User Review: Mountainsmith Approach 3.0
Size: 2,044 cu.in.
Number of Pockets: 6
Max. Load Carried: 30lbs
Height of Owner: 5' 10"
Price Paid: $50
I have enjoyed winter backpacking, hiking and mountaineering for over 20 years and haven't seen such a versatile pack before. This is one versatile little pack!
It's the perfect size for stuffing a couple days supply of clothes and toiletries in when traveling or for overnight get-aways. It has great organization options - lotsa zip-closure pockets both external and internal. The main outside pocket "flap" is connected to the main pack bag at the top with adjustable length straps and connected on the sides by strethy nylon mesh (like a shovel pocket on mountaineering packs). This construction design is perfect for stuffing a light shell jacket or fleece vest in - brilliant! The pockets which are on the sides of the pack are "tunnel" pockets meaning things can be slid between them and the main pack bag - a mark of an experienced pack designer. There are also "sleeping bag" type straps on the bottom which are great for strapping any number of awkward items to.
I am using my Mountainsmith Approach 3.0 primarily as a photography bag. It holds all my standard "walk-around" photography gear with aplomb. There is tons of extra space for a change of clothes or two, toiletries, passport and billfold when i am traveling (which a do a lot of).
OK - my nitpicks are as follow. The bag has too many superfluous straps such as the "load lifter" straps. An otherwise excellent aide in pack suspensions, the Mountainsmith Approach 3.0 does not have adequately padded shoulder straps that would allow the use of load lifters. Such a heavy load to require the use of load lifters straps in this pack would be painful. This brings up the bargain-shelf padding in the shoulder straps. I guess for $49.99 i can't expect too much. The zippers, though quality, would be better if they were slightly larger/"beefier" as the current ones bend/bind too easily when trying to open them. One exception to this is the high-end design water-resistant zipper on the front of the pack - kudos to Mountainsmith!!! Also, since is not intended to be a technical climbing pack, a heavier pack cloth could have been used - I am wondering about longevity with this pack as well.
Aside from having to look REALLY hard to find something negative, I am really pleased with this pack and would unhesitatingly buy another - especially at the price point I bought my first at.
Update: January 1, 2012
I chose to update my review for those who may be buying this item *used* as it's been discontinued.
I should have stuck with my experience — Mountainsmith packs are the bottom of the heap.
OK, as i mentioned in my initial review, the main pack-bag fabric was suspect. Further experience has confirmed my initial impressions - the fabric is too 'flimsy' - not in any way remotely water-resistant. Furthermore, the fabric has zero - 0 - abrasion resistance.
As i mentioned, the shoulder straps offer minimal effective padding, but at least covers the nylon webbing.
Good thing this pack is no longer available.