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Ultimate Direction Scram Review

Though it has some flaws, this pack is comfortable and a great choice for climbers who are into long routes as well as skiing and running
Ultimate Direction Scram
Photo: Ultimate Direction
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Price:  $135 List | $132.92 at Amazon
Compare prices at 3 resellers
Pros:  Versatile, comfortable
Cons:  No hydration system, T-hook buckles are hard to use
Manufacturer:   Ultimate Direction
By Ian McEleney ⋅ Review Editor  ⋅  Oct 25, 2021
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52
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#12 of 12
  • Comfort - 25% 5
  • Climbing Utility - 25% 4
  • Durability - 20% 5
  • Versatility - 20% 8
  • Weight - 10% 3

Our Verdict

The Ultimate Direction Scram is a unique pack in our review, built for skiing, running, and climbing. We found it to be stable and quite versatile with the use of the included accessories. It is, however, on the heavier side, and we really missed the inclusion of basic features to make the pack compatible with a hydration system. Also, the toggle system for the sternum strap is frustratingly hard to use. That said, if you want one small pack for long rock climbs and everything else, too, this rig could be right for you.

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Awards  Editors' Choice Award Top Pick Award Top Pick Award Best Buy Award 
Price $132.92 at Amazon
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Star Rating
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Pros Versatile, comfortableSimple, great zippered pocket, streamlinedDurable, comfortable, simpleLight, great features, roomySimple, sturdy, light
Cons No hydration system, T-hook buckles are hard to useLimited attachment points, easy to drop stuffHeavy, few hydration featuresFragile, not super versatileNo emergency whistle, draw cord and cord lock blend into pack
Bottom Line Though it has some flaws, this pack is comfortable and a great choice for climbers who are into long routes as well as skiing and runningThough there are no extra features, this bag ticks all the boxes for multi-pitch climbingThis comfortable and utilitarian pack is light on features but heavy on durabilityThis small and light climbing pack is well optimized for alpine actionThis is a great pack for multi-pitch rock climbs at a very fair price
Rating Categories Ultimate Direction... The North Face Rout... Black Diamond Creek 20 Black Diamond Blitz 20 Black Diamond Rock...
Comfort (25%)
5.0
8.0
7.0
6.0
6.0
Climbing Utility (25%)
4.0
8.0
7.0
8.0
6.0
Durability (20%)
5.0
7.0
9.0
4.0
5.0
Versatility (20%)
8.0
7.0
4.0
5.0
5.0
Weight (10%)
3.0
5.0
2.0
7.0
7.0
Specs Ultimate Direction... The North Face Rout... Black Diamond Creek 20 Black Diamond Blitz 20 Black Diamond Rock...
Capacity 20L 16L 20L 20L 15L
Measured Weight 1.4 lbs 1.1 lbs 1.7 lbs 0.9 lbs 0.9 lbs
Padded back? Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Fabric Type Ripstop nylon 420D nylon 1200D polyester with TPU coating Dynex (210D + PE 200D) 840D nylon
Whistle? No Yes Yes No No
Accessory Pockets? One external zip, two shoulder strap One external zip One internal zip One external zip, one internal zip One external zip, one internal zip
Outside Carry Options? Daisy chains, ice axe attachments, ski attachments Daisy chains Top strap, two daisy chains Top strap, ice axe attachments Top strap doubles as rope strap
Hip Belt? Yes, removeable Yes, removable Yes, removable Yes, removable Yes, removable
Hydration System Compatible? No Yes No Yes Yes
Key Clip? Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes

Our Analysis and Test Results

The Ultimate Direction Scram is a uniquely versatile pack with some features specific to climbing, running, alpine, and skiing packs. These features and accessories are somewhat unique in our review, but what really sets the Scram apart from the competition are the two shoulder strap pockets. No other pack in our test has anything like them.

Performance Comparison


The Scram has lots of room to hold gear for long rock climbs.
The Scram has lots of room to hold gear for long rock climbs.
Photo: Jessica Haist

Comfort


The 17" back length on the Scram is on the longer end of our testing spectrum, so we initially suspected it would work best for taller climbers. However, the bottom of the pack is sloped up and away from the back, and the back panel sports a decent top to bottom taper, so medium-sized climbers might also find it to be a good fit. The versatile fit is enhanced by the removable hip belt, which has three possible positions for folks of different heights.

The removable hip belt has three different positions to accommodate...
The removable hip belt has three different positions to accommodate different back lengths and preferences.
Photo: Ian McEleney

The Scram comes in two sizes: SM/MD and MD/LG. Our lead tester is 5' 11", 150 pounds, and has a 37" chest. He found the MD/LG to be the right fit, though the sternum straps were on the shorter side. The shoulder straps are made of unusually stiff material. Our lead tester found this uncomfortable only when the pack was loaded to the gills; other testers noticed it all the time. Try the pack on to make sure it's comfortable for you.

The back of the pack has integrated padding as well as removable foam. The stiffness of the foam was nice for heavier (or pointier) loads. Removing it allowed the pack to move with us better while climbing without sacrificing all padding.

We found the Scram to be comfortable when the pads were light.
We found the Scram to be comfortable when the pads were light.
Photo: Jessica Haist

Climbing Utility


While the Scram has most of the features we look for in a climbing pack, it's missing something that is crucial for our testers and adds little to pack weight or complexity: hydration system compatibility. Many climbers find a hydration system indispensable on all-day routes, and this is one of the only packs in our review with no compatibility. If you want to use a hydration system with this pack, there's no easy way to hang the reservoir inside, and the hose will run out of the top opening and away from you. While this isn't a surprise (Ultimate Direction explicitly says it's not compatible on their website), we missed this basic feature.

An iPhone 12 Mini in a Lifeproof case fits in this zippered pocket...
An iPhone 12 Mini in a Lifeproof case fits in this zippered pocket with a bit of room to spare.
Photo: Jessica Haist

The lid of the pack has one small zippered pocket, and this houses the key clip. This pocket is next to impossible to get into if the top strap is cinched down. There are also two pockets on the shoulder straps. These are similar to pockets you might find in a running vest and are unique in our review. One is a drop-in pocket that is just big enough for a 500mL running style soft bottle. The other is a zippered pocket that's big enough for smaller smartphones or a gel, lip balm, and route topo.

There is no whistle on the sternum strap buckle. As mentioned above, the hip belt is removable. Without the included accessories, the Scram is streamlined, and we think it could easily slip through a thicket of manzanita or slide alder. This bag has no hauling-specific features, and the grab loop between the two shoulder straps is weirdly small.

Durability


While Ultimate Direction doesn't give us a specific number for the denier the Scram is made of, it feels like it is in the 300 - 400 range. The bottom of the pack's front panel has an additional coating on it which we think enhances abrasion resistance in that area. So far, we have had no durability issues with any of the myriad buckles, toggles, and zippers on this bag.

We think this coating on the bottom of the front panel enhances...
We think this coating on the bottom of the front panel enhances durability.
Photo: Ian McEleney

Versatility


Ultimate Direction implies that the Scram is designed for skiing, climbing, running, and more. Get it, S.C.R.A.M.? The pack comes with a bunch of accessories for other sports that take a bit of fiddling to set up. While we didn't have the chance to test this pack's skiing and alpine climbing functionality during the late summer through early fall rock climbing season, we did try out the included ski and ice tool carry accessories at home, and they worked as advertised.

Testing versatility on a trail run.
Testing versatility on a trail run.
Photo: Ian McEleney

We took the Scram out running, and while it was more voluminous than what we'd normally use for a trail run, it was quite stable. A big contribution to the stability was the second sternum strap, an accessory that comes with the pack. The sternum straps are attached with a toggle that Ultimate Direction calls a "T-hook". Our reviewers have seen buckles like this before, and they're often hard to use. This T-hook is no exception. The pockets for the toggle are too small, making adjusting, installing, and removing the sternum strap harder. This, in turn, actually makes the pack less versatile because it's a disincentive to use the accessory.

We thought the Scram was a bit on the heavy side to be carried in a bigger pack to a backcountry base camp. The top strap and accessory bungee cord (once attached) did a decent job securing additional gear to the outside of the pack. And though our testers generally found the Scram to be too techy looking for social occasions, it hauled groceries and mail as well as any other pack.

The best way to secure a rope to this pack seemed to be to thread...
The best way to secure a rope to this pack seemed to be to thread the end of the coil between the top strap and the lid.
Photo: Ian McEleney

Weight


The Scram is on the heavier end of our testing spectrum. With all of the included doodads, it weighs in at 1.4 pounds (about 650 grams). However, setting aside the accessories for skiing, the bungee cord, the ice tool shaft velcro, and the extra sternum strap sheds about 3 ounces. Pulling out the hip belt and foam pack pad (there is some padding built into the back panel itself) slims the pack down by another 3 ounces.

The Scram and all of its accessories.
The Scram and all of its accessories.
Photo: Ian McEleney

Value


This bag is among the more expensive packs in our review. However, for climbers who want one small pack to rule them all… one small pack for climbing, running, skiing, and other stuff, the Scram is a good value.

Clipping a quickdraw to the daisy chain and hip belt attachment...
Clipping a quickdraw to the daisy chain and hip belt attachment points can keep the rope from flapping around.
Photo: Jessica Haist

Conclusion


If you're looking for a small pack just to take up longer rock climbs, the Scram - what with all of its extra doodads - is a bit too fiddly and complicated. The two biggest problems we have with the pack are the incompatibility with a hydration system and the unnecessary difficulty of using the sternum strap T-hook system. However, if you want a small pack for long runs, short ski tours or alpine climbs, and long rock routes and you're willing to spend some time setting it up, the Scram could be a good choice.

On the approach we secured a helmet by threading the top strap...
On the approach we secured a helmet by threading the top strap through the helmet's suspension.
Photo: Jessica Haist

Ian McEleney

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