Osprey Mutant 38 - 2018

The Osprey Mutant 38 on test at Brin Rock with strategic dog placement. (© Brian Pollock)
Star Rating: **** (5 Stars) 

Recommended Retail Price: £80 - 22L, £130 - 38L, £150 - 52L

On Test: Osprey Mutant 38L

The Osprey Mutant 38 is the latest incarnation of Osprey's ever-popular climbing pack. The pack has been revamped for 2018 and we've been lucky enough to take it for a test over the Autumn months.

So what's changed and what hasn't? The pack retains the 38 litre capacity of its predecessor and all of the key features which set the Mutant series apart from the competition.

The pack comes with a padded hip belt and ergonomically designed shoulder harness which is comfortable under heavy loads, arguably more so than the previous Mutant. This is likely due to the extra padding and the beefed-up back system, now utilising 2 stays and a plastic sheet - which can be removed to save weight at the expense of comfort.

It retains the helmet net, which can be used to secure a climbing helmet to the top of the pack or stowed away in an easily accessible Velcro pocket. This pocket can also be used for storing small items for easy access - perfect for a phone, wallet, food or even a lightweight shell, etc. For more bulky items, the main lid compartment is spacious and secures with a conventional zip closure.

The lid is secured in place with discrete buckles which allow it to be removed with ease. Under the lid, the pack utilises a well-designed drawcord closure which operates smoothly one handed and closes securely without any extraneous loose material. For added protection, Osprey's Flap ]Jacket system acts as a minimalist replacement lid sealing the pack in from the elements. There is also an external rope retaining strap which can be used with or without the lid in place - an improvement on the previous Mutant.

Gone are the z style compression straps, replaced with 2 separate straps on either side of the pack, which can be extended to fit a sleeping pad, walking poles, a walking axe, etc. For winter climbers, the pack has a burly pick sleeve which sits neatly between 2 metal ice axe retainers well suited to modern ice tools. There are also numerous exterior attachment points for securing carabiners or a shock cord system.

On the inside of the pack, there is a single water bladder pocket. Gone is the low profile mesh pocket which was a useful feature of the previous Mutant for storing essential items.

In use

It's easy to list the features of the Mutant and compare it to the numerous alternatives on the market. However, where the Mutant sets itself apart is in how well it all fits together. Typical of an Osprey pack, every feature of the Mutant feels like it has been engineered to be as ergonomic and user-friendly as possible. Straps can be secured with barely noticeable retainers - no getting slapped in the face by a rogue strap on a windy day! Buckles are threaded neatly through conveniently located loops which keep everything in place, whether the pack is stuffed full or half empty. Unique features like the helmet and FlapJacket come with purpose-built retaining pockets which integrate seamlessly into the pack without adding bulk.

It goes without saying - but we will anyway - the Mutant carries loads as well as any pack we've used and arguably better than packs designed for larger loads. The previous Mutant was comfortable but the new version feels considerably more robust and more suited to use as a load hauling workhorse, whilst retaining the sleek profile of the modern Mutant series.

Effectively, the new Mutant is the best of both worlds consolidating Osprey's Variant and Mutant series into a single all-purpose pack very little consequences save a little extra weight compared to the previous Mutant. At 1.28kg the Mutant isn't the lightest pack on the market but it isn't trying to be. What you get with the Mutant is a user-friendly, refined pack which fits the bill for a variety of uses from big days in the hills carrying food, water, clothing, camping equipment, etc. to simple cragging. Whilst we haven't had an opportunity to take it out in full winter conditions (yet) we are confident it will perform equally as well if not better than the previous Mutant - which, in our tester's opinion, was one of the most versatile and comfy winter climbing packs on the market.

The Osprey Mutant 38 packed for an overnight stay. (© Brian Pollock) 

The Verdict

If you are looking for a new pack for the coming winter season, the Osprey Mutant 38 should be on your shortlist. It's easy to get caught up in the ultralight/ minimalist hype which seems to be more and more prevalent in recent years, but with the Mutant you get a pack which does exactly what you need it to across a range of activities and what's more it does so seamlessly. Every pack has quirks and niggles, features you would change, etc. but the Mutant feels like and is the product of years of refinement, distilled down into the features you need for a broad range of uses working together in a sleek cohesive package.

At £130 RRP, the Mutant is priced somewhere in the middle of the market. However, there is no doubt this pack is value for money. We haven't put a scratch on ours over months of use and expect to get many years of service from it.

What we liked:
  • Versatile and user-friendly features 
  • Refined feel 
  • Carries heavy loads with ease 
What we didn't like:
  • No internal mesh pocket - the lack of a secure pocket for essentials when the main lid isn't in use 
  • Only comes in dark colours (black / dark blue) - although this is contrasted by a bright back panel

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