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Climbing Packs

First Look: Osprey Mutant 38

A First Look at the new Mutant 38 pack.

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MSRP: $170.00

BEST FOR: Light and fast alpinism

The new Osprey Mutant 38 lives up to its name: this thing is freakishly good for alpine climbing. We’ve taken it out for long days on all sorts of terrain, from steep snow slogs to long multi-pitch vertical ice, and it has become a favorite for us.

The 38-liter main compartment comfortably fits your layers, food, bivy gear and anything else you need for a light-and-fast mission in the hills, and once it’s all in—assuming you’re an efficient packer, and hey, if you’re not we can’t really help you there—there’s no dead space or baggy pockets.

But it’s all the external features that really elevate this bag. The ToolLocks that allow you to fasten the head of an icetool to the bottom of the pack are idiot-proof, and combined with the bungee fasteners toward the top of the bag the system keeps your axes nice and tight against the front of the pack. Two sections of daisy-chain are sewn onto the front panel for affixing anything you want to dangle off the outside rather than stuff within.

The buckles are easy to open and close with gloves, so you can keep your digits warm even while taking off your bag to fish out a belay jacket. The upper straps are quick release. The hipbelt has gear loops and attachment points for your ice clippers—and if you’re climbing with this pack on it’s nice to have easy access to that stuff and not have to fumble around under the to reach gear on your harness.

Other nice features include a three-point haul system (you can tag up a full, heavy pack without concern) and a stretchy flap that pulls out of one of the two brain pockets and secures your helmet to the top. Also, that brain? Detachable in case you’d rather leave it behind.

The one external feature we would have enjoyed but was nowhere to be found on the Mutant was a compartment for stowing our crampons. You might be able to fit them in the brain, or rig something on the outside using slings, biners and the daisies, and of course you could just put them atop the main compartment, but it would have been nice to have a pocket that we could just shove our ‘pons into without thinking about it.

In terms of fit, there’s nothing here you wouldn’t expect from Osprey what with their expertise in all things packs. The back panel, which has two aluminum supports in it, has a springy firmness to it, so it maintains its shape and integrity, but also bends plenty for any twisting and squeezing you might encounter in an ice-choked chimney. The materials are also what you want: sturdy 420D nylon on the bottom, and 210D nylon throughout the body keep the Mutant strong without packing on the pounds—it comes in at just 2.81 pounds.

Yes, it’s still summer, but it’s not too soon to start thinking abouch what pack you’ll be wearing for mountain outings in the cold months—winter is coming!—and we already know that we’ll be using the Osprey Mutant 38 again this season.

Available now from Moosejaw for a screaming deal of just $127.50!

Buy Now 

Rock and Ice vigorously tests all gear it reviews for either 50 days or 50 pitches. This is a time-consuming process and limits the amount of new equipment we can present to our readers. Every year hundreds of new products hit store shelves, and most of these aren’t reviewed due to our stringent selection and review process. To better keep you more up to date on what is new, we present First Look. Gear in First Look has not always been field tested, but is gear we think you’d like to know about as soon as it is available. Some of the gear will be reviewed using our 50 days/50 pitches criteria, in future print and online editions of Rock and Ice. We have opted to use affiliate links in our gear reviews. Every time you buy something after clicking on links in our gear articles you’re helping support our magazine.