With everyone trying to save weight and minimize gear for fast-packing weekend trips, backpack manufacturers have responded with lighter weight top-loading packs. The Mountain Hardwear Fluid 32 is one such example that offers 32 liters or 1950 cubic inches of space, and only weights 2 lbs.-7 oz.
The Fluid 32 uses a 100D SiliSeal Ripstop Cordura Nylon body and a 315D SiliSeal Cordura bottom, making it extremely durable and capable of withstanding abrasions from the trail or an accidental poke with an ice axe.
The Fluid 32 features Mountain Hardwear’s HardWave framesheet that offers both cool ventilation and load support from this unique and light weight structure, combined with a comfortable hip belt that’s wide enough to offer extra support on your hip, but not too wide and thick to limit movement and agility on the trail. The hip belts also feature a mesh lining that helps keep you dry and two very small zipped pockets that can hold your car keys, chap stick or some spare change.
The lid features a large top compartment and inner zipped pockets for keeping valuables and first-aid items handy. The pack also features a hydration pocket that you can access externally to easily refill it when necessary.
One of the things we really liked about the Fluid 32 pack, are the compression straps. These help keep the contents of your pack from moving around, which helps when you’re scrambling over rocks or moving at a fast pace. We adjusted the straps, pulling them in tight during a brisk hike to make it to our campsite before dark. Yet, as we compressed the straps, the pack didn’t feel uncomfortable or move higher on our back. In fact, it allowed us to move quickly up the trail and jump over rocks without loosing our balance or feeling heavy.
Another nice feature on the Fluid 32 is that there’s plenty of external pockets for just about anything. We liked the stretch woven side pockets that can hold anything from a 1-liter water bottle to a pair of gloves or any extra gear that you might want to get at without taking off the pack.
We also liked the accessory straps that allow you to attach a lightweight sleeping pad and there’s an ice axe loop that makes this pack great if you’re headed to a remote waterfall for an ice climbing adventure. The front flap can also hold a climbing helmet; if you pack light enough, and the metal latch feels secure and makes it easy to access items in the front pouch or the top lid.
The Fluid 32 worked great during our overnight pack into the Oregon back country where we took a minimal amount of gear. While we trekked 10 miles in less than two hours at a fast pace, (the trail weaved in an out of river beds and through steep, heavily wooded terrain) the Fluid 32 never seemed like a burden to carry. We were able to fit a bivy, sleeping pad, two days worth of food, water, a lightweight stove, and our 1o-essentials easily into the pack with room to spare. For those wanting to go out even lighter, you can remove some of the accessory straps, but the compression straps will solidly support the gear in your pack so it’s not flopping around on you.
If you’re tempted to start becoming a fast or ultra-light backpacker, the Mountain Hardwear Fluid 32 is a great way to get your feet wet at $130. A slightly larger version, Fluid 35 is also avaialble. For more information, visit www.mountainhardwear.comSpecs: Capacity – 32 liters (1950 cubic inches) Weight – 2-lbs, 7-oz. Price: $130 Best for: Ice Climbing, fast packing (overnight or weekend with light gear), extended day hikes.