not suit people who're looking for a multi accessorized pack. The backpack strength is the minimalism. Also, even if the bag is designed with alpinism in mind, it has some flaws like the fixed back panel rigidity and the one-buckle ineffective closure, all factors that could drive away potential buyers.
A normal day of work and after-work climbing in the gym. This is my carry.
I believe this pack is meant for those who prioritize simplicity and lightweight. It is an alpine pack, and the features are designed for a specific activity, if you are looking for a multi-pocket backpack, the Scrambler might not be the right fit.
I would love to have more than one compression strap, cause the pack somehow lose his shape when half loaded, removing the lid helps, but I would prefer to keep it on.
So far, I believe it's a great pack and does the job it's supposed to do.
p.s. At the moment on the MHW website, the new version of the Scrambler is available.
© Riccardo Parenti 2019