We were surprised by how comfortable the South Col is, especially considering it's one of the larger volume packs in our review yet weighs less that four pounds. The face fabric and the articulation of the shoulder straps and the waist belt on this pack are excellent. It is more comfortable than the REI Crestrail but not nearly as comfortable as the Arc'teryx Bora AR 63 or the Gregory Baltoro 65.
At 3 lbs. 12 oz. the South Col was one of the lighter packs in the review and the lightest pack of its size we tested. There are a lot of light packs out there, but we were really impressed by this one and think the South Col will be among the most durable of the light packs. To help you cut weight for summit pushes or entire trips, the South Col features a "second lid" of sorts. So when you remove its "normal" lid, it has a second very thin and light lid so you can save a few extra ounces and still keep some organization.
When loads got really heavy it wasn't the shoulder straps that let us down, it was the suspension. It was great for loads up to 40-45 lbs. but the pack started to falter for most people around 50+ lbs. The suspension was nearly as good as the Osprey Aether pack but better than the REI Flash 62 or the Gregory Z-pack.
Ease of use
Part of why the South Col is so light is because of its minimalist design and the fact it doesn't sport many pockets or extra features. It has large albeit thin zippered pocket on the pack of the pack but this pocket was extremely hard to use for anything sizable (ie. bigger than a headlamp) when the pack was even a little full.
The pack features two cool fast tech buckled straps that tuck away nicely to let you strap things easily to the back of your pack like a big pad, snow shoes, tripod etc. The hydration pocket is external and you could use it as a pocket for loose things. The "rope strap" underneath the lid wasn't that useful. Ski slots are nice but this is a pretty big pack to ski tour with; we would have rather seen a picket or water bottle pocket. It is best used as a mountaineering, trekking or backpacking pack. The ice axe attachment system seems a little wonky at first but once you get used to it, it was pretty sweet. We also dug the reverse pull waist belt.
While the back panel doesn't slide up or down (part of the reason for the pack's light weight) the pack does come in three sizes and most users were able to dial in the load lifters and shoulder straps to be able to make the pack fit them.
Mountain Hardwear Expedition Duffel
- Excellent quality travel duffle
- Great organization options