A versatile and ‘functionally’ waterproof sac for active mountain use.
Mountain Hardwear were one of the first companies to pioneer the use of ‘OutDry’ waterproof technology (originally in gloves if I recall correctly) and with the Scrambler 30 pack they have applied that technology very successfully to packs.
First off the Scrambler 30 is a square format sac (as opposed to cylindrical) in a fairly compact 30 litre format. There are two fold flat gusseted side pockets large enough to take a 1 litre Nalgene type bottle and yet fold away unobtrusively when not needed. You can in fact withdraw the waist strap through two openings so that it is stored in the bottom of these pockets. Side compression straps allow you to compress the load or store pole or technical axes. There are two ice axe loops in the traditional style perhaps reflecting the target user but this is a shame as this sac would work pretty well for technical winter climbing however you can easily stow a pair of Nomics etc using the side pockets and compression straps. The lid has a single outer pocket with a rope strap beneath and is mainly composed of a light ‘tarp’ type material. When I first got the pack the rope catch annoyed me, seemingly configured the ‘wrong’ way round but as I used it more I realised that this configuration although marginally more awkward to set up allowed you to flip the rope out the way to access the main pack without undoing the rope catch – handy on dodgy ground to avoid that embarrassing trudge downhill to retrieve a dropped rope. Finally the scrambler 30 has perhaps the best implementation of a hydration pocket that I have yet seen. If you look at the photographs you’ll see that the pocket occupies the whole back of the sac and is outside the snow skirt meaning that there is loads of room and it is dead easy to access without having to half empty your sac first – genius. I’ll be honest here and say that I’ve not used it for it’s intended purpose that much but it makes an excellent place to stuff a map, matting when bouldering, guidebook, first aid kit, abseil tatt etc.
The final feature of note on the sac are the two ‘gear loops’ I must admit these are a bit baffling. Gear loops on sacs have never struck me as that useful, back in the late 80s I had a Lowe sac with removable bandolier type gear slings that worked ok but if you ditched the sac for a hard pitch you had to re-rack so they soon got removed. The gear loops on the Scrambler 30 are fixed and located on the side of the pack where it is hard to access them at best. I can’t think of how these could be put to use in a normal climbing day but that may simply reflect my lack of imagination.
In use the Scrambler 30 has proven excellent, it is a comfortable and stable cary – ideal for scrambling and climbing. The ‘functionally’ waterproof tag I use earlier perhaps needs elaboration. There are a number of waterproof sacs on the market nowadays, most of which rely on a drybag type roll top closure. This is excellent if you want a submersible 100% waterproof sac but it does involve a few compromises. Firstly you will usually lose the convenience of a lid pocket and secondly roll top closures tend to be more hassle than a snow skirt and draw cord. What Mountain Hardwear have done is create a waterproof pack body and a normal but waterproof lid (including a taped seam lid pocket) that will keep the pack contents bone dry as long as the lid is fastened but you couldn’t go canyoning with it. Throughout the review period my kit has remained completely dry including our delightfully wettest December on record so I have no qualms about the functionally dry aspect of the pack. Once you get used to the convenience of a reliably waterproof pack without the hassle of dry bags and/or pack liners it’s hard to go back.
There were very few downsides to the Scrambler 30 however the lid does not work brilliantly if the sac is only half full, this could be remedied with a lower attachment point for the lid strap. If packed to capacity it will only just fasten over a 60m half rope – forcing the lid into that head knocking position if you have much in the top pocket, many packs suffer from this and really the only solution is an extending lid or longer ‘neck’ on the lid.
Richie is the enthusiastic amateur of the team. Enjoying all aspects of climbing but especially alpine, winter and his local grit . Having managed to survive the vagaries of both fluorescent Koflachs and rainbow tights in the 80s he looks forward to an even more stylish future. A shady past in mountain marathons and adventure races, including the Marathon des Sables, means he’s an advocate of fast and light. Though the former is debatable if you’ve seen him on a tricky lead!