Review: Mountain Standard 28L Utility Pack

Originally posted on Carryology.

I commuted with the Mountain Standard 28L Utility Pack for a month and took it out to play in the Cascade Range of Washington for a 10 mile out-and-back.  I normally wouldn’t carry a bag like this on a hike, it’s missing a solid hip belt and the back panel is very minimal, but I was only taking ~5kg and the weather was on the cooler side. So in the name of a good review, I loaded it up.

Let’s be real.  The 28L Mountain Standard Utility Pack doesn’t look like an outdoor bag. It looks more like a ruggedized city bag or a moto pack than a lets-go-play-in-the dirt bag.

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Heading up

Allow me take my foot out of my mouth before we go any further.

This thing is bomber.  When I opened this up and started feeling through its features and material, you notice the quality right away.  Three different fabrics beautifully at play: black 500D ripstop nylon with grey details, matte face 500D black nylon, and a hypalon bottom panel. Then you’ve got the subtle MTN MOLLE rows for attaching pouches, biners, and other accessories, along with great stretch mesh side pockets for bottles.  I could go on, but let’s get into it.

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It can hang

Who it suits:  Mountain Standard nailed the name.  “Utility Pack.”  Commuters, the laptop sleeve is one of the nicest I have used.  I can attach the accessory pouch and drop in my charger, pens, and business cards and then utilize the built in sleeve for a folder, resumes, or portfolio.  A wonderfully simple carry handle makes all this possible in an easy open and grab motion.  Students, this is the most backpack you’ll get for $99 bucks pretty much anywhere.  That’s the most amazing thing about this bag, really.  Having a professional background in retail and being a life-long backpack consumer, I can tell you that this is an amazing value.  Where else do you get a hypalon bottom panel for $99?  Weekend warriors, this is a true do all bag.  If you’re making the most of your days off and heading straight for the hills after work on Friday, this bag won’t skip a beat.

Who it doesn’t: Folks who need more refined aesthetics in their carry products, this one’s a little to edgy for the board room.

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Blanca Lake, WA

The Good:   

It looks more like a ruggedized city bag or a moto pack than a lets-go-play-in-the dirt bag. Allow me take my foot out of my mouth before we go any further… This thing is bomber.

-Free float/articulating shoulder straps.  Ladies, this is a big deal for fitting different body types and accommodating your chest.  Dudes with huge traps, this will help you get a little bit of a wider yoke. This means more comfort for more people.

-Accessibility is great.  This is a nice long zippered top loader—this opening can be an issue when you’re only carrying a half load, as the bag will tend to collapse on itself when you open it, but with the 500D fabrics, there’s enough structure to support the bag even when your top pocket is fully loaded.

-The hardware is great: anodized aluminum ladder locks and female speed clips and 10mm YKK coil zip on the main access.  It has a magnetic Fidlock buckle sternum strap which took a while to get used to, but this allows fast one-handed use.

-Attention to detail.  Mountain Standard included elastic retainer bands for excess webbing on the compression and the shoulder straps. The full grain leather logo patch is discrete and tasteful.  Hypalon zipper pulls and pinch points for opening and closing round out the smaller details.

-The value.  It’s a really, really good value.  With all these features and the attention to detail, it’s a steal at $99.

The Not So Good:

-The vertical zipper on the front pocket doesn’t make a lot of sense to me.  Aesthetically, I think it might make for a more interesting design, but ultimate I’m putting function first.  Move that zipper as high as you can up the front face of the pack (OR keep it vertical and move it to one side) and turn that into a top loading envelope pocket.

-The suspension needs an upgrade if we’re really going to celebrate this as an outdoor bag.  The back panel is manageable, but could use a little more ventilation (as can all back panels).  The hip belt is the real opportunity for improvement though.  I want a minimally padded, stow-able hip belt that really hugs me while I’m hiking to the crag or running for my bus.  The one-inch webbing isn’t getting it done for me.

The hip belt is the real opportunity for improvement though.  I want a minimally padded, stow-able hip belt that really hugs me while I’m hiking to the crag or running for my bus.  The one-inch webbing isn’t getting it done.

How does this improve my experience?

It’s truly, very good. Mountain Standard’s vision is to provide quality products at reasonable prices so that folks who like to get out have more money to spend on their adventures.  (They’ve got a 80g Primaloft jacket for dudes listed at 69 bucks.  Are you kidding!?)  That really resonates with me as someone loves the outdoors and knows how valuable time spent exploring can be. If you need a solid pack and aren’t going to be outside for more than a day, this will get the job done.

2 thoughts on “Review: Mountain Standard 28L Utility Pack

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