Mountainsmith are another of those excellent US brands that we have had our eye on for awhile which is almost unknown in Europe but are designing and producing great products. At Valley and Peak, one of our goals is to bring to the UK and Europe brands not found easily outside of their home country and enabling our customers old and new to quickly and without having to resort to waiting to pay import duties, processing fees etc to get their hands on some of best equipment out there. We do all the hard work, you just click the buy button. Mountainsmith joins an increasing list of difficult to source brands that Valley and Peak retail, including CNOC Outdoors, Cascade Wild, Easton, Vesuv, Lawson Equipment, Eifel Outdoor Equipment and PreTents.
Mountainsmith founded in Golden, Colorado in 1979, was born and bred in the Rockies. The story began with Colorado outdoorsmen in need of seriously durable gear that could withstand the rigors of their backcountry pursuits. As their expeditions became longer and more remote, they realized that commercial gear couldn’t keep up with their adventures—so they built their own. With weeks at a time in the woods, they'd come up with new ideas and prototypes out of any materials on-hand, not just building gear, but building a lifestyle and brand that is still rooted in its connection to the Rockies.
These are our favorite pieces of gear from Mountainsmith.
Zerk 40 Backpack
Co-designed with' The Real Hiking Viking', a professional 'hike-really-long-distances-really-quickly', the ZERK 40 was born out of a need for an ultralight pack that can withstand the thousands of miles per year that The Real Hiking Viking already covers. Mountainsmith wanted to make sure that it would allow him to go farther, to hike longer, and to work more efficiently on the trail. Over the course of 2 years of development, the ZERK 40 went through 4 iterations and over 5,000 miles of testing on the Wind River High Route, the Colorado Trail, The Tetons, and more.
We been loading it up and walking short distances, (we are too busy making and selling gear to get out yet)! This is very much a first impression, but there are good reviews out there to give us confidence in stocking the pack. In my experience rather like trail shoes and boots, it doesn't take long to work out if gear is comfortable or not. The Zerk 40 is a nice carry, with it fitting very nicely in the fast and light category. Some packs I have loved straight away and some I've put on and instantly disliked. I think the very wide padded shoulder straps, typically found on 'running vest style' pack very much contributes to this comfort.
I put in my favorite items suitable for a few days, with all the comforts and skimping on none. Food, water and fuel in not including in this base weight of 7.4 kg. This includes a UL 2 person tent, -3°C sleeping bag/quilt hybrid, an UL camp chair system. I will post up in full shortly the complete gear list. The purpose of this was to show how much you could get in a 40 litre pack like the Zerk 40. The pack weighs a scant 822g and is made from recycled 210D EXTREEMA Nylon Ripstop and recycled 210D Oxford.
What I love about this pack, apart from the comfort and low weight, is that it has 9 external pockets so loads of stuff is in arms reach without taking the pack off.
You can find full details, specs, videos and price on our website here
So for trips where you need to carry more gear and/or prefer a full hip belt, the Scream 55 ( 55 Litres) may fit the bill. Made from very durable high tenacity Robic fabric, a high tear strength PU coating and Aramid yarn preventing extended tears and abrasion, the pack feels very robust, but only weighs 1270g. Again a very comfortable carry and seems on initial use, as comfortable as any I have used over the last few years and on par with one of my favourites the Mariposa, but is a very substantially cheaper pack than the Mariposa. There is a U shape zip, which allows immediate access to main compartment of the pack without opening the top. Useful feature, which will appeal to both backpackers and travellers alike. Side pockets are very large, swallowing a 1 litre CNOC Versica water bottle with plenty of room to spare. The two large pockets at the front took all my waterproofs, gloves, hats, gaiters, windshirt, sitmat, Vargo Dig Dig tool and the Mountainsmith Slingback chair. Access to these pockets is via a side zip both sides.
I counted no less than 12 gear attachment points and there is also a daisy chain that runs between the two front pockets, ice axe loops, and elastic holder for the shafts of walking poles etc. A roll top closure keeps weight down and compresses any excess space with two buckles keeping the closure neat and tidy. The bottom left photo shows the roll top, the gear was swallowed up by the pack just above the Mountain smith logo leaving loads of room for food and extra gear if needed. Two large pockets on the hip belt gives access to snacks, mobile phones etc.
SlingBack Chair Bundle
Being able to sit comfortable at camp usually requires a specialist ultralight camp chair or a chair kit for certain sleeping mats. One lightweight comfortable option if you use trekking poles and are not using them for your shelter is the Mountainsmith Slingback Chair. The treking poles cross over and fit into 'pockets' at the back of the Slingback Chair, angle the poles correctly (only takes a few goes to get right) and a leap of faith in leaning back and you have a surprisily stable camp chair. To make it really comfortable, Valley and Peak have come up with a money saving bundle twinning the SlingBack Chair with a Klymit V Seat cushion with the combo weighing 220g on our scales and if you roll and fold the Slingback Chair in half it packs down to just 20 x 10 x 7 cm. The bundle does not include the poles featured. Poles should be positioned further away from the chair than shown in the first two photos, that was to allow the chair to stand upright without someone sitting in it to photograph.
Apex 80 - An expedition style full features pack
Completely redesigned, the Mountainsmith Apex 80 backpack maximises comfort and durability for more miles, longer days, and more efficient load-carry. Ideal for gear-intensive backpacking where you may have to carry for many days without resupply or for winter trips.
Another pack where we were impressed by the quality and the number of features that this pack has. This is not ultralight backpacking but we wanted to stock a feature rich, bomber, ultra comfortable expedition pack that was great value for money. We think we found it in the Apex 80.
I loaded this up with a ton of stuff (well not literally!) and found this a very comfortable carry, this just swallows the gear with more space to spare.
- Front panel stretch mesh expansion pocket
- Adjustable torso for perfect fit
- Forward pull waist belt with delta compression side adjustment webbing
- Stretch mesh zippered waist belt pockets for expanded volumes (Fits up to iPhone 8+ and Galaxy S9+)
- Front panel, large U-Shaped zippered access to main compartment
- Top lid zippered compartment with secondary pocket underneath
- Top storm collar with dual cinch cords and over the top compression strap
- Deep side panel expansion pockets with Over/Under strap pass through
- Dual tool / trekking pole carry with elastic pole tip loops
The Apex 80 is built with Mountainsmith's Tuning Fork Waist belt, designed to cup the iliac crest of the hip bone for a more dynamic fit and improved load transfer.
Increased padding on the lumbar pad and their Delta Load Compression System stabilise and transfer weight for more efficient and comfortable carry. With a 'sock-style' shoulder strap construction (no seams or hard edges means no digging into the body), increased padding on the waist belt, adjustable torso range, and a hex-ridged back panel. The advanced, tubular aluminium frame keeps the weight lower without sacrificing performance.
Further details on the Mountainsmith Apex 80 can be found here