LTR: Mountainsmith Red Rock 25 - Jamie DeBenedetto
- HTML version is in the test folder here:
------------------------------------- Long Term Report -----------------------------------------------
Collective Use and Field Conditions
In the final two months of this test I used the Mountainsmith Red Rock 25 on seven more day hikes to desert mountain or creek areas for a test series total of thirty-six treks. Additionally, I wore it on 14 other outings in local parks and on urban wash paths. Since we are in full blown summer conditions here in Phoenix, AZ (elev. 1,500 ft / 450 m) it's been used in primarily hot, sunny conditions with temperatures in the 100's (37 to 43 C). I did have two exceptions to that where I was hiking in light rain and higher humidity. The temperatures on those two treks were in the low 80's (28 C). Hikes lasted between 1.5 and 4 hours per outing.
Long Term Conclusions
Mountainsmith is synonymous with quality construction so I wasn't surprised to find that the Red Rock is bomber tough. I've hauled it, hung it, scraped it, tossed it, jostled it, and sweat on it several times every week for the last four months and the condition of the material is fabulously unfazed. If I washed off all the dirt and sweat marks it would look brand new. I'm very pleased with the durability of the Duramax nylon.
The pack's many features are also quite good. There are plenty of pockets with room for everything I needed and then some. The zippers run clean and can be operated with gloved hands. The stretchy side pockets easily take girthy water bottles and the load lifter handle and hydration port are large enough to actually do what they are designed to do.
The Anvil Airway, which serves to ventilate the users back, was another of the packs many positive attributes. I purposely wear a loose wet long sleeve shirt on summer hikes and after years of working outdoors I naturally sweat quite easily so my evaluation is based on general comparison to other packs I've used in these same conditions. Given that, I think the Anvil air chamber does help for two simple reasons: one, I don't recall feeling heat building up along the sections of my back where the pack touches but I do recall feeling air flow at times when there was a strong enough breeze. And second, while my back was still sweaty (can't imagine any way around that in 109 F / 43 C temperatures) I never felt that saturated wet sensation like I used to get with the old book bag I carried in high school. The padding on either side of the airway also gave ample support and protection from objects inside.
Unfortunately, I had absolutely no use for the organizer panel or the daisy chain so they didn't really get any testing but the trekking pole loops did come in handy on one occasion. Well, at least one of them did. I tried this feature with one of the MSR poles I own, which telescopes down into three segments and does not have a tip guard or basket. Loading/unloading the pole into/out of the "system" was no problem, an open loop at the bottom of the pack and a hook-and-loop tab hiding behind the load stabilizer straps higher up are the only components. It's a simple system that worked fine to hold the pole in place except when bending over. I had trouble getting the hook-and-loop to tighten down enough on the shaft to keep the pole from slipping.
In all, the Red Rock has many commendable qualities, but in my opinion it has two significant flaws that keep it from being a really fantastic dayhiking pack: the hipbelt and the lack of attachment points on the shoulder straps. The manufacturer gave this bag a generous carry capacity of 25 lbs (11 kg), they used quality materials, put them together well, and complimented it all with spacious compartments which makes it easy to carry lots of stuff. Unfortunately, I found it to be very uncomfortable to wear for hours of use because the hipbelt does very little to distribute weight off my shoulders. The max I carried was only 15 lbs (7 kg) and I struggled. I can't imagine how unrealistic another 10 lbs (4 kg) would be. I realize they are marketing this as an urban use bag as well so I can totally understand someone in that setting not wanting a more robust hipbelt, perhaps something detachable would address this issue for both types of users.
The other underwhelming aspect was the nonexistent attachment options on the shoulder straps. Without hipbelt pockets there is really no where to carry those extra items I routinely need while on the move; things like my GPS unit, camera, multi-tool, etc. which I prefer to carry in a place where they can be reached without having to stop to take the pack off. The two elastic bands on the shoulder straps worked fine to keep a hydration hose in check but were much too flimsy as lash points.
If I had to sum up the Red Rock 25 in ten words or less, I'd say it's rugged and roomy with a bit of an identity problem. If conditions call for a sturdy pack that I know will hold whatever I need for a day hike I will certainly consider the Red Rock as a trustworthy option. I don't think it will be my daily go to pack, however, because of the comfort limitations I experienced.
My thanks to Backpackgeartest.org and Mountainsmith for giving me the opportunity to be part of this test series.
-Jamie J. DeBenedetto 2013