The Mountain Hardwear SummitRocket 40 is a very lightweight mid-capacity alpine pack at a reasonable price. Designed specifically for the weight conscious climber the SummitRocket is successful in terms of being light, but falls a bit short when it comes to certain features when compared to other packs of similar capacity in this review.
Mountain Hardwear SummitRocket 40 Review
Cons: Zippered main entry
Manufacturer: Mountain Hardwear
Our Analysis and Test Results
There are many things we like about the Summit Rocket 40. It was designed to be relatively simple, and lightweight. Despite its already low weight when fully set-up however, it can still be stripped down a little bit. It has a removable foam bivy pad as part of the frame, has a removable hip belt and removable side straps. Some features however, like the zippered main closure, and ice tool attachments, we found to be less than ideal.
If weight is your number one concern, the SummitRocket 40 is not a bad choice. It weighs a total of 28.4oz when fully set-up, which is really quite good, compared to the other packs we reviewed. It can be further stripped down if desired as explained above. The weight to volume ratio here is .71 oz/L which is very competitive for those looking to save the most weight possible. The Hyperlite Mountain Gear 3400 Ice Pack is the only comparable pack to have a better weight to volume ratio.
The overall durability of the Summit Rocket 40 is a bit hit or miss. The body of the pack is made from two very different fabrics — a 100d ripstop nylon on the sides and top, and what Mountain Hardwear calls "HardWear X-ply Ripstop" on the bottom and front panel to provide durability. There is indeed quite a difference in durability between these two fabrics, with the 100d nylon being a very light and relatively vulnerable fabric and the "x-ply ripstop" being quite durable. In other words, while you don't really have to worry much about the duability of the bottom and front panel (your high wear areas), you may find that the side panels are susceptible to tears, (of particular concern if you are to carry skis, or are carless with the crampons and ice tools).
Of secondary durability concern are the axe attachments on the SummitRocket 40. The axe attachment system is ultimately just a fancied up shock cord and cord lock system. It works fine, but we broke one of the pull tabs on the ends of the shock cord when attaching our ice tools one day. The good news here is that if you were to break these attachments fully, you could easily replace them with your own cord simply and easily.
At 40 liters, the SummitRocket 40 is a versatile capacity. The drawback however to this particular pack is the zippered closure design, which means you don't have a collar to extend if need be. For that reason, while similar in size, it's not as versatile in our minds as the CiloGear 30:30 WorkSack. Another versatility drawback is that in the quest for weight savings, Mountain Hardwear has used a very thin fabric for the side panels, meaning that the pack will stand up less well to repeated rock abrasion while climbing than packs with burlier sides.
The overall comfort of the SummitRocket40 is very similar to other packs of its size in this review. The frame is a very small, and very light plastic sheet paired with a small foam, sheet of the same size. Added to this is a folded foam bivy pad that runs the length of the pack and unfolds to a nice large size.
The most unique feature on the SummitRocket 40 is also one of our least favorites - the pack has a zippered main entry. Our main issue here is long-term durability. Note that we did not actually have any issues with zipper durability on the pack we tested, but with prolonged use you never know — zippers are prone to breaking eventually — and a failure here would ruin the pack. There is also no top strap on the pack, meaning you can't carry your rope up top, a possible big dislike for many climbers. Either it has to fit in the pack on approach, or you make your partner carry it.
Alpine and ice climbing.
If you're looking for a lightweight pack this is a pretty good choice at only $200. If you want a bit more versatility, and perhaps more durability in the long run, we recommend the CiloGear 30:30 which is very similar in capacity and weight.
The SummitRocket 40 is a bit hit or miss. On the one hand, it's nice to see a pack from a major manufacture really aiming for weight savings and an "ultralight" design. On the other hand, some features (or lack of features) of the pack are poorly thought out. For the price it's not a bad choice, but for $20 more you can get a more versatile and durable pack, at a similar overall weight.
— Chris Simrell