Arguably one of the most important pieces of gear on a backpacking trip is the backpack itself. It needs to be roomy enough for all your other gear. It needs to have pockets and features to store and attach some of your other gear to your pack. And most importantly, it needs to be comfortable as you trek through the woods with your family or a group of friends. When I was planning out my gear for my backpacking trip with Jason and some other friends, I was trying to find a backpack that checked a bunch of boxes. I wanted it to be big enough for this trip (a 2 night, 20 mile hike) as well as any future trips up to about 5 days or so. I anticipated many more adventures, so I wanted something that would stand the test of time but wouldn’t break the bank. Ultimately a great Labor Day sale showed up on REI.com for the Mountainsmith Lookout 60L Backpack, and I couldn’t pass it up! I knew Jason had some good experiences with Mountainsmith in the past, so I snatched it up. Let’s see how it held up!
Design and Features:
Overall, the Mountainsmith Lookout 60L backpack is full of features that you would expect from most quality backpacking backpacks. It is not an ultralight option, but at 3 lbs 11 oz, it’s not going to break your back either. The bag measures at 25.7″ x 10.25″ x 7.25″ and has an internal frame.
The Mountainsmith Lookout 60L backpack is like many other backpacks intended for extended backpacking trips. It has cushioned shoulder straps with a chest clip as well as a padded waist belt. All of the belts and straps can be adjusted to give you the best fit possible, and the height of the straps on the bag can be adjusted by detaching the velcro and shifting the straps up or down. Overall, the straps were incredibly comfortable and I could tighten or loosen the chest strap to shift weight either to my hips or my shoulders, depending on what was getting tired. One thing I have to note is that the bag only comes in one size, and the waist belt was a bit big for me. I’m 5’8″ tall and slim (most pants I wear a 30″ waist). I tightened the belt all of the way that I could and it juuuuust fit me. This was a little too close to comfort for me and I would prefer a bag that was a little smaller on the waist belt. I cannot complain because it did work for me and I bought it online without actually trying it on. I did go to REI prior to purchasing this pack and tried on several. None of the other packs I tried on were on the smaller end, but I did not experience the same problem with those. It might just be this particular pack, but it is always a good idea to check these things out and when in doubt, try something else to get a better fit. Just like other backpacks, there is a pocket on the belt that I was able to throw a snack or two into, my Victorinox Tinker Swiss Army knife, and a compass.
The backpack has a zippered opening at the bottom as well as a top that buckles into place with a drawstring on the inside. This provides some nice flexibility if you want to just reach something at the bottom of your pack (maybe some rain pants and rain jacket in case of a sudden storm) without removing everything else that you need quick access to. There is also a long zippered pocket on the front that I used to store a rain cover (purchased separately, this pack does NOT come with one) and a pocket at the top of the pack that stored additional snacks, a fire kit, a first aid kit, my headlamp, a tripod, and a small trowel (IYKYK). There is also a pouch inside for storing a water reservoir if you need one or you can use the two external stretch water bottle pockets like I did. Finally, there are all sorts of loops and attachment points on the exterior of the pack. Some straps on the bottom made it easy to attach my sleeping pad (an oversized pad meant more for car camping if I’m being honest) and some cinch-able bungee cords.
I cannot personally attest to the durability of this pack as it has only been on one adventure. But Jason has a Mountainsmith pack that’s over 10 years old and has held up great (he only has had to fix some buckles that broke over time). The materials that are used (600-denier polyester on the exterior, 75-denier circle mesh, and 210-denier nylon on the interior) are seemingly of good quality and all attachment points seem securely stitched in place. The smaller zippers are YKK and of good quality (the larger zippers at the bottom are not labeled, but also seem like they’ll hold up to some use). I’d like to take a look at durability again after many more adventures, but so far, I’ve been pleased. The bag doesn’t feel cheap if you know what I’m saying.
- Good quality materials
- Plenty of pockets and attachment points
- Comfortable design with adjustment options
- Does not come with a rain cover
- Will not work for waists less than 30″
I’d say the cons I gave this back are pretty minimal, which is why this gets a near perfect score. I think this pack has all the features you want at a price point lower than competitors such as Gregory/Osprey. It’s not the cheapest pack you can find, but you can always look for a deal during a sale. If you’re looking for a backpack that is even more budget friendly, you have a couple options depending on how much use you expect to get out of it. We were pretty impressed with one of our friends’ packs on the trip, although at that price point, I don’t know how durable it is. Here at DadLikesGear, we try to make tradeoffs wherever we can so that we can get the most use out of our gear. I’d be much more willing to spend $100+ on gear I know that will last me for 10-15 years than $50 on something that will last me a few years. Another option is to check out something like GearTrade or REI Re/Supply to try to score some deals. Backpacks can be tough because of fit, but it’s worth scouring the web for some good deals sometimes.
Do you have this backpack or something else that you would recommend? Comment below!