The Mountain Hardwear Scrambler 35 is an impressively light and functional mountain-oriented pack. It nicely mixes climbing-specific features with features like side pockets that add some versatility. While it doesn't live up to expectations in terms of durability or water-resistance, like previous versions of this pack, it does a decent job for a variety of activities.
Without being so minimalist as to exclude handy features, the Mountain Hardwear Scrambler 35 is a decent pack for mixed-technique mountain adventures. Its minimalist suspension is effective, but the fabric is weaker than it looks, and some features aren't as effective as they could be.
The lightweight materials are prone to damage, but make for a nice pack for a little scrambling or day hiking.
We evaluate packs for comfort based on how well they carry a load and whether they allow complete freedom of movement. The Mountain Hardwear Scrambler 35 strikes a nice balance between minimizing weight and being able to carry heavy loads.
With only a thin webbing hip belt and a stiff foam back panel, don't expect to transfer much load to your hips. If your torso fits the pack just right (it isn't adjustable, but comes in 2 sizes), you will be able to get a decent bit of the load off your shoulders, but the lack of load lifters or hip belt padding make it less comfortable than packs like the Osprey Talon 22. The shoulder straps can carry a small load comfortably, and don't pinch like some other models.
The wide and thinly padded shoulder straps carry a light load comfortably, but don't expect to be able to comfortably carry heavy loads for long days with this type of minimalist suspension and frame.
During our calisthenics testing, we found that the Scrambler didn't hold weight near our backs well, namely due to the lack of lower compression straps. Running or jumping caused weight to shift around, although we didn't notice any issues while climbing. The flexible frame moves with your body, making this pack nice for stretchy activities like scrambling. However, the wide shoulder straps slightly restrict upward reaching, something we didn't have problems with while wearing the similarly flexible Osprey Talon 22.
The back panel has some contouring, but isn't nearly as ventilated as suspended mesh panels like those found on the Osprey Stratos 34, or even the grooved back panel of the REI Co-op Trail 25
Weight to Volume Ratio
The Scrambler is impressively light for its capacity, with the lowest weight to volume ratio of any large pack in this review: 0.86 oz/L. The nearest competitor with a similar capacity is the REI Co-op Traverse 35, with a weight to volume ratio of 1.11 oz/L. We appreciated being able to move fast with this pack while lightly loaded down, but also have the capacity to load up a bunch of gear for climbing or canyoneering.
The material used in the Scrambler is very thin, and it minimizes weight by excluding features like a padded hip belt, front pockets, or many zippered pockets. If you're looking for a pocket-rich pack, consider the Osprey Stratos 34. In contrast, this pack is meant for those who prioritize simplicity and lightweight. You'll need to pack deliberately to make this pack effective.
This pack is neatly designed with abrasive activities in mind, using the same fabric in both the pack body and the side pockets. Unlike other ultralight packs like the REI Co-op Flash 22, the Scrambler uses somewhat durable fabrics across much of the pack, and minimizes straps and attachments where they can often abrade and break.
The Scrambler 35 can do a lot, despite its minimal construction. With a removable top lid, you can strip it down for short or light outings. The two daisy chains make it easy to add elastic or cord to attach crampons. Ice axe loops and lower gear loops make it easy to carry ice tools, part of a climbing rack, or even skis (A-frame style). The floating lid could accommodate snowshoes, although the lone attachment point for the lid doesn't inspire confidence.
We liked the gear loops both inside and outside the Scrambler for activities like canyoneering or climbing.
We initially didn't think we'd use the large internal gear loop much outside of climbing applications. After extensive use, we found that being able to clip small bags, stuffed jackets, or even small electronics to the top of the inside of the pack made organizing the main compartment a lot easier.
The internal gear loop makes organizing the main compartment much easier.
While this pack is a bit large for commuting use, we didn't mind it while travelling. It could pack down while not fully loaded, and we liked the slight peace of mind that came from the water-resistant material (however, it is not waterproof!).
With plenty of attachment options, it can carry a wide variety of gear, performing similarly to the Ortlieb Atrack 25 in terms of outside attachment. However, we prefer having two side compression straps, like the REI Co-op Trail 25.
Ease of Use
This pack has been through some revisions over the years that have mostly improved its ease of use. The haul loops near the top of the pack make it easy to toss around in a car or clip to a belay. We liked the low side gear loops, which we were able to access easily with the pack on. If you like clipping things to the outside of your pack, the double daisy chains make it very easy.
Outside pockets provide decent organization. The top lid is big enough to carry plenty of clothing accessories, snacks, and small electronics. While the side pockets aren't accessible while wearing the pack, like those found on the REI Co-op Traverse 35, they close decently well and are big enough to hold gloves or a small to medium sized water bottle. We especially liked the durable fabric on the side pockets for carrying out wag bags when hiking in the desert southwest.
The side pockets on the Scrambler held a used wag bag nicely, and the durable fabric made us feel a bit more confident in carrying out our waste.
Unlike many other top-loading packs in this review, we found that the top lid refused to stay cinched down. The metal hook that holds the lid down is prone to slipping off when fully cinched down, letting the top lid flop around freely. While the other attachment points for the top lid are sleek and effective, we found this failure to be distracting while scrambling.
The multiple attachment points for ice axes work well, but if you like to carry hiking poles, consider a more day hiking oriented pack, like the Osprey Talon 22 or REI Co-op Trail 25, which has pole-specific carrying options.
The Mountain Hardwear Scrambler 35 is advertised as a durable pack, but after hiking in canyon country, we found the material lacking compared to other heavier backpack fabrics. While the material is stiff and hard to pull apart, it doesn't resist small punctures or abrasion as well as other packs in this review. We often find that stiffer fabrics such as those on the Scrambler are less puncture-resistant than more flexible fabrics because they can't distribute sharp impacts across much surface area.
After just one hike through a slot canyon in the Escalante region of Utah, we punctured 6 holes in the body of the pack, just from rubbing against sandstone walls. We have taken similar-sized packs with more commonly used nylon pack cloth down canyons with maybe some abrasion to show for it, but never this level of damage. Compared to the much thicker and heavier coated nylon of the Ortlieb Atrack 25, the light fabric of the Scrambler just doesn't hold up to wear as effectively.
While it was comfortable for stemming, we had to be very careful not to puncture the thin fabric of the Scrambler while on a slot canyon hike in the desert southwest.
While the pack fabric is water-resistant, it is not seam-sealed, and will let in water as a result. During our standard rain testing, barely any water made it through the top of the bag, but the bottom of the bag got soaked on the inside as water seeped through the seam between the body fabric and the thicker fabric on the bottom of the pack.
Shortly after this, we realized that the Scrambler is prone to letting water in through its bottom, despite using water-resistant fabrics.
If you're looking for unbeatable waterproofing, check out the Ortlieb Atrack 25, our Top Pick for wet environments. However, the face fabric on the Scrambler sheds water nicely, and doesn't soak up much water at all, so it would perform well with an internal liner to keep your gear dry.
We enjoyed using the Scrambler most for, well, scrambling. Its minimalist frame was comfortable in dynamic situations where other packs might pinch or restrict movement, and it never weighed us down. For a slightly more all-around pack that offers more features while still maintaining flexibility, we prefer the Editors' Choice award-winning Osprey Talon 22. Even with some faults, the Mountain Hardwear Scrambler 35 would make a decent pack for those who need a pack that strikes a nice balance between hiking- and climbing-specific features.
The Scrambler crosses over between more technical sports like climbing and sports like hiking that benefit from feature-rich packs. If you need a pack for a wide range of activities, this might be the one for you. It's on the more expensive side, but if you can live with its faults, it delivers adequate performance.
The Mountain Hardwear Scrambler 35 performs well as a versatile, fast-and-light mountain pack. It suffers from somewhat poor durability and has some minor faults, but is overall an enjoyable pack to use. If you can manage a comfortable fit with the suspension, you'll have a pack that can carry a wide variety of gear and move with you in all but the most dynamic activities.
The Scrambler sticks with you, even in dynamic environments.