While this pack does not blow our testers' hair back, it does have several interesting qualities. Mountain Hardwear claims to have made the pack waterproof by laminating its proprietary waterproof-breathable OutDry membrane to the inside of the pack. It's as if a breathable garbage bag was glued to the inside of the pack. The other thing piquing our interest is the "HardWear X-Ply Ripstop" fabric used on the crampon pocket and the front of the pack.
We liked taking the Direttissima on easier outings, like The East Ridge of Mount Russell.
It was a neck-and-neck race between this pack and the Gregory Alpinisto 50 for the title of heaviest pack in the review. The max and stripped weights of these two packs are nearly identical and considerably more than most of the other packs in the review. Once we take volume into consideration, this pack ends up at the bottom of the heap.
This is the only pack in the review with a large zippered outer pocket. Because big pockets need more fabric for the same volume than no pockets, they exact a high cost in weight.
This is the most durable pack in the review. It survived our entire test with no visible damage (something no other pack did), then went on to a bonus round of 7 days of cragging at Indian Creek, lugging a big rack of cams around the desert. It came out unscathed. Mountain Hardwear used very durable fabrics on this beast. The fabrics on the front and side of the pack, 400d nylon, are what many other packs in this test used on the bottom. On the bottom of The Direttissima 50 is 840 denier nylon. 840! The material used on the crampon and front pocket appears to be the sort of VX fabric we can see on the Wild Things Guide Pack and the CiloGear 45L WorkSack, except the "X" fabric is laminated to much sturdier stuff.
Our testers found it was easier to pack the main compartment of the pack first, and then fill the zippered front pocket with gear that needs to be more accessible.
The Direttissima 50 carries heavy loads well on the approach. Though the pack has the expected removable features (hip belt, lid, framesheet) our testers do not think it climbs very well. Several said it felt "stiff" and "clunky" when the terrain got steeper or more technical. We think the construction of the back panel, particularly where the panel opens to let the framesheet and stay escape, may have contributed to this. This pack's poor weight-to-volume ratio did not help it be more versatile, as the versatility of its capacity comes at a high cost in weight.
This pack has all of the standard mountaineering pack features. Ice tools or a mountaineering axe are held securely and well protected. There is a generous crampon pocket, though on a pack that's so heavy, our testers would have preferred to save the weight. Like the Alpinisto 50 and the Osprey Variant 52, this pack has unnecessary A-Frame ski carry slots.
As mentioned above, this pack has the usual set of removable parts. The stabilizer straps (the ones that connect the side of the hip belt to the bottom of the pack) have a bartacked finished end. This makes unthreading this buckle to remove the padded hip belt a lot more annoying. Bartacked finished ends keep webbing from slipping out of a buckle and make a lot of sense in some places on a pack. Not here.
While the fabric on this pack is waterproof, the design leaves a major opening for liquid to get in. The drawcord on the main opening of the pack doesn't go all the way around, making it virtually impossible for our testers to get this opening closed all the way. This pack can only claim its great weather resistance when the lid is on.
This pack and the Alpinisto did share a feature we liked: reversed buckles on the compression straps, allowing them to go all the way around the pack. Since the compression straps only span half of the side of the pack in their normal configuration, joining them across the front of the pack is the only way to meaningfully compress a load.
Our testers really liked the wraparound option with the compression straps on the Direttissima. In this photo the upper compression strap is wrapping around the pack while the lower one is in the standard configuration.
The Direttissima has some nice detail features. All of the buckles on the pack are glove-friendly. The zippers have cord instead of metal pulls. The sternum strap buckle doubles as a whistle.
This well-padded pack doesn't flinch under big loads while hiking. Unfortunately it was not so comfortable on technical terrain. Our testers often said something about "forgetting they had it on" when talking about climbing with other packs in this test. That wasn't the case with the Direttissima.
The Mountain Hardwear Direttissima and Gregory Alpinisto on the way out from 5 days in the mountains. Though these two packs are nearly the same volume, their shapes are quite different.
If you're carrying big loads up into the mountains in bad weather but not getting into anything particularly technical, this could be a good pack for you. Its unmatched durability also makes this the best pack in the test for front-country rock climbing, where the extra weight of the pack isn't a big deal.
This is one of the more expensive packs in the test, but it's also very low scoring. We don't think it is a very good value. The only point in it's favor for value is that it should last a very long time.
We can't say enough good things about the fabrics used in the Direttissima 50. Unfortunately, the heft of the bag is impossible to overlook. We think if this pack was more streamlined and simple (especially if it lost the front pocket and crampon pocket) it would be a much better performer for alpine climbing and mountaineering.
The Direttissima 50 stripped down on summit day: sans lid, hip belt, and framesheet.