Osprey Mutant backpack

By Justin Walker 9 April 2014
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The pack manages to cram in all the essential features for fast climbing adventures thanks to its accommodating interior and outstanding standard features.

MY GEAR SHED is jam-packed with backpacks. But I always make a beeline for a certain few and Osprey’s Mutant is one of them.

I have had this pack for four years. Originally, it was bought specifically for climbing (which is its design remit), but it has ended up seeing more use as my go-to pack for day/overnight hikes. This is not because it isn’t good enough for climbing – far from it – it is simply a reflection of my changed focus in regards to outdoor activities.

The Mutant is targeted at climbers. The pack manages to cram in all the essential features for those fast climbing adventures – including overnight alpine trips – thanks to its deceptively accommodating interior (38L capacity) and well thought out standard features.

The Mutant is made from a combination of tough 420HD nylon and 900D polyester, and includes a removable closed cell foam framesheet (which does double-duty as a bivvy pad). The dual closure system ensures nothing will escape the pack and the nifty Z-compression system (straps winding up/down the pack sides in a “Z” shape) ensures even distribution of your pack load.

Additional features include the dual side wand/ice probe pockets (which also keep trekking poles secure when not in use) and a reverse wrap hip belt, for those times, such as climbing an ice wall, when you want as much arm-swing space as you can get. There is also provision for two ice-tools to be attached, and hard loops (one each side) for carabiners and/or other climbing equipment.

In the few climbing trips I undertook, the Mutant swallowed a pile of gear, including rope, harness, helmet, carabiners, etc., and, when the Z-compression system was cinched in tight, it was very comfortable on my back.

The only downside was the hefty amount of “sweaty back” I copped as the contoured back panel hugs in tight to your spine. But this tight fit does ensure the pack doesn’t shift when you’re halfway up a multi-pitch ice climb.

As a day/overnight hiking pack, the Mutant also excels. The main reason it works so well for me is that the non-solid framesheet has a bit of flex in it, allowing you to really squeeze in that extra bit of kit. On various overnight trips, I have seen the Mutant packed full to near bursting with sleeping bag, small stove and canister, lightweight tarp, compact Therm-a-Rest NeoAir mattress, small digital camera, 3L water bladder, dehydrated food and multi-tool, among other things.

In my experience, the removable framesheet’s only downfall is that when the pack is half-empty, the framesheet doesn’t seem as supportive as when it is full, even allowing for the effective harness system.

The “Fixed Stretch Comfort harness” is relatively simple in design but when that and the Z-compression strap and sternum strap are tightened accordingly for the load, it works well. I have had heavy loads in this pack, and often dragged it out and about by one shoulder strap (it does have haul loops, but I seem to ignore them every time) and the harness seems no worse for wear.

For the vertically inclined, the Mutant is a no-brainer – its versatility, accurate design-for-use and toughness are stand-outs – but don’t dismiss it as a day/overnight hiking option either. For a small package, it surprises, even if some hikers may miss a solid internal framesheet. In four years of use it has not let me down.

RRP $179.95 www.ospreypacks.com/en/partners/australia