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Mountain Hardwear Multi-pitch 16. The minimalist wall backpack redesigned.

Last season I did a cooperation with Mountain Hardwear for testing their Hueco 20 wall backpack. In fact we did not only go through the backpack but as well through the main criterias and tricks that you should consider when choosing a backpack for those long days on the wall.


This year, Mountain Hardwear has substituted the Hueco range for a new rebuilt concept, the Multi-pitch, that comes in 25l and 16l. Of course, we had to get our hands on them to properly check what did new construction can really do.

This year I went for the 16l version. I considered the 20l version from last year a great backpack for adventure climbing as it is not a minimalist wall backpack. You still have room for extra clothes, some proper solid approach boots, an ultralight sleeping bag and room for some extra gear just in case the activity could turn into a larger adventure. However, this year I decided to go for the Multi-pitch in size 16l, as for this begining of the season I had in mind activities that we can consider more rock climbers and a bit less alpinist or exploratoring. That means more straight forward activities, less pitches, with difficult and cruxy sections on the lead, short approaches and during the kinder weather season in Norway. That means probably just one backpack for the rope party as we want the leader to go as free of weight as possible to have a better chance and hopefully not a scary fall on those key cruxes. On the follower backpack is just going in the bear minimum, probably not a lot of extra clothes nor gear and quite austere with the snacks.

A change in the design.

The design has been completely changed this year and has evolved to a more rocky cut with a mixed inspiration of on the one hand the classic light wall backpack and a yosemite haul bag. No doubt the change in the design is a big success. The upper and back panel has this hard plastic fabric from the haul bags making it bombproof to abrasion and waterproof. On the other hand the side panels are from a rough thick fabric but that it’s not completly waterproof. This blend of fabrics create a solid bucket structure, making it easy to look for gear and putting things back in the wall. Moreover it is made so it can be hauled, sort of as a mini haul bag. The fabric is rough enough for taking abuse on the haul. You can as well hide the hip straps under seamed panel and tighten the chest straps to the maximum so nothing can get stuck on ledges or bushes on your route.

I apreciatte as well from the new fabric, that as been almost full waterproof, I’ve used it almost daily in Bergen, the rainiest city in Europe as my main backpack. Not only for climbing, but it is the backpack that I normally take on my short hiking trips with customers, the backpack I would take for a quick hike/run after work in the mountains of the city and the backpack that I use on the city for bringing my laptop, rain pants, a fleece and some groceries around. It’s not a dry bag, but it holds pretty decent heavy rain for some hours. Some parts will be moist, but it does well. When i’m carrying the laptop around under heavy rain I put in inside a plastic bag inside the backpack just for making sure that everything will be alright.

Profiting that we are still talking about the design and sort of city functionalities, I’d like to point out that I really like the new colours. In my case I was testing the State Orange, which looks very technical and cool, but as well there is another variation in Zinc colour, sort of a soft metallic blue that also catched my attention big times.

Volume. What can 20L really take?

The 20l of this backpack are counted for the main pocket, the bucket pocket, however this backpack has a few other cool pockets and functionalities that improves it’s functionality.

The 20l pocket would be full with the following options:

OPTION 1. “On the way to the wall”: 1 set of friends, 1 set of microfriends, 10 quickdraws, 1 pair of climbing shoes, harness, 1l water bottle, 5 chocolate bars, 1 sandwich, a small first aid kit and a light insulating layer, like a merino wool or hybrid long sleeve layer.

The backpack alo has a strap on top for the rope, a side net pocket that can be removed and hid inside the backpack, perfect for carrying a 1l water bottle, with similar system to the classical trail running backpacks. On the top of the bucket, there is the classical pocket for the wallet and keys and against the back there is a long zipped pocket perfect for keeping the maps, toppos and thermal blanket.

If I decide with my partner to use this backpack as the only backpack for the rope team for going minimalist we normally have a system for filling the backpack. First we calculate how much room the approach shoes will take, then we will fill the extra layer that we will take and finally  the water and snacks. They won’t be room for more. Then we will put on the approach shoes and put in the backpack the climbing shoes and some of the gear until it’s full and finally we will do the approach with the harness on from the car and the rest of the gear that did not fit in the backpack hanging on the harness.

A good trick for this packing plan is to have several different layers on the car, so when you check the real conditions of temperature, wind, humidity and room in the backpack, you can decide better what to wear on and what to pack in.

OPTION 2. Proper Norwegian hike: I will put in the backpack the hiking boots, a proper thermal insulating layer (for example: the Mountain Hardwear StretchDown DS hooded jacket), rain pants, 1l water bottle, 5 chocolate bars, sandwich and first aid kit.

I tend to start those hikes with a light base layer or activity t-shirt and the gore-tex jacket, quite often unzipped. At the end, it’s Norway and it’s always windy, half cold and half rainy.

I also tend to start my hikes with those kind of hiking sandals. It’s quite common that on the approaches over here that you have to cross swamps or wetlands, so I rather start getting my feet wet here on my sandals and then on higher ground transit to my proper boots and socks that have been kept dry on the backpack.

With this backpack I don’t need more space for a trip starting at sea level and going up to 1300m with parts of the hike through rocky or semi complex terrain.

Improved strapping system.

Something I strongly appreciate in the new Multi-pitch is that it does not only has a chest strap but as well a hip strap. While climbing, you normally only have attached the strap of the chest. It prevents the backpack to swing and if you would have attached the chest strap it would make some resistance and inconveniences for rising your arms up and do strength. However when you are on the approach, hikes or long days with the backpack on your shoulders, then the hip straps really make a difference. Your shoulders and lower back will finish less tired, reduced possibility of pain and the load is much more stable for high intensity activities such as running. The hip straps can be hidden behind a fabric fold for climbing but as well for hauling the backpack up and preventing it from getting stuck on trees or ledges.  

Extra functionality: gear straps.

I like backpacks for alpine terrain with side auxiliary gear straps! The harness I have been using this year in Norway is the typical ultralight sport climbing harness not very comfortable for carrying a lot of trad gear. Especially on Norwegian granite, where wall are naked and you need a lot of extra gear for making the belays, self rescue, and to protect long pitches that do the natural linkage between far apart ledges.

When I get to lead in one of those more committed routes, generally a bit more in exploration terrain, we tend to have two backpacks and I like to put on the auxiliary gear straps of minne the self rescue gear, the set of nuts that I use less, the very big cams that I probably won’t use on the pitch and some extra slings and carabiners. In that way my harness will be more clean and focused on a fast access to the gear that I will use to lead the pitch.

Does it work as a sport climbing backpack?

Some of you have asked me if I would recommend the Multi-pitch 16 as the backpack for bringing to the crag, especially for sport climbing. For such purpose I believe the 16l version is too small, however the 25l can be a solid candidate. In fact in that size you don’t only have a specialised backpack for serious wall activities but it will work well as an allround technical mid size backpack. Good for hiking, sport climbing, going to the gym, settle among your university buddies that you are a climber…

Does it work as a trail running backpack?

It is not a trail running backpack. However you can definitely do fast hiking with long running passages both through easy and complex terrain without any inconveniences. Moreover I will consider this backpack actually quite optimal for such activities. Don’t get me wrong, there are out there thousands of proposals more suited for running, but amongst the quiver of  a climber that is not a runner, this is no doubt the best I have for such activities. Actually I do not consider myself especially handicapped or left behind when I go for the multi-pitch 16 on a mountain run with my running friends.

I guess this won’t surprise anyone, but there is a certain annoying trend nowadays, where it seems that if you like to move fast on the mountains, you have to define yourself as a trail runner, wear running shoes from a mountain brand, wear compression arm sleeves and have a vest/backpack. Of course this may be the requirements if you are on the cutting edge of the sport, but for most of us amateur users, you can pretty much do it in approach low shoes and a multi-pitch backpack as I do.

I have been waiting a few weeks to publish this test as september and october tends to be good months for alpine routes in Norway, and I had several projects ahead. However, it’s been pretty much pouring rain everyday since late august, so options haven’t been plenty. On the other hand, next week I’ll be back on Spain and I will probably have some materials for updating the test.

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