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Riff Daypack Editorial Review

Submitted by vegastradguy on 2007-04-01 | Last Modified on 2007-04-04

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by John Wilder

How not to annoy a gear whore - a review of the Riff Daypack from Mountain Hardwear
by vegastradguy

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Mountain Hardwear's Riff Pack
Mountain Hardwear
Mountain Hardwear's Riff Pack. Photo: Mountain Hardwear.

Iíll be the first to admit- Iím really particular about what kind of pack I wear on my back when Iím climbing- especially leading. Iíve worn my share- from old clunkers to Black Diamondís Bullet, and very few packs donít annoy me over the course of a multipitch climb.

A leader pack, for me at least, has to be something a little different from a standard day pack. I need the pack to be low profile (I donít want to have to drop the pack every time I find myself in close quarters), sturdy, hold everything I want it to, and most importantly, ride well on my back.

Last August, at the Outdoor Retailer Summer Market, there were lots of Ďleaderí packs that were being shown by a ton of different folks. Among these was Mountain Hardwearís Riff Pack. With my current leader pack starting to fall apart, I asked nicely if Mountain Hardwear would let me test out the Riff- which looked to be a possible replacement.

First, the specs the pack weighs in a shade over 16oz (mine is preproduction and weighs about 15oz, I believe). The skin is 100D Cordura, a very lightweight and flexible material. It has a large access- a single zipper down the center of the pack, along with a small stash pocket with a water resistant zipper on top. It is also hydration compatible with a hydration port at the top of the pack. Itíll hold about 900 cubic inches of stuff (15L), and as an added bonus, includes a built-in bottle opener.

Upon receipt of the pack, it immediately passed the first test- the pack is very low profile on your back, and over the course of testing, I found that I could even climb up to 5.8 chimneys without dropping it so long as I didnít have it stuffed full. The best part are the two side adjustment straps that allow you to dramatically change the size of the pack- by tightening them, the profile becomes so small that youíd hardly notice it was there, and by loosening them, I found that I could almost double the cargo space!

My biggest concern with this pack, and the reason I took so long to review it, was finding out how sturdy it was. The material- 100D Cordura is supposedly very durable and abrasion resistant, but it doesnít look it. It looks like one good snag and youíll have a hole in your pack. Hereís the good news- itís really beefy. One of its first tests was a trip up Resolution ArÍte- a 23 pitch route that includes two pitches of off-width, a pair of chimneys, and some bushwacking- then thereís the 2.5 hour descent with the rack in it! The pack came out with one blemish on it (the only one to date), and that was when I got caught on a horn and tugged so hard I swore I ripped the pack open. The blemish, by the way, didnít break through- just scratched the surface. Since then, Iíve taken it up dozens of chimneys- I think I dropped it onto my harness once, but the rest of the time it stayed on my back. Iíve tossed my rack in it after climbs and slogged down scrub oak filled gullies, filled it to the brim and then dropped it, hauled it, you name it- and the pack took it all like a champ.

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Can you see the blemish? Itís just above the left adjustment strapÖ.this picture was taken in late March 2007, I received the pack in late August 2006.
J. Wilder
Can you see the blemish? Itís just above the left adjustment strap. This picture was taken in late March 2007. I received the pack in late August 2006. Photo by: John Wilder.

Another concern was the ability to hold stuff. This is always a problem with leader packs- if theyíre small enough to not bother you, then they arenít big enough to hold all of your crap. Well, again the Riff exceeded expectation, thanks in large part to its large zippered opening. It doesnít have more space than many other packs, but that space is more accessible with this pack. In my old pack- the same size, I could never stuff my shoes in because the opening was too small, but the Riff easily accepted them along with all of the other crap I could think of putting in. My regular multipitch pack contains: a 70oz Camelbak, a couple of bars, a wind breaker, and a first aid kit. I usually clip my shoes to my harness. With the Riff, the shoes can go in the pack no problem.

However, all of this stuff could be meaningless if the pack doesnít ride well. I hate having my movement constricted by a pack. Any pack is going to bug me a little, but most bug me to the point that it can impair my lead ability. The packs that bug me the least are the yoke style packs- where the harness of the pack actually doesnít attach to the pack directly, allowing for total freedom of movement. The Riff has a traditional harness style- the harness is built in to the pack, and I was admittedly wary of this when I started climbing with it. I was pleasantly surprised, though- the Riff rides very nicely compared to most other packs. I think this is because not only does it have a really low profile, but its not very wide- its definitely narrower than my previous packs and my suspicion is that while it doesnít feel like it, the pack is still moving around as much as a traditional pack, but because of the narrow size, I donít notice it as much. Itís not as good as a yoke style, but itís the best traditional harness Iíve used to date. Also, for the record, the only pack that I ever found with the yoke harness is no longer made, so the traditional harness is my only option at this point.

Overall, this is a really nice little pack. It carries well, holds what I need it to, holds up against the abuse I put it through, and doesnít bother me when Iím climbing. The pack retails at $65, which is a little more than its primary competitors cost, but not outrageously so. At the end of the review, I still find myself reaching for this pack when I need a leaders pack, despite having some other options, so despite the slightly higher price, I think itís worth the dough.

Go to this item in our Gear database: here.

Full Disclosure: The manufacturer of this product provided it free of charge to for review. then provided this product as compensation to the reviewer. This company does not currently advertise on March 29, 2007


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10 Comments CommentAdd a Comment

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Hmmm, good review and lots of your thoughts: the reality of how it held up to what you were afraid it wouldn't.

My biggest concern is the fact that it's not a top-loader. I'm always paranoid about zippers blowing out when you least expect it- which is always what they seem to do.

Nice to hear that the material holds up to chimneys! I'm always paranoid about that too!

Thanks for your great review!

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Hey John, it looks like the link at the end of the article, to the gear database, is missing.
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Did you use the ice axe attachment at all? If so, what was your experience?
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woops! i'll get the link in there as soon as i can. i didnt use the ice axe attachment- sorry, i'm a desert rat. i dont do cold!
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And where's the review of the bottle opener functionality? Hey my MH Trance pack has two (redundant) bottle openers.
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lol, i dont drink, but i think its cool, so i mentioned it for folks. most of my friends just use a carabiner to open bottles, although i tried to get them to use it!
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John, you could use the bottle openers on Root Beer, you know! Awesome review, a great example for the rest of us. I think I'm gonna get one of these packs!

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good point! as a side note that i forgot to put in the review- the stash pockets on the sides of the pack have a good enough elastic on them to keep stuff in there. i had a belay seat stashed in one of them while doing a couple of walls recently and it stayed put nicely (although i did have it tethered!).
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nice review. did you prefer it to the bd bullet, my current climbing pack
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How do think it stacks up against the ever minimalist Power Pack from Misty Mountain? Do they make that one still? If not, they should. Best leader's pack ever in my book! Cheers.

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