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Mountain Hardwear Hueco 20 Review

Price:   $80 List | $57.98 at Amazon
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Pros:  Tapered profile, comfortable, sleek
Cons:  Expensive, no hip belt
Editors' Rating:   
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Manufacturer:   Mountain Hardwear

Our Verdict

The Mountain Hardwear Hueco 20 is a well-featured rock climbing daypack with one distinct flaw, no hip belt. We understand that not all climbers like hip belts, but we can't understand why the largest bag in this category (20L) would be the only pack without one. Especially because all the other manufacturers recognize customers' varied preferences and make the hip belts on their packs stowable or removable. If you happen to be someone who hates hip belts, the Hueco could be right for you. It's streamlined and the vinyl coated HardTarp fabric can handle some abuse. We also like the internal gear loop for keeping things organized. In addition, the nifty three-point rope strap on top can be tucked inside when not in use, via a convenient velcro flap. Who would want to carry a full 20L pack topped with an 8 lbs climbing rope without a hip belt? We're not sure. We just hope updated versions of this pack feature a removable way to support heavy loads.


RELATED REVIEW: The Best Climbing Packs Review


Our Analysis and Hands-on Test Results

Review by:
Jack Cramer
Review Editor
OutdoorGearLab

Last Updated:
Friday
January 8, 2016

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The Hueco has been designed to combine many of the most useful features of a climbing backpack into a sleek and comfortable form. We like so many things about it, from the internal gear loop to the stoweable rope strap, but the lack of a hip belt was a deal breaker for many climbers we spoke with.

Performance Comparison


The 20L capacity of the MH Hueco is great for alpine objectives a little farther from the road. If only it a had a hip belt to help support the extra gear its capable of carrying.
The 20L capacity of the MH Hueco is great for alpine objectives a little farther from the road. If only it a had a hip belt to help support the extra gear its capable of carrying.

Weight


The HardWear Tarp 18 fabric used to reinforce the outside panel of the Hueco adds a little extra weight to its design. Nevertheless this pack still weighs in at a reasonable 17.1 ounces. This places it slightly above the middle of the field of climbing backpacks that ranged from 12.0 to 20.3 oz. You can cut a tiny bit of weight by removing half of the sternum strap.

Durability


The zippers on the BD Bullet (yellow)  Petzl Bug (middle) and MH Hueco (right). From left to right they were largest/strongest to smallest/weakest.
The zippers on the BD Bullet (yellow), Petzl Bug (middle) and MH Hueco (right). From left to right they were largest/strongest to smallest/weakest.
The long-term durability of this pack is hard to evaluate because of inconsistency in the materials. It has an accent of shiny, haul bag-like fabric on the exterior that is especially abrasion resistant. However, the zippers on its top closure are the smallest and weakest of any pack we saw. Additionally, the base is not reinforced but instead sewn with the same 400-denier nylon as the rest of the body, making the bottom another potential point of failure.

Packed Size


Inside the MH Hueco is a gear loop for keeping stuff organized and a sleeve for stashing a hydration bladder. A velcro opening above let's you thread a hydration hose or position the rope strap inside or outside the main compartment.
Inside the MH Hueco is a gear loop for keeping stuff organized and a sleeve for stashing a hydration bladder. A velcro opening above let's you thread a hydration hose or position the rope strap inside or outside the main compartment.
The Hueco does a good job containing 20 liters of capacity within a small area. The exterior features a four pocket daisy chain, dual haul loops, and a rope strap that are all able to stay out of the way until needed. Accessory zippered pockets on the side are sewn to fill internal space. This can be a pain when trying to stuff a water bottle into the side of an already full pack, but ensures that no part of this pack ever bulges beyond its usual sleek shape.

Climbing Utility


We think this emergency whistle built into the sternum strap buckle of the MH Hueco is a great safety feature.
We think this emergency whistle built into the sternum strap buckle of the MH Hueco is a great safety feature.
Many features enhance this pack's climbing utility. It's got dual handles for hauling or clipping into an anchor. The rope strap on top is great for attaching a coiled rope on the approach or descent and stows easily inside when not in use. There's also a gear loop inside for organizing big cams or other specialty gear you don't need on your harness every pitch. The whistle included on its chest strap buckle is a safety and communication feature we wish we saw on all climbing backpacks. Its only weakness is the lack of a hip belt, which makes carrying a full pack and rope over long distances painful on the shoulders and back.

Versatility


Our biggest complaint about the MH Hueco was the lack of a hip belt.
Our biggest complaint about the MH Hueco was the lack of a hip belt.
Beyond technical rock climbing, the Hueco is useful but less so than some of the other packs tested. The styling isn't too technical, our testers felt confident wearing it around town or to class. The absence of a hip belt is fine for many outdoor activities, like day hikes or biking, that don't require lugging around heavy metal gear and 8 lb climbing ropes. However, we found it a detriment when we tried to use this as a summit bag for summer alpine missions. The 20 liter capacity and rope strap both enable you to carry loads heavy enough to want a hip belt.

Comfort


This pack is shaped in a tapered design—wider at the shoulders, thinner at the waist—that makes it a pleasure to climb with. The shoulder straps and padded mesh back panel also form to your body to help it smoothly adjust to any movement.

Best Applications


We like the Hueco for straightforward multi-pitch climbing. Its larger capacity (20L) makes it especially useful for bigger objectives, inefficient packers, or anyone that likes the added safety margin of bulkier insulating layers.

Value


At $80.00, this pack costs a dollar more than the second most expensive pack, the Patagonia Linked. This price seems kinda high for a dedicated climbing backpack, but if you can find other uses for it, then it might become more reasonable.

Conclusion


The author out for a scramble with the nicely streamlined MH Hueco.
The author out for a scramble with the nicely streamlined MH Hueco.
If Mountain Hardwear can add a hip belt—while also making it removable—they would have a stylish and versatile contender for our Editors' Choice award.

Other Versions


Mountain Hardwear offers a wide array of backpacks. The Hueco itself comes in 20, 28, and 35 liter versions in red, green, black, and gray with either red our orange accents. They also make the Splitter 20, a more casual crag pack and the SummitRocket 20 VestPack for light-weight alpine missions.
Jack Cramer

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Most recent review: January 8, 2016
Summary of All Ratings

OutdoorGearLab Editors' Rating:   
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  • 5
 (3.0)
Average Customer Rating:     (0.0)
Rating Distribution
1 Total Ratings
5 star: 0%  (0)
4 star: 0%  (0)
3 star: 100%  (1)
2 star: 0%  (0)
1 star: 0%  (0)


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