Montane are well known for their quality range of outdoor clothing, but do their recent range of rucsacks come up to the same high standard? We review their Medusa 32 and Hydra 25 packs and see whether they should stick to the garments or if they’ll have other pack manufacturers quaking in their frames.
There are three packs and a Batpack 6 waist pack (to be reviewed separately) in the Montane pack range, and are available in their Moroccan blue and orange colourway or a more drab granite grey. I personally think that the orange and blue works, but I can see how it might not be too everyone’s taste.
The Medusa 32 litre pack is both fully featured and reasonably lightweight at only 913g (£80). There are plenty of lighter packs out there, and even more heavy packs, so where does this fit in? We tested this over a couple of months, using it mainly as an overnight pack on the Anglesey coastal path and a few high level wild camps in Snowdonia, along with a few mountainous day walks and scrambles.
There’s no doubt that this pack is designed for the mountains, with the slim profile being geared towards climbers and scramblers. There’s even a gear rail along one of the belt straps that allows you to hook any kit along with plenty of attachment points along the rear for ice axes, poles and climbing kit.
The pack is fully featured, with a well padded lid pocket that offers a degree of protection to any kit in there along with a secure pocket inside the lid for keys and wallet. There’s a ‘Comfort Back Pad’ to make carrying less sweaty and to prevent any kit from digging into your back.
The fabric is light but has a reassuringly tough feel to it. The chest strap fastening is rather unusual as it isn’t your usual buckle. You may be there a while the first time trying to work out how to unfasten it, or you may realise immediately that you just pull it away from you to open.
There were only two minor things that let the Medusa down for me, and those were points that might be rather personal to me and to the way I like to use the pack and rather minor in the big scheme of things. Only having one waist pocket, especially during the summer when that’s the only pocket I have, is something I found to be a pain. I could just about fit a camera and phone in the one pocket, but ended up switching the camera on each time, which resulted in the lens trying to open in the pocket. Not good. The fact that there’s a gear rail instead makes it less useful for me, but obviously a lot more appealing to others.
The only major gripe that I’ve got is with the side mesh pockets. I can comfortably fit my overnight kit into the pack, but with the exception of water. That’s normally where these side pockets come in. Unfortunately, if your pack is full you won’t fit anything more than a pair of poles into these, making carrying water for that wild camp rather difficult. You can use the side straps to secure a couple of platys to the side, but I prefer the security that the mesh pocket provides. This means that the pack might be my first choice for a winter walk or scramble, but unfortunately less likely for a wild camp. That’s disappointing as I’d hoped the pack’s main function would be as my main summer overnight pack to replace an ageing OMM 32, so that search continues as my pack collection expands.
The Cobra is a smaller 25 litre pack and is more of an all rounder. It would be equally at home on the commute as it would on Crib Goch, though undoubtedly happier on the latter. While perhaps it is too small for most to use as an overnight pack, putting it firmly into day-pack territory. It isn’t much lighter than the 32 at 819g and a tenner cheaper at £70.
There’s a huge zip for access, with obvious advantages that brings and again a handy lid pocket that’s easy for your walking partner to access whilst you’re on the move and angled to keep any kit inside.
Our guest tester Mark Parry,had this to say about his Cobra25:
Having used this pack for the first time on a long distance footpath I was not at all let down with the ability of this pack to adjust itself to take the form of the back. The straps were perfect and easily adjusted and the clip on / clip off chest strap made for easy pack removal. The only down side to this pack is the capacity is relatively restricted, that is the material does not have the same level of give compared with other such packs OMM being an example. As a lightweight day pack I would not be able to fault this pack, the pack is a perfect combination of weight to capacity and comfort and would highly recommend this to any hill walker.
Overall, you’d think they’d been at it for years. Montane have come up with a range of packs that compliment their garments and that’s no mean feat. They’re comfortable, functional yet light enough and a very tidy pack that’s ready for any challenge on the hill. They’re not badly priced for a premium pack either. The only change I’d make is to make the side pocket fabric stretchier or to simply increase their size so you can fit a water bottle into them when the pack is full and perhaps a removable second pocket for the gear rail, though I know that’s a long shot!