How did this small haul bag end up in a climbing pack review? The Metolius Mescalito is a cute little version of Metolius' haul bags, which are some of the best in the business. As such, it's great for hauling and pretty darn comfy on the approach hike, but we can't recommend wearing it up the route.
Metolius Mescalito Review
Cons: Heavy, lacks most climbing pack features
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Our Analysis and Test Results
The Metolius Mescalito is one of the most durable packs in our test. This durability comes at a cost: weight. This is the heaviest pack in our review. It also lacks most of the other features climbers have come to expect from a multi-pitch climbing pack. That's because it's not designed to be a multi-pitch climbing pack. It is, however, very comfortable on the approach.
This is the heaviest pack in the test, weighing in at 43 ounces. It's about one pound heavier than the next heaviest pack, which is a bit of a porker itself. That weight difference is equivalent to a number 5 Camalot and a couple of wire gate carabiners. The lightest pack in our review weighs about four times less than the Mescalito.
There is a clear benefit to all that weight - durability. This is a small haul bag and has all the features that make Metolius haul bags the most popular models on El Capitan. The pack body is made of a lighter-weight version of the same Durathane material as those bigger bags, and the lid flap is ballistic nylon. We think the Mescalito will outlive every other pack in our review. Amongst other things, our testers used it as a sub-bag for an El Cap ascent. Over 20 pitches of hauling and this thing only has a few scratches to show for it.
Like most haul bags, the Mescalito is simple; it's a tube with shoulder straps. It stands up and stays open by itself, which makes packing a breeze. It lacks pretty much all of the smaller features we're looking for in this review. Our testing team isn't surprised by the lack of hydration system or whistle on the sternum strap buckle (this pack doesn't have a sternum strap).
We are surprised that there's no key clip on this bag. We do think it would be easy for Metolius to add one to this and their other small to medium-sized haul bags. We know many climbers who use these as cragging packs.
A key clip would go well in the lid pocket. That pocket can easily accommodate a phone, headlamp, and a few snacks. As it's entirely made of black fabric, it can be hard to find smaller items in there at times, and we wish the inner panel of material was a lighter color.
This pack is pretty streamlined. It has a few short daisy chains on the outside but the pockets are relatively tight, so we don't see them as potential snag points, which makes sense given its haul bag pedigree. However, the Mescalito does demand a bit of forethought when it comes to hauling. There are two burly haul points on the top of the pack, but there's no way they can reach each other without some rigging of slings or cord.
The Mescalito is versatile enough for around-town use, though the beefy hip belt is overkill at the public library. Obviously, this is not a pack you want to bring into the backcountry or an alpine situation unless a mule is carrying it for you and you're planning on doing a lot of hauling. It does not fit well into a larger pack.
The daisy chains and haul loops give some options for strapping extra gear to the outside of this pack, but all require some additional material and time.
When it comes to the approach hike, the Mescalito is the most comfortable pack in this review. Its well-padded shoulder straps and hip belt allow for much heavier loads than most of the other packs. When it comes to climbing though, this is the last pack we reach for, because who wants to climb with a haul bag on their back? This lowers the overall comfort score. Climbers should take note; this pack does not come with a sternum strap. Some of the testers didn't care about this, but it could affect the fit for some users.
This is by far the most expensive bag in our review. If you do a lot of hauling, then it's a pretty good value because it will last a long time. If you are using it as your cragging pack, then it's durability also gives good value. If you are looking for a pack for multi-pitch routes, for the price of this pack you can buy two other packs and still have beer money left over.
While we love this pack for hauling or as a cragging pack when we are traveling light, it simply does not perform well as a multi-pitch climbing pack. That's probably because it's not supposed to be a multi-pitch climbing pack.
— Ian McEleney