Osprey Mutant 38 rucksack 2008

Some rucksacks look nice but are totally impractical on the hill. Others are superb on the hill but look like they were sketched out on a fag packet and knocked up in a garden shed. So when it comes to designing a great rucksack there’s plenty that can go wrong – and it often does! 
Thankfully there are some brands that can be relied on to get the mix about right. Osprey from the USA is a relatively new brand in the UK, but it’s already gaining a loyal following thanks to the attention to detail that has seen the Talon, Aether and Stratos rucksacks all become modern, well-established classics.
Not content with making such positive inroads into the British market, Osprey has now released the Mutant 38, designed with feedback from European climbers. This sack is intended for the year-round climber and mountaineer looking for a lightweight, minimalist design that’s tough enough to rough it with rock in the Alps. So it could also be ideal for British hill-walkers making the step up to roped scrambles and easier UK climbs, or Alpine mountaineering.
I took the sack out around the Lakes for some roped scrambles to see how it handled. The manufacturer says that the feedback it received from European climbers made it decide to remove features rather than add them. To me this is the real bonus of this minimalist sack – it comes with no unnecessary extras.
Packing the Mutant was a doddle, thanks to the relatively simple main compartment design with drawcord entry and a lid. There’s a bit of stiffening in the back too, so kit shouldn’t dig into you.
There’s a sleeping mat fitted into the pack, too, which can be removed along with the lid if you want to strip the weight down by almost 400g (that’s like losing a lightweight waterproof from your load). There are lighter sacks if weight is your issue, like the 37 litre Crux AK37 at 960g, but you can’t expect the same durability.
I’m particularly impressed with the lid as it can be removed (ideal for the Alps) and has a spindrift collar (great for keeping rain out here in Britain). Better still, the lid can be extended for extra capacity if required.
Trekking poles fit neatly on the sides and compression straps keep the load stable. The hipbelt has a climbing gear racking system built onto the fins. I found this a bit fiddly and would prefer a simpler gear rail. But I do like the fact that the hipbelt has been designed to wrap around the back of the sack to keep it out of the way when wearing a climbing harness.
On the whole the sack is nice and stable, and ideal for scrambling and climbs. I’d certainly consider it for Alpine adventures. It’s one of those rare sacks that’s simple and functional, making it ideal for keen walkers who like to scramble and rock-climb occasionally.

Price £70
Capacity 38 litres + lid extension
Materials 420 denier Armourlite fabric and 900 denier Armourguard
Features one main compartment; removable lid with spindrift collar; side compression straps; wand pockets; internal and external lid pockets; hydration system-compatible
Weight 1345g (950g stripped)
Made in Vietnam

Verdict
Simple, practical design; can be stripped for Alpine use. But gear loops are not as good as a simpler gear rail. Overall, this is a superb, practical rucksack for hill-walkers who want to progress into the world of scrambling, climbing and mountaineering.

Review by Graham Thompson
First published in Trail magazine September 2008