Monday, 2 October 2017

Mountain Hardwear Scrambler 30 Review

MH Scrambler 30 on a dry day on Buachaille Etive Mor
Over the past 2 months I’ve been testing a Mountain Hardwear Scrambler 30 Rucksack from Nevisport. It arrived just in time to accompany me as my daysack on a 4 week trip to Greenland where it was in constant use. Since then its done 17 graded scrambles in Lochaber and a navigation day in the Cairngorms. Its been tossed in planes, trains, boats, buses and cars, had a rifle strapped to it for a couple of weeks (bear protection in Greenland) and seen everything from baking sun to West Highland rain that penetrated 2 layers of waterproof jackets…. So what is the verdict?
Out of the packet:
Its bright and colourful (a colleague told me I was easy to spot in the mist the other day), simple (a minimum of gimmicks and fiddly straps) and the material feels tougher than most other waterproof bags I’ve used, especially on the lid. Although not a lightweight pack it doesn’t feel particularly heavy when empty.
 Nordvestfjord, Scoresbysund, East Greenland-1000m straight down
Tower Gap, Ben Nevis
Load carrying:
Its small for my needs. Guiding and Instructing I’ve often got food, drink, personal clothing, a group shelter, a comprehensive first aid kit, other emergency kit, map and compass, headtorch, a harness, some climbing rack and a helmet to fit inside the bag (helmets on the outside get lost or damaged too easily for me). I’m used to putting my rope inside too. So the first thing I did was start carrying my rope across my body in alpine coils and was surprised to find that, albeit with careful packing, everything else went inside with the lid closing right over. This is an important point as the rucksack is not a roll-top design so if the lid doesn’t cover the top its waterproofness will be compromised. There are side pockets on the sac but, in particular when mountaineering I prefer to keep everything inside the bag so nothing can be lost. I would only use the open side pockets when the rest of the bag was full and when it was stuffed the side pockets are too tight to fit much more than a map in. They did however take my z walking poles when being transported on the bag on the way to the start of hill days. There is a rope carrying strap on top too but similarly when the bag is full the lid is a bit too tight to fit a rope under and maintain a weatherproof seal. 
The Scrambler 30 is a lot more stable than this rock!
In use walking and scrambling it sits well on the back and I’ve never felt any discomfort when it was heavily loaded. The pack conforms well to the body and shows no inclination to swing around affecting your balance. It comes with a sleeve for a water bladder but I don’t use one (perfect for my laptop when travelling however).
Hand luggage
Descending Ledge Route on Ben Nevis
Greenland Boat Journey
Waterpoofness and durability:
The bag was initially used as hand baggage from Scotland to Iceland and beyond to East Greenalnd and it’s a perfect size for this. Then it was used on a choppy 2 day boat journey frequently splashed with salt water. It was used for about 16 days walking in Greenland including on the first ascent of a new 2200m peak. It was dropped, sat upon, scraped against gneiss crags and generally abused but always in sunny weather. At the end of this the padding on the back showed a small nick from the foresight of a rifle but the Outdry shell material looked pristine. Back in the UK its done 17 scrambles in Lochaber and had 5 days complete soaking. The contents have been completely dry until I’ve put wet kit into it late in the day.
West Highland wetness? No problem for this bag!
Summary:
If you are looking for a reasonably priced, tough and durable waterproof sack in the 30l range then look no further. It would suit a day walker/solo scrambler perfectly. If you want to carry climbing gear or a rack and rope too I’d go directly to one of its slightly larger Outdry cousins such as the Mountain Hardwear Scrambler RT 40 (which has both a rollmop closure and a lid) which I popped in to Nevisport to check out. These look just as well put together.

My own Scrambler 30 is going to be a mainstay of my rucksack selection through this winter.
 Hard use in Lochaber
First Ascent of .2201m Hinks Land East Greenland