Review: Osprey Mutant 38

As a fan of the Osprey range and in need of a comprehensive, yet relatively simple, mountaineering pack I opted for the Mutant 38 2nd edition. The main change for the 2nd edition was the gear loop change on the hip belt – instead of a karabiner loop for every letter of the word OSPREY on each side it was reduced to 3 karabiner loops and a general gear loop each side. This is presumably because if a climber/mountaineer has that much excess gear on the outside of their pack then they’re doing something wrong!

This pack has seen me through the last 2 years involving numerous climbing trips up and down the country, hiking in the highlands and Snowdonia, general kit haulage and my first ever ice climb – practically everything that the pack was designed for!

As with shoes and boots it is crucial to get a well fitted pack. It needs to keep you comfortable when carrying load by effectively distributing load between your shoulders and hips in an approximately 30/70 split respectively. Your pelvis is the key load bearing part of the body that distributes all the weight of the upper body down to the legs so getting as much of the pack weight on your hips is vital. The great thing about Osprey packs is that most of them come in small, medium and long back lengths, any pack will fit any body! Unfortunately I did the rookie error of selecting the medium back length which gives the full 38L, whereas I should have selected the small back length and sacrificed a couple of litres. The result is that the shoulder straps hover ever so slightly above my shoulders and creates extra movement in the pack when loaded up and moving over uneven terrain. This problem can be rectified using the adjustment straps but I’ll come to that in a bit. It is also strongly recommended to be skilled in the art of packing a rucksack and knowing where the heaviest items go. For example if a climbing rope is bunged on the top between the pack and lid then it creates an uncomfortable bow in the backpiece as the top section juts away from the back, whereas when stowed in the bottom of the pack then there’s no problem and it’s nice and comfy.

The Mutant is a very capable rucksack with plenty of useful features  to keep even the most accomplished mountain guide happy. Please bear in mind that my pack is the 2012 variation, the 2014 pack has some slight feature and material changes:

  • Chest strap with integrated whistle (whistle is upside down – annoying)
  • Ice axe retainer each side with scratch resistant pad on front
  • Floating and removable lid for expansion
  • Security pocket
  • Bladder pouch
  • Trekking/Ski pole attachments
  • Compression straps
  • Hip Belt stowable by wrapping it around pack
  • 4 Haul loops – 2 main front and back, 2 small on either side
  • Removable back ‘bivi pad’

    Strap Overlap

    Strap Overlap

Time to discuss a sticking point I have with Osprey packs – adjustment straps. Osprey love them, all over their packs! They’re just too long, and in the case of the floating lid of the mutant just plain badly thought through. The lid is set up a bit like a simple pulley system with the strap starting on the lid, through a loop on the main pack and then back up to the buckle on the lid – a great system that really lets you tighten the lid down to compress excess space. The main downside is that it directly overlaps the shoulder adjustment straps and constantly traps the buckle loosening off the shoulders. As it’s all stitched in place there is nothing that can be done about it except fish out the buckle from the tangle and yank the straps tight again after opening up the lid during a snack break or whipping out the waterproofs. With the strap length I’m still considering chopping a good amount of excess off; too many times I’ve picked up the bag whilst stood on a loose strap and tightened it right up as I chuck the bag over my shoulders

With the comfort and practicality of the pack it holds up very well. It does a good job of not trying to bunch up whatever jacket/top you’re wearing and although it doesn’t provide much airflow for a sweaty-backed person such as myself, when paired with a suitable wicking layer or good jacket such as the Paramo Velez Adventure Smock the experience becomes quite comfortable. It holds load very well and the hip belt does an excellent job of keep weight exactly where it needs to be without sliding all over the place or buckles slipping open as can happen on some brands. Bear in mind the pack offers no form of waterproof protection and so drybags are key not only keeping essentials like your sleeping bag dry but also for organising the contents of your pack.

Overall the Osprey Mutant is a great all round mountain pack that will see you through just about any adventure you can throw at it. The new model Mutant appears to have trimmed the excess and added a few extra features like a helmet retainer, ski straps and reduced weight. Well worth trying one on and be sure to ask staff about putting weight in the pack to really get a feel for it and get the sizing right.

RRP: £100
Weight: 1.6kg (Medium)

Mutant 38 on Sgurr Dearg

Mutant 38 on Sgurr Dearg

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