Mountain Hardwear PCT 70 Review
Cons: Suspension is bouncy, too many pockets for some
Manufacturer: Mountain Hardwear
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Mountain Hardwear PCT 70
$299.95 at Backcountry
|$269.95 at REI|
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|$280 List||$199 List|
$199.00 at REI
|Check Price at REI|
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|Pros||Lots of pockets, breathable back panel, transfers weight to hips, large water bottle pockets||Light-weight, comfortable with heavy loads, perfect pocket combination||Light-weight, comfortable, supportive, functional feature set||Light-weight, comfortable, easily personalized, inexpensive||Durable, lots of features, plenty of adjustments to dial in the perfect fit, supportive|
|Cons||Suspension is bouncy, too many pockets for some||Tiny buckles hard to operate with gloves||No lid, back-panel lacks ventilation||lacks durabillity, not made for heavy loads||Heavy, 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 gear||A lightweight load hauler that is both comfortable and full of features||This pack blends excellent carrying comfort with arguably the best-executed set of features, all in a light-weight package||It 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 price||This 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%)|
|Features and Ease of Use (20%)|
|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|
|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.
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.
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.
The maximum load we were able to put in this pack with it remaining comfortable was just over 30 pounds.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
— Sam Schild
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