There is a lot to like and a lot going on with the new All Mountain pack from Ultimate Direction. As the name implies this is a pack aimed at more mountaineering type pursuits rather than trail running and it does an excellent job – yet there are a couple of areas where it could be improved.
The All Mountain is a generously sized 30l pack that has a TARDIS like ability to absorb kit. In an ideal world all 30l packs would have the same volume but anyone whose had experience different manufacturers will tell you this is not the case. Whether it is how the volume is measured (table tennis balls, bags of rice etc.) or just that some ‘shapes’ are better for cramming kit in I’m not sure but the All Mountain is a winner for useful volume. I can comfortably fit a trad rack (6 cams, double set of wires, 12 quickdraws, 4 long slings, 3 screwgates, belay device), shoes , chalk bag, flask, food, spare clothes and either half rope or helmet inside with the other out side. The pack is accessed either via the draw cord/flap top (similar to the Patagonia Ascentionist) or a zip panel back. The later works particularly well for sorting kit at the base of the crag. The strap that fastens the ‘flap’ along with the drawcord can be repositioned for extended loads such as piling a rope on top of a full pack. The ‘flap’ also has a slip pocket complete with key clip that can hold a phone, sun glasses, lip balm, Buff etc. provided you don’t over cram the main pack. There is a bungie cord lash system on the back along with daisy chains and neat twin ice axe holders that use clever magnetic buckles and velcro loops. These will hold piolets securely whilst still allowing you to access them without removing the pack by flicking open the magnetic buckle. Tools with hand rests/grips etc. won’t work for this as they won’t slide through the velcro loop but they can still be fastened effectively to the pack. With ski mountaineers in mind there is a removable quick stash diagonal ski carry system using a loop and elasticated ‘hook’ that can be stowed behind the right shoulder pocket when you’re actually skiing. The pack’s harness has Ultimate Direction’s ubiquitous bottle pocket and zip pocket just like their excellent running vest but on conventional shoulder straps (and a waist belt which is removable) as well as twin sternum straps.
Ultimate Direction say
“Phone, maps, glasses, food, and water are easily accessible in the front” and having used the FKT Vest extensively I would heartily agree but things aren’t as good on the All Mountain. The same pockets are there but because they are on conventional pack straps they have been reduced in size which doesn’t affect the water bottle too much but the zipped pocket is less useful. In addition the angle of the conventional straps can mean that bulky items can interfere with your arm swing. I feel Ultimate Direction may have missed a trick here as a ‘vest’ style harness would have given more utility in my opinion. It may well be of course that a conventional pack harness was deemed more suitable for the heavier loads that the All Mountain would have to cope with or it gave more flexibility size wise.
With regard to fit the sizing is measured around the bottom ribs:
“(Unisex): SM/MD: 25 – 40 in / 64 – 102 cm and MD/LG: 30 – 48 in / 76 – 122 cm.”
I opted for the SM/MD (the same as the excellent FKT Vest I reviewed a while back) as I have a 36″ lower rib measurement. In retrospect I’m not sure if this was the correct choice, the two sternum straps were pretty much at full extension and to be honest someone with a 38″ measurement would be unlikely to be able to fasten them – chest wise the pack seems to size up small.
First and most importantly the All Mountain is an excellent carry – being both stable and comfortable with a full trad rack and sundry items needed for a day’s routing in the mountains. As I alluded to earlier the only let down here are the dual sternum straps as they are a little short and to be honest only one is needed as the pack doesn’t really cary in a ‘vest’ style. I used it both with and without the waist belt and it worked well in both modes – the waist belt added slightly to stability but the All Mountain is very stable even without it. With the easing of lockdown I’ve used it on some longer ‘link-up’ days in the Lakes scrambling and climbing easy rock up to VS and covering 10-15km and it carries beautifully for this suggesting it will make an excellent pack for fast and light alpine adventures too.
With an overloaded pack you need to be careful how you arrange a rope if you stash it on top as although the strap can be adjusted to accommodate it there is a tendency for ropes to slip forward. With a truncated winter season I didn’t have the opportunity to test the axe retainer system in earnest but they seem to work well. Even with my inflexible shoulders I can reach back and retrieve an axe easily (this only applies to piolets not funky handled ice tools). The Classic UD strap pocket and flask holder work reasonably well. To be honest the flask holder is just as usable as those on other UD vests such as the FKT however the right strap pocket is narrower and can at times catch on your arm if stuffed full as a result of the strap angling backward (in classic pack manner) rather than more vertically like a running vest pack. It is still usable but not as generous as normal and might struggle with a ‘large’ smartphone. The slip pocket behind it accommodates the ski stash hook when needed but this is completely removable if not. Again this pocket is very narrow and can not take a compass which is my favourite use for it on the FKT. The ‘lid’ or flap pocket is reasonably generous and comfortably fitted sunglasses, sunscreen, lip balm, Buff, gloves, snacking food, mini headtorch, map and compass without issue as well as having the essential key clip so you don’t have a panic when returning to the van! When packing the sack I found it best to stuff it from the top in traditional pack style but then at the crag it was great to be able to unzip the back panel to access kit. The zippered back panel was also good for quick access for things such as the typically oversized modern guidebooks when checking out a crag.
Overall this is a good pack that is extremely versatile and could be great with a few tweaks here and there.
- Capacious – easily copes with a days cragging
- Comfortabl and Stable
- Shoulder strap pockets a bit compromised
- Watch the sizing
SRP £ 140
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