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Mountainsmith Lariat 65

rated 5.0 of 5 stars
photo: Mountainsmith Lariat 65 weekend pack (50-69l)

A fantastic pack for overnight or the long weekend away, the Lariat has all the features you can use without all the add-ons you don't need. Easy to carry, it puts everything right where you need it with a simple zipper.


  • Easy access through the top or side
  • Durable
  • Lightweight
  • Removable daypack


  • Compression straps are situated in strange places
  • Top pocket is deeper than it is wide

I started looking for a new pack about three years ago to replace my tried and trusted Lowe Alpine Contour which had been my companion across the U.S. for years. I wanted a lighter pack with good suspension. I studied and compared, I tried on a lot of different styles and makes of backpacks. I even almost bought a couple because I thought they were "The One."

I visited forums, I went to REI, I talked to buddies about their packs, I searched and tried and then ran across the Mountainsmith Lariat online. It seemed intriguing, that big zipper around the side, so I tried to find it in the local camping stores and couldn't find a single one. I ended up buying the Mountainsmith sight unseen online and then bought an Osprey to use while I waited.

When it came, I pulled it out of the packaging and without preamble, tried it on. The pack fit out of the box, like Mountainsmith had known all along it was for me. The straps fell in the right place, the hip belt was comfortable and held the pack secure, it was just perfect--out of the box.

I loaded it with my usual weekend gear; sleeping bag, air core pad, bivy, tarp, kettle, stove, hydration bladder inside the pack where the bladder goes... you know all that stuff you find you take with you. It held all of it with room for more. I called my best hiking buddy and we were off for a weekend of hiking and camping.  

I will admit, you have to play with the settings. Like all things, you have to find where things go in the pack to ride comfortably. While the pack wasn't set up just right, that first weekend, I did manage to hike the trail without much discomfort other than thinking, "next time, I'll pack that somewhere else."

The pack suspension holds the pack away from the body so that even in the South Carolina heat, there is air flow on your back. It's not like having a fan blowing across your shoulders, but it's not laying against you uncomfortably either. That first camp, we were up against a coming rain storm, so once we got to where we were pitching camp, we had to move to get our gear straight. 

Unzipping that backpack so I could see everything without having to dig through the gear was the best thing ever. E.V.E.R. My buddy was dragging and dumping and I simply set the pack down. unzipped and pulled out my trap, set up the tarp, pulled my backpack under the tarp and set up the rest of my gear out of the weather without having to dig, and curse.

I left the pack open while we were in camp and being able to pick things up without digging through the top of the pack was amazing. My gear stayed organized and off the forest floor. When I came time to leave, I zipped up the pack, bounced it a couple times to settle the contents and was on the trail again. Through all the up and down, the flats and creek crossings, the pack stayed firmly in place and did not sway or bounce. 

The day pack you ask? Oh, I use it for those things I need right away, first aid kit, bug spray, my saw. Then when I want to go for a little stroll for dead wood for the fire, I unhook it from the main pack, pull out the shoulder straps and drop in my water bottle.

The little pack is comfortable enough for those jaunts away from main camp and holds everything you might need; like a sammich and all those other things I named. It serves as a secondary gear pouch as well. Now that I've done a few camps with the pack, I keep my tarp in the outside pouch so I don't have to open my main pack until I have some place to open it under. 

The compression straps are a puzzle. I understand that with the big zipper running down one side of the pack, they had to be a little creative with the way it compresses. However, what they did with the straps seems to compress everything to the middle of the pack, which makes for interesting stuffing of gear until you figure out how to put in your own preferred load. It took me a couple camps to decide just how I wanted to do it, but I got the load figured out and now have no problems. Because of the weird straps, I still have no place to attach my RAT 5 knife to the pack, and I might create a strap for that. 

The top packet is deeper than it is wide, and it seems shallow in height as well. I can't figure out just what to put up here as the zipper isn't all that wide and I have a hard time getting my hand in here. You can't open it enough to really look into it either, so I have to pull everything out to find what I'm looking for. I've ended up using it as a wallet and key holder on the trail, and putting my headlamp there, and that's about it. I'm sure someone else has figured out this one, but honestly, with the day pack attached to the outside of the pack as an extra pocket, I don't use the top pocket as much as I did with my old pack. 

I've been caught in the rain a few times (every time I go out it seems, sometimes) and I've not had anything get wet inside the pack, even though it's not water proof. 

I've been using this pack for about a year and a half now. It's been a a dozen or so hikes and camps, in the rain, wind, and mountain storms, and I've yet to find anything I dislike about the pack, other than the minor issues noted above. It's well made, it's held up to everything so far—though I've not thrown it off a cliff yet like I did my old Lowe--but I imagine that day will arrive and when I do, it will survive just fine. 

Oh, and the Osprey I bought? It is in the closet. I haven't used it since I received the Mountainsmith.

Source: bought it new
Price Paid: $120 or so. I found it really on sale.

Durable, comfortable, great value. Huge duffle style front hatch into main pouch. Detachable summit pack, fully adjustable.


  • Loading ease
  • Durable
  • Plenty of room
  • Good value
  • Detachable summit pack


  • Summit pack could use a chest strap

I am a little under 5'10" #205 and this is a very comfortable pack with #50+. I have plenty of adjustment both directions. Have no doubt it would fit someone 5'5" or 6'4" as well as me, maybe even a broader range than that. Hip belt, shoulder straps, and sternum strap all have a broad range of adjustment.

65 liter pack has no problem holding my 0 deg. Teton sleeping bag, Drifter two tent, Therm-a-Rest pad, Therm-a-Rest pillow, Katadyn purifier, Jetboil, coffee, Mountain House meals for three to five days, alarm clock/radio, spare boots, collapsible water can and LED lantern, all in main pouch with room to spare with the extendible top. Top pouch holds my clothes for four days and journal + extra socks.

Summit pack holds the things that I will need on day hikes: water bottle, rope, camera, snacks/lunch, Frogg Togg rain jacket, some first aid supply, extra knives and headlamp. Top or front load the large duffle type zipper opening into the main pouch makes loading and organizing this pack a breeze. As well as making it possible to get items out of pack without pulling everything out of the pack.

With the load adjuster straps and compression straps the load is easy to adjust on the go, making a very stable, comfortable ride. All straps, zippers, and pockets are well built, durable, and highly functional with ease of use.

The summit pack has its own shoulder straps attached and even though I would like to have a sternum strap this pack has been the perfect answer for my day trip needs. When I'm stumbling through rock slides and traveling hard on steep rough ground sometimes the straps on my summit pack seem to be sitting too far out on my shoulders, like they're trying to slip off. Not uncomfortable, and have never left my shoulder even when falling. I think it is just I'm not used to the less buckled down solid feel.

Overall I am more than pleased with this pack. It is like a prayer answered. Love it, can't say enough good about it. If the chest strap was any kind of problem it would be simple and cheap to add one. 

I bought this bag through E-Bags on sale $136 for blue; would have rather had the green, but it was a considerable price difference.

All I have left to say is I have packed it on several short get-back-in-shape 1.5-mile fast hikes and one good rough terrain hike in wind rain and snow. Compared to my old pack I had to check to make sure I was still here on earth with the rest of you good folks and not dead wandering around in heaven. GREAT PACK. Good job, Mountainsmith!  

Source: bought it new
Price Paid: $136


  • Perfect weekend backpack


  • Not water resistant
  • No rainfly

I have had this backpack for a little over a year now, and this thing is awesome. I take it out hunting with my dad and we end up hiking over 10 miles a weekend. Most of which is a lot of bushwhacking.

The pack is very durable and comfortable for the price. I highly recommend this pack to anyone who is on a budget looking for a quality weekend pack.

Source: bought it new
Price Paid: $200

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Price MSRP: $199.00
Current Retail: $229.95
Historic Range: $75.00-$229.95
Reviewers Paid: $120.00-$200.00
Volume 4275ci/70L (Extended: 4607ci/75.5L)
Weight 5 lb.
Torso 17”-22”

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