Mont-Bell Lightweight Alpine 60 Backpack REVIEW

A product performance review of the Mont-Bell Lightweight Alpine 60 internal frame pack.

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by Blake Morstad | 2005-05-10 03:00:00-06

Overview

Mont-Bell Lightweight Alpine 60 Pack - 1
The Mont-Bell Alpine 60, at 3 pounds 11.6 ounces, handles 40 pounds of gear very well and is adequately equipped to attach a multitude of alpine gear - two ice axes, crampons, and climbing rope among them.

The Mont-Bell Lightweight Alpine 60 pack has a comfortable frame and an all around durable design. At 3 pounds 11.6 ounces (1.69 kg) and 3,660 cubic inches (60 liters), this pack will most likely be too heavy and large for the ultra-light crowd; however, those who rank themselves as a lightweight backpacker or alpinist may find this pack a great buy. The Mont-Bell Lightweight Alpine 60 pack can comfortably handle loads up to 40 pounds. It has attachment options for a variety of tools used by alpine adventurers - crampons, rope, and two ice axes. The pack expands for larger volume loads nicely, but performs poorly when carrying smaller, dense loads due to insufficient compression straps along its lower flank. Hydration compatibility is a nice-to-have option that is missing from the Mont-Bell Lightweight Alpine 60 pack.

Specifications

• Backpack Style

Internal frame, top loading, top lid with dual buckle closure supported by a removable lightweight aluminum T-stay (two piece) and 8 mm urethane back/bivy pad.

• Fabric Description

Pack body: Dyneema rip-stop nylon. Bottom/Top Lid: Cordura.

• Sizes

One size adjustable to fit torsos from 17 to 22 inches (43 to 56 cm)

• Volume

3,660 ci (60 L)

• Weight

3 lb 11.6 oz (1.69 kg) as measured with stays (manufacturer claims the same)

• Volume to Weight Ratio

51 ci/oz with stays (based on 3,660 ci and 59.6 oz)

• Load Carrying Capacity

40 lbs (18 kg) as claimed by Mont-Bell and confirmed by Backpacking Light

• Carry Load to Pack Weight Performance Ratio

11 (based on 40 lbs and Backpacking Light measured weight of 3 lb 11.6 oz)

• Model Year

2004

• MSRP

$179.00

Frame and Suspension

The Mont-Bell Alpine 60 pack incorporates a removable spine-length aluminum stay coupled with a fixed aluminum horizontal T-stay at the pack's top. Removing the main stay is performed by undoing a Velcro strap and pulling the stay out of its slot. A 0.3 inch thick removable urethane pad measuring 9 inches by 42 inches (0.6 inches thick when folded in the pack) is contained in a separate pocket, which doubles as an emergency bivy pad. Other suspension features include dual density foam shoulder straps, an adjustable sternum strap, padded/stabilized hipbelt, and load lifters. The shoulder straps are sewn in a fixed location on the backpanel. Similar to the shoulder straps, the hipbelt uses dual-density foam and has a secure and low-bulk fit. Adjustment for torso size is performed by sliding the Velcro attached hipbelt up or down. The Velcro attachment of the hipbelt also allows it to be removed entirely; a nice feature for climbers whose harness may otherwise get in the way.

Mont-Bell Lightweight Alpine 60 Pack - 2

Usable Features and Ease of Use

The Mont-Bell Alpine 60 pack consists of a large main pack bag along with a floating/detachable three-pocket top lid. The main sack closes with two main cinches providing a fairly storm-proof enclosure. A compression strap sewn at the sack's top provides a means to stabilize the main sack as well as to affix a climbing rope. Gear inside the main sack tends to get lost in the cavernous enclosure. Having additional stuff sacks definitely improves usability.

The top lid pocket is attached with three adjustable side release buckles, allowing easy access to the main bag and the ability to adjust the lid to accommodate varying pack volumes. With a fully loaded pack, the lid fits nicely with its elasticized sides. The lid has one large pocket, a smaller pocket suitable for maps, and a handy, accessible valuables pocket.

There are no side-panel water bottle pockets. The Alpine 60 is not hydration ready either; however, it is possible to slide a bladder in the pad pocket (with the vertical stay removed) or leave the bladder loose among one's other gear. The hydration hose routes easily enough through the main bag opening or through a user-created hole near one of the shoulder straps.

For extended rest stops, one must debate whether the effort to remove the bivy pad is worth the comfort. The vertical aluminum stay must first be taken out of the pack before removing the pad; a task that is difficult when the pack is fully loaded. The pad must then be wrestled out of the pack. However, the greater challenge may be putting the pad back in the full pack. When empty, removal of the bivy pad becomes an easier task, though not as convenient as unlashing one's sleeping pad from exterior straps.

With dual ice axe loops, a rope attachment strap, a narrow profile, and crampon attachment capability, the Mont-Bell Alpine 60 pack is a natural choice for alpine situations. The crampon attachments, made with two buckles sewn on a durable Cordura patch, are located on the top of the lid in a top-heavy and unstable placement. The ice axe loops are located at the bottom of the pack's daisy chains with axe handles secured with buckles that require threading, a drawback for quick and easy tool removal. Side release buckles would have been a better choice here.

Load Volume Flexibility

The Mont-Bell Alpine 60 pack has a limited ability to adjust to smaller pack volumes. While the two compression straps perform great where they are located, the absence of compression straps lower on the pack causes the pack to bulge out in this location. The pack does much better adjusting to larger volumes. The main packbag has an extension collar that can serve to heighten the pack and allow for greater volumes. The extension collar is big enough and convenient for storing a climbing helmet.

Pack Load Carrying

The Mont-Bell Alpine 60 pack carries 40 pounds well with little load carrying performance loss. The aluminum stays transfer loads to the hipbelt efficiently and effectively. The hipbelt stabilizer straps securely cinch the pack into the lower torso and prevent the pack from swaying. The load stabilizer straps near the shoulders are also effective in ensuring load transfer to the hipbelt. Although the hipbelt is thin and not heavily padded, it is comfortable while carrying the maximum load recommended (40 pounds). The thick, dual density shoulder straps also increase carrying comfort.

When packing the Alpine pack, it is important to prevent heavier items from shifting to the pack's bottom where there are no compression straps to control the load. With a smaller pack volume but weight still in the 30 pound range, it is difficult to maintain a neatly packed bag. Heavier items shift to the uncompressed lower section of the packbag making it bottom heavy. For the alpine user, this scenario may play out when leaving behind gear for the day and making a fast and light summit push. In this situation, the Mont-Bell Alpine 60 pack does not carry loads effectively.

Durability

The Mont-Bell Alpine 60 pack is made with lightweight alpinism in mind. Durable Dyneema flanks the majority of the pack with tough Cordura patches on high use areas. This pack will stand up reasonably well to slides and scrapes on rocky scrambles as well as ascents up chimneys. Large fasteners are used throughout the pack which exude toughness. We are continually impressed with the quality of workmanship seen in Mont-Bell gear. The Mont-Bell Alpine is no exception, with double stitched high stress areas and clean finished seams.

Value

The Mont-Bell Alpine 60 pack is a good value in a lightweight, alpine worthy pack when compared to other packs in the same category, which are generally $20 to $40 more expensive. This pack is relatively lightweight and extremely durable; it will no doubt last through years of abuse.

Recommendations for Improvement

Areas for improvement with the Mont-Bell Alpine 60 pack might include adding another well placed compression strap near the pack bottom. This would allow for carrying heavy, lower volume loads with greater load control. Threading buckles to attach ice axes made removing tools difficult at best, especially while wearing gloves. Side release buckles would be an improvement. Finally, integrating a hydration ready design would greatly improve this packs usability, since it lacks water bottle pockets.


Citation

"Mont-Bell Lightweight Alpine 60 Backpack REVIEW," by Blake Morstad . BackpackingLight.com (ISSN 1537-0364).
http://backpackinglight.com/cgi-bin/backpackinglight/mont_bell_lightweight_alpine_60_pack_review.html, 2005-05-10 03:00:00-06.

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