Mountain Hardwear Direttissima 46 Backpack : The Swiss Army Knife of Alpine Packs
I recently spent an incredible day here in Rocky Mountain National Park, bagging four peaks along the Continental Divide and scrambling across an enormous alpine ridge line during a solid 12-hour day. My pack of choice was Mountain Hardwear's Direttissima 46, the ultimate alpine backpack.
Thanks to Mountain Hardwear’s ingenious engineering, the Direttissima comfortably carries up to 50 pounds, but also strips down into a feathery peak-bagging machine that I can use to carry just the bare essentials. When mated with the optional FitLock Hip Belt for heavy loads, this bag is among the most versatile on the market.
For our epic day in the mountains, my wife and I had a 4 a.m. alpine start, and zoomed our way through the dark toward Black Lake. We started early, so we carried extra gear for cold and inclement weather. The Direttissima was loaded with about 20 pounds of food, water, rain gear, and cameras. It carried super well. I felt stable and in control as we moved through the night, jumping over streams and slipping along the muddy trail. Before we left, I adjusted the removable aluminum stay by bending it to perfectly conform to the shape of my spine. It was easy to achieve a perfectly custom fit, and it paid off as we hiked. I felt very “at one” with my pack.
We arrived at Black Lake and prepared for some semi-technical scrambling up to the Continental Divide on Arrowhead Peak. Because we were going to be using our hands and our feet, and I wanted the bag to conform to my body as I was climbing unroped up the peak’s chimneys and gullies. I decided to completely remove the aluminum stay and stow it inside the pack, so that the pack would bend along with me and I would have total freedom of movement on the Summit Ramp route we planned to ascend. I also cinched down the side compression straps, which did a great job at keeping my gear from tumbling around inside the pack. I think it was a fantastic choice, as it allowed me to feel in balance as I moved.
I found the pack’s standard hip belt to be comfortable; it doesn’t chafe and does a great job stabilizing moderate loads on my hips. It’s soft enough to conform to my body and allow me to perform technical climbing moves, yet at the same time is sturdy enough to carry 25 to 30 pounds. For all-around use, it’s great, and a cool pulley system lets me tighten the belt by pulling the straps forward instead of backwards, like most pack belts. The heavily padded back also has deep grooves to allow for great ventilation, and indeed, I noticed that my torso didn’t get too sweaty during the long day.
I’ve also tested the pack during a typical day of cragging here at Lumpy Ridge, a climbing Mecca with many routes requiring a one-hour walk. It’s not uncommon for me to lug 50 pounds in to Lumpy by the time I add in all my photography gear, water, and climbing equipment. The standard belt can get a little squishy with that much weight, but I love that I can switch out hip belts and still use this pack for humping big loads around.
The optional FitLock Hip Belt is heavy duty and lets me comfortably carry up to about 50 pounds. Swapping it out takes about 2 minutes. If I’m carrying a rope with this bag, I can easily stow it beneath the lid thanks to an easy-to-use compression strap; doing so opens up a ton of extra space in the pack, making its 46 liters (or 50, if you have a size L like I do) sufficient even for big days.
During the winter months, the Direttissima will be my ski and alpine pack of choice, thanks to the fact that I can strap just about anything on it, from snowboards to skis to ice axes and crampons. For fast and light ascents, I’ll likely strip it down to the bare basics by removing the lid, aluminum stay, and plastic framesheet, and then replacing the hip belt with an included low profile strap. This cuts the pack’s already feathery weight considerably, and would be great for loads of 10 pounds or less.
Overall, the Direttissima is a great backpack, perhaps the best all-purpose mountain pack I’ve tested to date. Aside from its awesome performance, the Direttissima 46 is filled with thoughtful, small details, from the buckles that are easy to operate with gloved hands, to the dual-layer patch on the back to protect the pack from ice axes and crampons. I loved the bright yellow internal pockets that let me find things easily in the dark, I love the sturdy lash straps on the back, I love the water bladder pocket, and I love the fact that I can carry skis, snowboards, ice axes, and crampons with this bag. Best of all, I like being able to remove the lid and still have a small flap that covers the pack’s opening and provides weatherproof protection. Actually, I take that back: best of all, I can open a beer bottle with part of the system that lets me secure ice axes to the bag.
The Direttissima 46 is black and white and comes in S, M, and L sizes to accommodate people of all heights.
Bottom Line: Incredibly versatile and useful pack for alpine ascents in all seasons.--N.W. (July 11).
Manufacturer's Site: www.mountainhardwear.com
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