User Review: Mountain Hardwear Maestro
Design: top load internal frame
Max. Load Carried: 40-50lbs
Height of Owner: 5-10
Price Paid: $379
I want to give this pack more than one star, I really do. My experience with Mountain Hardwear gear has always been very positive. I've purchased a fair amount of gear from them over the years and I've never been disappointed. With that in mind I bought this pack 2 years ago expecting the same.
Once I mastered the somewhat "non-intuitive" - definitely unconventional setup, it was extremely comfortable. I loved it on the trail, it was comfortable, stable, and gave me great range of motion. The bag itself is bulletproof as would be expected from MH.
The problem I have with it is in the adjustment mechanisms. They aren't at all up to par with the rest of the pack. The u-bar broke on the trail, leaving the pack miserably uncomfortable for the remainder of the trip. I tried to rig it up with 550 cord but it still left the bag way off balance.
To MH's credit, they honored the lifetime warranty without question or hassle, the staff was very helpful and friendly and I had it back within a couple of weeks. I never found the u-bar adjustment to be very practical in actual use, its cumbersome at best with its push button activation. There is a crude sort of pulley system to raise and lower the weight of the bag on the frame. I never felt it functioned very well. It wasn't very in smooth operation, the cord lock never held well, and the pieces that snapped to the u-bar to hold it in place popped off constantly. Ultimately the cord broke at the pull ring under a 40lb load.
Another minor issue that came to drive me nuts was the velcro attachment at the top of the frame to hold the u-bar on. It constantly pulled loose and was a pita to hook back up. I can live with the velcro for adjusting and holding the padding in place because it won't have to be changed once you find your sweet spot. But I'm not a fan of velcro for holding gear together. It just doesn't hold up well under under shear and time.
The bottom line to me was that the pack was 90% there. They went outside the box and I admire that, it can lead to great leaps in technology but they fell short on the details and it undermined the whole design. I think the u-bar and lift system were unnecessarily complex and poorly executed. With MH's reputation and price point - this should have been indestructible.
I was sad to see it go, I loved the comfort and had high hopes for this pack but I it and will go back to either another Gregory or an Osprey.
Would I recommend the MH pack? No.