This probably has to be one of the strangest reviews of a mountain hardwear sack ever. I would love to tell you that I have been climbing in Patagonia, traversing some via ferrata in Italy or been off for a sneaky wildcamp in the Brecons. Instead Saturday saw the Koa 35 rucksack from Mountain Hardwear became for the day, the largest family kit and nappy bag ever as we went off to the Larmer tree festival near Shaftesbury. Don’t think the bag got an easy ride as a result, far from it, it probably saw a more punishing day on my back than if I had been out in the hills.
First Impressions are great, I love Mountain Hardwear as a brand, their equipment in particular is always great to look at and the Koa is no deviation from that. I had a full load of waterproofs, nappies, food, suncream and god knows what else that Cath had decided I absolutely had to have that day in super mum faff mode. Before anyone complains, can I just say for the record she’s awesome and she can faff to her hearts content as everything she packed did actually see the light of day at some stage!
Putting the rucksack on with all that weight, you notice this is a seriously comfortable sack. I have had major problems with both Berghaus airflow and Deuter air system rucksacks in the past being a little on the skinny side. Although the Koa uses MH’s FL suspension system, the gap from sack to back is smaller than both, and as a result, your centre of gravity is not too far away from your body. I much prefer this for riding and scrambling. Couple that with a decent lumbar support, an excellently supportive hipbelt, and I was never in any discomfort all day.
The bag has two sections which are not done as top and bottom, instead you have two full length zips with one accessing the smaller side section, and the other the main bag. I really liked this as it meant access to all my gear easily for both sections. The daisy chain section cunningly has reinforced panels behind them so it meant if I was strapping sharp stuff to the bag like my crampons, the bag won’t get damaged. Top wise they have got rid of a lid and you have a roll top closure which I like. The bag keeps it’s shape better as a result and you get no floating lid hopping off to one side which is a bug bear of mine. The stowable front compression panel would be good for a helmet (I used it to dry a damp fleece!) and the hydration pouch I guess would be easier to refill being outside the main bag. That last point is a small one, but for me it’s what Mountain Hardware gear is about, and that is everything has been thought about in some serious detail, right down to the dinky little nut tags on the zips!
The day was a long one but great one, and the sack was on my back pushing the boys around the Larmer tree site all day. The music was awesome (highlight Toumani Diabate ) and by the end I was feeling a little weary, but my back was in good shape. The full tech spec for the Koa is available over at MH’s main site here. So would I buy it? For me it has to be a yes. It’s not cheap, but the design, comfort and features have been melded together to make an awesome large daysack that having had on my back for a day, I would definitely put my hand in my pocket for. I’m going to be giving it another run out in anger on Dartmoor in early August so I’ll update in the comments with any more thoughts after I have been scrambling.