Backpacks and rain coats accumulate in gear-addicts’ closets like dust bunnies behind the TV. Great deals, hand-me-downs and Craigslist finds are too good to pass up, but when it comes time to head out the door, there’s usually an old standby that we reach for every time regardless of the adventure ahead.
The Mountainsmith Mayhem 35 might just become the new go-to pack. A backpack like the Mayhem is destined to live a glass-half-full/empty existence. With 2,100 cubic inches (35 liters) of capacity, it’s a little large for day of light touring but a little small for the weekend. While it might not be pitch perfect for any trip, it’s far above average.
The pack’s burly suspension features an x-frame dispersion system and ergonomic back panel that makes hauling the pack at capacity a much more comfortable experience. The system also features an easy-to-change torso adjustment, so you can get a more custom-tailor fit depending your proportions and preferences.
Coupled with wide, well-placed and padded shoulder straps, the Mayhem rides comfortably when loaded down. Although the hip belt is conveniently out of the way when unwanted, it’s short, thin panels don’t give much support and invite the nylon cinch straps to dig into your sides on longer outings. The belt’s pivoting design helps keep it in check, but the bigger the beer belly, the more you’ll be reminded about the extra weight you’re carrying.
Since the Mayhem makes its name on versatility, the pack doesn’t disappoint when strapping gear on. With ice axe and tool loops, trekking pole mounts, ski straps and daisy chains and compression straps, there’s nothing that you can’t stuff tie or mount to the Mayhem for winter of summer fun. And don’t worry about ski edges or snowshoes shredding the pack before a full season has passed. Made with 450d ReDura recycled material (the pack uses 18 recycled 16-ounce plastic bottles), the shell is wear resistant and feels substantial to the touch without being bulky.
Additional features include a sleeve for a hydration bladder (not included), water bottle pockets on the sides, an expandable collar and top lid for maxing out the internal space and a stretchy front sleeve for an avalanche shovel or cramming damp gear.
The Mountainsmith Mayhem 35 is a jack-of-all-trades pack. But whether it’s a backcountry ski outing or a midsummer peak push, the Mayhem shines through as a durable choice that should be at the top of the pile. (MSRP $139)
Alex Strickland was born and raised in possibly the least mountainous and outdoorsy city in America – Memphis, Tenn. Despite the lack of trails and people to enjoy them with, he became a hiker, mountain biker and runner. Today, he's traded up for the Wasatch Mountains of Utah and added skiing to the mix, once someone explained what snow was.
A former newspaper editor in small-town Montana, Strickland enjoys freelance writing and photography for publications around the Mountain West and sharing his love for the outdoors through his work.
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