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Mountain Hardwear PCT 70 Review

A high volume pack that isn't quite capable of comfortably carrying the heavy load that comes with 70 liters worth of gear
Mountain Hardwear PCT 70
Credit: Mountain Hardwear
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Price:  $300 List | $299.95 at Backcountry
Pros:  Lots of pockets, breathable back panel, transfers weight to hips, large water bottle pockets
Cons:  Suspension is bouncy, too many pockets for some
Manufacturer:   Mountain Hardwear
By Sam Schild ⋅ Review Editor  ⋅  May 17, 2022
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60
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#15 of 15
  • Suspension and Comfort - 45% 6.0
  • Weight - 20% 5.0
  • Features and Ease of Use - 20% 6.0
  • Adjustability - 15% 7.0

Our Verdict

The Mountain Hardwear PCT 70 is a high-volume backpacking pack that is designed for long backpacking trips. Its namesake, the PCT (Pacific Crest Trail) is infamously hot and dry. This pack addresses those challenges with a highly breathable back panel and massive water bottle pockets. It also has tons of pockets to keep all your gear organized. However, there are maybe a few too many pockets on this pack for backpacking. And though the back panel is very breathable, it's also very bouncy and loud. This could be a great pack if it had a 40-50 liter capacity and was simplified a bit, but as it is now it's awkwardly big and can't handle the weight that its size allows.

Compare to Similar Products

 
Awards  Editors' Choice Award Top Pick Award Best Buy Award Top Pick Award 
Price $300 List
$299.95 at Backcountry
$269.95 at REI
Compare at 3 sellers
$280 List$199 List
$199.00 at REI
Check Price at REI
Compare at 3 sellers
Overall Score Sort Icon
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Star Rating
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Pros Lots of pockets, breathable back panel, transfers weight to hips, large water bottle pocketsLight-weight, comfortable with heavy loads, perfect pocket combinationLight-weight, comfortable, supportive, functional feature setLight-weight, comfortable, easily personalized, inexpensiveDurable, lots of features, plenty of adjustments to dial in the perfect fit, supportive
Cons Suspension is bouncy, too many pockets for someTiny buckles hard to operate with glovesNo lid, back-panel lacks ventilationlacks durabillity, not made for heavy loadsHeavy, attached hipbelt, water bottle pocket can be inconvenient
Bottom Line A high volume pack that isn't quite capable of comfortably carrying the heavy load that comes with 70 liters worth of gearA lightweight load hauler that is both comfortable and full of featuresThis pack blends excellent carrying comfort with arguably the best-executed set of features, all in a light-weight packageIt may not be a heavy load hauler, but for moderate loads, this pack is comfortable and has an amazing set of features, all at a great priceThis highly adjustable pack may be one of the heaviest in the review but carries large loads in comfort
Rating Categories Mountain Hardwear P... Granite Gear Blaze 60 Ultralight Adventur... REI Co-op Flash 55 Osprey Aether 65
Suspension and Comfort (45%)
6.0
8.0
8.0
7.0
8.0
Weight (20%)
5.0
9.0
9.0
10.0
5.0
Features and Ease of Use (20%)
6.0
9.0
8.0
9.0
8.0
Adjustability (15%)
7.0
8.0
5.0
5.0
9.0
Specs Mountain Hardwear P... Granite Gear Blaze 60 Ultralight Adventur... REI Co-op Flash 55 Osprey Aether 65
Measured Weight 4.2 lbs 3.0 lbs 3.0 lbs 2.6 lbs 5.0 lbs
Volume 72 L 60 L 75 L 55 L 65 L
Access Top, bottom Top Top Top Top, front +sleeping bag compartment
Hydration Compatible Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Materials 100% recycled 210D ripstop nylon, 100% 500D Cordura nylon plain weave 100D robic nylon w/ DWR coating 400 Robic fabric Main body: 100D ripstop nylon
Bottom: 420D nylon
420HD nylon, DWR treatment
Sleeping bag Compartment Optional divider No No No Yes

Our Analysis and Test Results

The Mountain Hardwear PCT 70 is a 70-liter backpack with a trampoline back panel for excellent ventilation. It weighs 4.25 pounds in the M/L size, has dual ice axe loops, massive water bottle pockets, and 10 exterior pockets. This pack is capable of carrying gear for longer trips but is better suited to bulky, less dense loads.

Performance Comparison


Mountain Hardwear PCT 70 backpacks backpacking - the pct 70 at home on a narrow ribbon of dirt.
The PCT 70 at home on a narrow ribbon of dirt.
Credit: Sam Schild

Suspension and Comfort


The PCT 70 uses a U-shaped strut that runs along the top and sides of the back panel of the pack to transfer weight to the hip belt. This aluminum strut combines with the pack's suspended mesh back panel and floating hip belt to make up its suspension system. This suspension system keeps the pack off your back when you're hiking, which greatly reduces back sweat and can help with chafing.

Mountain Hardwear PCT 70 backpacks backpacking - we had high hopes for this suspension system but it was just too...
We had high hopes for this suspension system but it was just too bouncy to be comfortable.
Credit: Sam Schild

Initially, this suspension felt very comfortable, but it got less comfortable as our testers started really moving with it. The mesh back panel stretches from the hip belt to the top of the back panel, but it isn't stretched tight enough. This causes the pack to bounce around a lot while you walk. The floating hip belt also contributes to this bouncing. As you walk with this pack fully loaded the bouncing pack also consistently makes creaking noises. A little bit of noise isn't a huge deal, but it does get annoying after hiking all day.

We attempted to tighten everything we could in an attempt to keep this pack from bouncing as much, but no matter what we tightened it still bounced and creaked. When we tightened the load lifters to the point where most of the weight was on our shoulders the bouncing diminished considerably, but then the pack was uncomfortably loaded onto our shoulders. Tightening the load lifters this much also caused the frame struts to rub on the backs of our shoulders.

Mountain Hardwear PCT 70 backpacks backpacking - hiking with the pct 70 fully loaded means the pack will bounce along...
Hiking with the PCT 70 fully loaded means the pack will bounce along with you down the trail.
Credit: Sam Schild

The maximum load we were able to put in this pack with it remaining comfortable was just over 30 pounds.

Weight


Mountain Hardwear's website claims the PCT 70's intended use is "superlight backcountry", but this pack is over a pound heavier than many comparably sized backpacking packs. At 4.25 pounds, this pack is not light. The lid is removable, and if you remove that and the hydration sleeve you can shave 11 ounces from the total weight. This gets you more reasonably into "superlight backcountry" territory, but realistically it's still not superlight compared to the rest of the market.

Mountain Hardwear PCT 70 backpacks backpacking - the pct 70 is heavier than some, but not lighter than most.
The PCT 70 is heavier than some, but not lighter than most.
Credit: Sam Schild

Features and Ease of Use


The PCT 70 has tons of features. It has a total of 10 pockets, not counting the cavernous main compartment. There is enough space to fit all your small items somewhere on this pack. There is a u-shaped zipper on the front of the pack to access the bottom of the main compartment from the outside, too.

It has hip belt pockets of two different sizes and materials. The left hip pocket is stretch mesh and will fit a smartphone. The right hip pocket is made of ripstop nylon and isn't stretchy so it won't fit a smartphone. The lid has three separate zipper pockets. The outside stuff-if pocket has an extra zipper pocket built into it. And, the other side of this outside pocket has another zipper, which allows you to access the front pocket.

Mountain Hardwear PCT 70 backpacks backpacking - the top lid has three separate zippered pockets; the two external...
The top lid has three separate zippered pockets; the two external pockets shown here, and an additional internal zippered pocket.
Credit: Sam Schild

During testing, we misplaced small items several times when using this pack. We suspect there are a few too many pockets on this pack to actually be useful.

Adjustability


The PCT 70 comes in two sizes: S/M, which fits torsos 16 to 19 inches, and M/L, which fits torsos 18 to 21 inches. The waist belt on the S/M pack fits waists 29 to 48 inches, and the M/L pack fits waists from 31 to 51 inches.

The torso length is adjusted with velcro that sits behind the mesh trampoline back panel. It's a solid 4 inches square of velcro, so it's very secure but also pretty hard to adjust. Fortunately, you don't have to mess with this much once you find your correct size.

Mountain Hardwear PCT 70 backpacks backpacking - the wasit belt has a 20 inch range in adjustability and two used...
The wasit belt has a 20 inch range in adjustability and two used different material for each pocket.
Credit: Sam Schild

Value


We think the PCT 70 is not a great value. You pay for a lot of features on this pack, and it certainly has a lot of features. But, we don't think most of the high-tech features on this pack really add value to justify the high price tag. Most importantly, this pack doesn't carry heavy loads as well as other packs that cost less.

Conclusion


If the PCT 70 were a smaller volume pack with a few less zipper pockets, we probably would have loved this pack. If it had a tighter mesh back panel that kept it from bouncing as much, we probably would have liked this back more, too. But as it is now, we don't think this pack really knocks the ball out of the park in any regard.

Mountain Hardwear PCT 70 backpacks backpacking - big, bulky loads and lots of water aren't an issue to fit, only to...
Big, bulky loads and lots of water aren't an issue to fit, only to carry.
Credit: Sam Schild

Sam Schild
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