Pilgrim Age 29 Parkville, Missouri Backpacking experience:…
Design: Top and Side-loading Internal
Size: 4,600 (reg) - 5,000 (large)
Number of Pockets: 5+
Max. Load Carried: 45 pounds
Height of Owner: 6'0"
Price Paid: $185
Backpacking experience: I'm somewhere well north of Novice but plenty south of Expert. I'm not an "ultra-light" enthusiast, and usually carry the heavier loads. There's no way the Wife is going 10 miles a day with a 35 pound pack, so I make up the difference; my pack is usually 40-45 pounds.
Trips with REI Mercury Pack: Summer weekend on Buffalo River Trail, Arkansas; Winter weekend in Superstition Mountains Wilderness, Arizona; Autumn weeklong on Superior Hiking Trail, Minnesota; Spring weekend on Buffalo River Trail and floating on the Buffalo River, Arkansas.
The Mercury is a good backpack! The torso-adjustable suspension is well designed, with adjustments made by sliding the harness along a nylon web and sturdy buckle system. The shoulder padding is adequate, and the hip belt is cush - the most padded I've ever tried. There's a dual belt strap, which I thought was unnecessary but my buddy thought was genius. It allows you to cinch the hip belt to "micro-fit" it to your hips. The dangly straps are a slight annoyance, but far outweighed by the comfort of the belt.
I found it plenty rugged through rocky Arizona mountains, Lake Superior ridgeline, and swampy Arkansas trail. The Mercury sheds sleet and rain well, and even seemed to keep my gear dry after getting dumped in the Buffalo River. I'm still packing everything in plastic on my next float trip.
Access is great! Top cinching (with extendable collar) AND side-zippered access are clutch in getting to my sometimes poorly planned packing ("Why did you put the food at the bottom?!?"). The Z-styled compression system is very nice. Gets the load evenly tight and compact.
The Mercury is a cavernous 4,600-5,000 c.i., which is good news for husbands and dads who play "pack mule" when you take the family out. Carrying 45 pounds is never EASY, but the Mercury does its part to make it bearable.
The lid pocket is nice and big, the side mesh pockets are plenty accommodating too. The outer shock cord and shovel "pocket" (it's more like a compression flap) are good for awkward stuff that ruins the fung-shui organizational harmony inside the pack. If you don't overpack the interior, there are two zippered stuff pockets for little odds and ends. If your main compartment is full, these little pockets are pretty unusable. I'll never use the ski slots, so I wish REI would have saved the material, but the Mercury is a Pack of all Trades, so you telemarkers can use it, too.
I wish the lid detached and converted into a lumbar pack, but it does not.
I've long lost the manual, but I got these specs from REI's online help center:
Approximate volume 4,600 / 5,000 cubic inches
Fits torso 15-21 / 17-23 inches
Fits waist/hips 30-50 / 34-54 inches
Number of pockets 5 + main compartment
Number of stays 2
Frame material Aluminum
Average weight 5 lbs. 6 oz. / 5 lbs. 8 oz.
Access / Loading Top, side
Sleeping bag compartment No