The Scrambler 30 from Mountain Hardwear is a classic rucksack with some modern upgrades. Notably, the waterproof main bag is better in wet applications than any other pack we tested. For its versatility, simplicity, and this wet conditions performance, we granted it our Top Pick award. In some ways, particularly the overall construction style, the Scrambler is closely comparable to the Best Buy REI Flash 22. They are both simple and versatile. They are similar in comfort. The Scrambler is more durable and better in wet applications, but it is much heavier and more expensive. Read on for a full summary of our extended and thorough testing regimen.
Mountain Hardwear Scrambler 30 Review
Compare prices at 3 resellers Pros: Waterproof and durable; simple, versatile construction
Cons: Not submersible, few organizational pockets
Manufacturer: Mountain Hardwear
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Our Analysis and Test Results
As a pack constructed with largely waterproof materials and techniques, this is a unique product in our test. Mountain Hardwear's use of "OutDry" technology means that all the fabric and seams are waterproof, and durably so. Many packs are made with waterproof coated fabric. However, seams of these other packs are vulnerable, and the coatings often wear off with use. The durable waterproof construction of the Scrambler 30 earns it our Top Pick award. Before you read on, be aware that the pack is not submersible. It keeps water out in normal hiking use, but will not work in a water sports environment.
As it should, the award-winning Mountain Hardwear Scrambler 30 comes out near the top of our scoring rubric. The products that score better have more features are lighter weight or both. For comfort and durability, the Scrambler is right in the mix with the best of the best. Its simplicity is rugged and weatherproof, but it does not have many of the accessories and pockets that many hikers desire.
The Scrambler from Mountain Hardwear is your typical, basic hikers "rucksack". The simple stiffened frame sheet, padded shoulder straps, and basic webbing waist belt bear all the load most will carry on day hikes or in day-to-day use. The other major comfort variable for a day pack is the back panel ventilation. The mesh-over-textured-foam solution of the Scrambler is simple and clean but doesn't vent all that well, in the grand scheme of things.
There are certainly more sophisticated packs, regarding comfort than the Scrambler. The tensioned back panels of the Editors Choice Osprey Talon 22 and Osprey Stratos 34, the Gregory Zulu 30 and The North Face Litus 22 are marginally more supportive and vent quite a bit better than the Scrambler. The Scrambler is similar to the Best Buy REI Flash 22 regarding comfort.
Twenty-seven ounces is on the heavy side for a hiking daypack. Especially given how few accessory pockets the Scrambler has, the weight is relatively high. With that weight, though, you get a significant boost in durability and, of course, the notable waterproofing. Provided you keep the rest of your day hiking kit at a reasonable weight, the mass of the Scrambler will not be too much of a liability.
Every other award winner either ties or beats the Scrambler 30 in weight. The Editors Choice Osprey Talon 22 is the same weight. The Osprey, though, features a better venting back panel and many more pockets. The Best Buy REI Flash 22 is just a little bit more than half the weight of the Scrambler. The other Top Pick winners, both chosen for their versatility (and therefore, at least partially, for their relatively lightweight), are significantly lighter than the Scrambler 30.
A backpack optimized for day hiking is quite specialized. In our experience, the best day hiking packs are of a volume that isn't all that useful for other things. It is too small for overnight trips, but more volume than you need for day-to-day use. The most comfortable day packs have rigid frames that suspend the load and impermeable back panel away from your sweaty back.
These rigid suspension systems aren't advantageous in other contexts. In this way, the best hiking daypacks score lower regarding versatility. The Scrambler 30, though, isn't a specialized hiking daypack. This is an all-around, classic small backpack with a modern, weatherproof twist. For all around use in wet climates, this is a unique product on the market. It can readily be used for hikes, for everyday town use, and for certain climbing applications. It is quite versatile.
At the other end of the day pack spectrum are the specialized, rigid-framed bags like the Gregory Zulu 30 and The North Face Litus 22. These two have great hiking features and performance but have a rigid structure that prevents easy use in other contexts. The Mountain Hardwear Scrambler, regarding versatility, is similar to the other mid-sized, soft-backed packs like the Best Buy REI Coop Flash 22 and the newcomer Arc'teryx Brize 25.
Ease of Use
This is a simple, clean backpack. The classic top-loading design with a "lid" that contains a basic zippered compartment is a configuration that has proven its utility for a hundred years. The drawstring opening doesn't open as far as panel zippers, and it isn't as waterproof as a roll top closure would be, but it is durable and easy to work with. (Note, Mountain Hardwear makes a Scrambler pack with the same OutDry fabric in a roll top configuration. If you want the absolute maximum amount of waterproofing, consider that model). The side pockets of the Scrambler 30 are relatively small, and we wish they were a little stretchier. Slight tweaks would allow these pockets to carry a typical one-liter water bottle. As it is, they don't fit.
In this scoring metric, the Mountain Hardwear is real similar to the Best Buy REI Flash 22. The pocket and closure configuration is essentially the same. Another close contender is the Arc'teryx Brize 25. The Arc'teryx employs a zippered main pocket closure, which has its pros and cons.
One thing to note about the ease of use of the Scrambler 30, is the hydration sleeve. As it should be, the hydration sleeve is outside of the waterproof main pouch. Should you experience a leak in your hydration bladder, the water will not threaten the other contents of the pack. In fact, this may be the best benefit of the waterproof construction; hydration bladder failures are all too common, and in most packs, the water soaks your other supplies. The Scrambler addresses this issue very well. However, take note of the limitations in using the hydration sleeve for your laptop. Many other online reviews cite the utility of carrying a laptop this way. Just be advised that your laptop will not be as protected from rain in this pocket.
The thick, laminated fabric of the Scrambler is super rugged. This is about as strong a fabric as is suitable for a pack like this.
Few mass-produced packs on the market are as durable as the Scrambler 30 will be. The simple construction and stout fabrics combine to make a pack that will last you a long time, even under heavy use. When the fabric is this thick, it is usually the zippers that fail first. Thankfully, the main pocket of the Scrambler has a drawstring that is theoretically infinitely replaceable (some other online reviews mention failed drawstrings. We had no issues with this). The REI Flash 22 has a similar construction, but the fabric is far less robust than on the Scrambler. The material of the Scrambler is similar in abrasion resistant to that of the otherwise small and ineffective Fjallraven Kanken 16.
This is an excellent all-around daypack for wet climates and rugged use. Whether you are hiking, rock climbing, or just using it for day-to-day commuting, the Scrambler is a versatile and durable, classic backpack.
It isn't cheap, but the Scrambler's durability and waterproof protection likely justify the expense, should you so choose. It is quite a bit pricier than our Best Buy winner, but it will also last quite a bit longer. A value assessment must consider durability alongside the initial purchase price.
The waterproof construction and classic, simple lines of the Scrambler set it apart from the competition. It isn't the best hiking daypack, but it has a unique niche. For that, we grant it our Top Pick award.
— Jediah Porter