The Osprey Mutant 22-liter backpack accompanied me up the hardest pitch of 5.7 I’ve ever climbed. As I struggled up the thin, dihedral groove on that sweaty summer morning in Squamish, a few thoughts passed through my mind: I can’t believe how weak I am! Why did I think it was a good idea to bring a thermos full of coffee up here? This must be some kind of old school, sandbagged route. One short take later, I got to the top of the pitch and whipped out my phone to consult Mountain Project. Turns out, what I thought was a 5.7 alternate start to Angel’s Crest was actually Philistine Groove, 5.11a.
My climbing partner and I decided to continue up the second pitch of Quickdraw, another 5.11 route, despite our original plan to climb some pleasant moderate pitches. As I climbed the corner, the pack stayed out of my way. And as I hauled it up to myself after a second unintended pitch of 5.11, I began to realize what a great little pack it was.
The backpack has little in the way of external features; so few that it didn’t get hung up on any bolts or grippy Squamish granite on its lonely journey up Pitch 2 of Quickdraw. It still looked fresh and new after scraping its way up to me. Despite the added bulk of my coffee thermos, I realized that climbing the dihedral corner really wasn’t that bad after all. It wasn’t the pack that was the problem, but the person doing the climbing. Whoops.
The pack accompanied me on several trips this summer. On some daylong rock and alpine trips, I brought the pack because of its convenience even when I didn’t necessarily need it. Extra bars, extra layers and more were no problem tucked inside of the Mutant 22L. The pack rarely impeded movement: it was narrow enough to stay out of my way when I reached for gear on my harness, and the pack’s brain storage space was low-profile enough that it never bumped against my helmet or pushed into my neck when I was scoping out moves above.
The 22L size is ideal for day trips. I found that I was able to pack a harness, double rack, shoes, chalk, bars, a liter water bottle, small first aid kit, a few light layers and a helmet with relative ease. Sometimes it took a little jostling and repacking to get everything to fit. But on the whole, I found 22L to be the perfect size and a welcome addition to my ever-expanding pack collection.
A unique aspect of this pack is the zipper closure. It curves in such a way that it matches the contour of your helmet. I like to pack heavy items low and centered on my back. If you start with your rack and stack your water bottle, layers, lunch, then harness and shoes, your helmet fits snugly on top and the zipper easily wraps around the bundle with minimal struggle. Beneath the unique zipper is a strap to secure a rope to the pack.
One quality that sets this pack apart from other climbing packs is the structure and shape of the body of the pack. Its removable frame sheet maintains the tube shape better than a Patagonia Ascensionist or an REI Flash pack does. This structured shape made it easier to dig through the pack to find lunch or other gear at a belay. The pack also has a built-in rope-carry strap to secure a rope to the exterior, though I found that I could store a rope on top of the pack without using the strap.
The drawbacks to this pack are few. When we traded off the pack at a belay during a multipitch climb, one of my partners complained that the straps were too narrow at his neck and rubbed uncomfortably. I did not personally experience this issue. Another minor complaint is that it was somewhat awkward to stow pickets in the pack for glacier travel. I ended up inserting a picket into the main compartment and zipping the top of the pack closed around the picket.
Ultimately, the minimal features on this pack are what make it great. It has a thin back pad with a snow-shedding material that maintains structure, a hydration sleeve, the ability to carry ice tools or an ice axe, and a single brain pocket. It’s the perfect tube pack with none of the frills for efficient day trips. I’d give this pack 4 out of 5 stars because it gets the job done. It’s a worthy piece of equipment for the fast-and-light climber. Eventually I went back and finished Angels Crest. And of course, I did it with the Osprey Mutant 22L, but the second time without coffee.
Mallorie Estenson is an alpine guide, working in the Cascade Range with Mountain Madness. She’s been obsessively climbing and skiing her way through the Pacific Northwest for the last four years. When she’s not out in the field, she writes for her local outdoor magazine or her personal blog, pnwclimbergirl.com. You can follow her work on Instagram: @malpinist.
Versatile backpack for all types of climbing
Convenient ice tool attachments
Multiple attachment points for gear
3-point haul system
Tube-style pack with minimal frills
Strap to secure rope to exterior of pack
Optional frame provides comfortable structure and support
Narrow, unobtrusive width and fit
Structured shape allows for easy access to gear at belays
Internal top pocket conveniently stows small items like headlamp, sunscreen, keys, phone, etc.
Shoulder straps offer narrow fit, which can be uncomfortable for some.
Awkward for picket storage for alpine climbing.