The Mountainsmith Mountainlight Ghost 50 multi-day pack combines economy, versatility, capacity, and extreme comfort. For anything short of expedition level mountaineering the Mountainlight Ghost 50 provides everything one needs for a successful trek, all for under $190.00. With thousands of miles of backpacking under my belt over the last four years, I have yet to come across any product that meets my needs (even needs I wasn’t aware of) so completely.
The ergonomic design of this pack is unbelievable until you have donned it fully loaded. The combination of the Lumbar Control Point pad and the Illiac Crest Shelf Hipbelt Delta Wing Compression system, locks the pack to your hips. Sure, its a mouthful. And yes, this jargon seems to require spell-check, a dictionary and four year college degree. What it comes down to though is simple: Even fully loaded, this pack is secure. When I loaded it up and put it on I was amazed to feel as if it wasn’t even there. I could run, jump, even turn suddenly without feeling a millimeter of slippage or an ounce of resistance. Properly loaded and secured, this pack becomes part of your body. Perhaps the most interesting element of the comfort design is the Breezeway suspension back panel, so even though the weight of the load feels as if its part of your body, there is hardly any sensation of the pack being on your body. Its almost as if the pack doesn’t touch your back.
With a pack that rides so comfortably, one might expect there to be some sacrifice in other standard multi-day pack features. One would be wrong. The pack is a dual panel loader with an additional zippered pouch on the outside, allowing organization of gear for ease of accessibility. There is a three point ladder adjustment system for different torso lengths, as well as the usual hip, waist, side, shoulder and sternum strap adjustments allowing for a precise fit to almost any body size. There are plenty of pockets for gear that needs to be accessible without removing the pack. Dual water bottle pouches with their own securing straps, and an internal hydration bladder sleeve with a back panel exit port assure hiking with this pack will never be a thirsty endeavor. Bottom panel webbing attachment loops as well as webbing loops and elastic interlocking straps located strategically around the front panel allow for easy attachment of gear not sized for internal carrying.
So, thus far we have a pack affordably priced, unbelievably comfortable and amazingly versatile. Pretty much the only considerations left are weight and durability. Weight is easily addressed: at 3 lbs 15 oz the name Ghost takes on a slightly different meaning. A little research on a discount camping and outdoor gear website showed a comparable capacity pack at over $100.00 more in price and over 5 lbs in weight lacking many of the unique features of the Mountainsmith Mountainlight Ghost 50. This pack is light. As far as durability goes I usually expect the zippers and areas around the zippers to go first. The YKK Zippers have held up without a hitch as have all the buckles, straps and other hardware. The only noticeable wear on the pack is a small flaw in some of the non-functional stitching. This is surprising considering over the past months I have crashed my bike wearing this pack, squeezed through brush and between obstacles, tossed the pack up onto and back off of rises, and exposed the pack to all types moisture and precipitation short of submersion. The pack is still in appearance and functionality as close to new as to make no difference. The 210d Duramax RipStop Nylon shell and 420d Duramax Nylon structure lined with 210d RipStop have not only held up under extensive use and abuse but have also managed to convince me that my pack is virtually waterproof. Speeding through a downpour on my fender-less bike, hiking through mist and past waterfalls, accidentally setting the pack down in puddles, snow storms, ice storms – no matter what I put the pack through, at the end all my gear was improbably bone dry. Mountainsmith makes no claim as to the water resistance or waterproofing of this pack, but my experience has given me confidence in this pack’s durability against water.
The conclusion here is simple: if you do any type of backpacking more demanding than a walk to your car, and less extreme than summiting Everest, you should consider this pack. Note that the Mountainsmith Mountainlight Ghost 50 is the largest of the lightweight full-featured packs, so if you can get by with a lower capacity pack you might also consider the Phantom 40, and if you are minimalist to whom nothing matters more than ounces, the new Mountainlight 2013 Haze 50 might be just what you need. mountainsmith.com