The Pro Protection pack comes in one size. I am 5’10” with fairly average length torso, and the Protection fits me pretty well. The torso length can be adjusted by moving the hip belt up and down. There isn’t much room to move, though—I would guess that about 1.5” of movement is possible. I am comfy in the middle of the range.
The biggest issue I tend to have with packs is that the hip belts are too long for my ~29” waist. The hip belt on the Protection is just small enough to work. When I have it cinched down, there is still another inch that could be squeezed out of it.
(Note: Blister reviewer, Paul Forward, used this pack last season. He is 6′ tall, with a 33-34″, waist, and noted: “the pack fits me fine with a little room to spare, but its hard to imagine someone a whole lot smaller using it.”)
The hip belt has a built in “suspension” system with a thick piece of elastic built in under the padding that stretches as you tighten the hip belt. Ever since I got the pack I have been tempted to cut these elastic pieces out because they make it hard to cinch down on my small waist.
Unless the elastic is all the way stretched out, I can’t get the pack tight enough — and that would be the same regardless of waist size. It seems like this system is designed for enhanced comfort, but for me it only results in it being hard to get the hip belt tight enough. (For what it’s worth, Paul Forward hasn’t noticed this to be an issue.)
Another note on the fit: because the airbag goes through the shoulder straps, the fit and design of these straps is unique in the world of packs.
Because the airbag sits inside the straps, there are no load lifter straps. Overall, I kind of like this. It forces you to wear the pack very close to your body in the shoulders. This is how the pack wants to naturally sit as well, because the bulkier shoulder straps are fairly stiff and like to cradle your shoulders with the pack high on your back.
This has two main consequences:
(1) The center of gravity on this pack is far closer to the center of the body than on a traditional pack. Much of the weight is in front of the body, and the pack wears very close to the body. This is a great plus for me. While I’m skiing, I don’t notice the pack nearly as much as other packs—with or without airbags.
(2) Because the straps are filled with the air bag, they don’t like to move very much. Mammut has designed the shoulder straps with a pretty wide spread. I have average-width shoulders, and the straps are almost too wide for my 5’10” frame. If I had wider/bulkier shoulders this wouldn’t be a problem. However, for those with narrow frames or for women, the straps might be designed too wide for the pack to be worn comfortably. The sternum strap can be used to crank the shoulder straps down, but I imagine this wouldn’t be too comfortable.
I’ll go through most of them here—get ready, there are a lot:
It’s large, fleece lined, and big enough for a pair of goggles AND a pair of sunglasses AND some snacks AND probably some more. This pocket is big. Unfortunately, the airbag mechanics are directly beneath it, which limits the usable room.
I also wish there were two zipper heads on this pocket, I often put small items in it and I hate having that little zipper gap that is unavoidable with a single zipper head.
Back Panel Access
This is a feature I was really looking forward to—I talked to many people who raved about back panel access being a Must-Have for a winter pack. I was a bit underwhelmed by this feature on the Protection.
The back panel is small in comparison to the main compartment. Whenever I would go into the back panel, I had a hard time zipping it back up because I couldn’t pack the bag well from this pocket. So I find that I usually use the main zipper and the back panel stays closed.
This means that I am always unbuckling compression straps, but the main zipper gives amazing access to the main compartment, and makes it very easy to get my things in and out. (I’m considering cutting off the compression straps, and know others who have done so and have experienced no downside.)
Avy Gear Pocket
The avy gear pocket is a touch on the small side. My Black Diamond D7 shovel only fits if I separate the blade from the handle, which is frustrating since it renders the ‘Quick Deploy’ feature of the shovel worthless.
(FYI, #1: The Black Diamond Evac 9 shovel will not fit in this pocket, the BD Evac 7 will fit, along with 2 probes (1 small one for performing Extended Column Tests), and a saw. It’s a tight fit, but it fits.)
(FYI, #2: the Pro Protection 35L PAS has a much bigger avy gear pocket than the Pro Protection 35L RAS.)
There is also a zip pocket here for things like wallets, etc. I keep my reset tool and canister end cap in there, too, but not much else as I prefer to leave the avy pocket closed. Plus, the zipper pulls snap together to prevent accidental opening, and working with those snaps is difficult while wearing gloves.
There are four total compression straps, one upper and one lower on each side. They cover the main compartment zipper, but not the avy compartment. There are also two straps on the back of the pack. Together they work as a vertical snowboard carrier. The lower strap is removable and the upper strap is used for the diagonal ski carry.
Diagonal Ski Carry
The ski carry is pretty good as far as diagonal ski carry systems go. The lower loop that hooks around the heel piece of the ski efficiently stows out of the way with a forceful pull on a strap inside the avy pocket. The upper strap has a quick release function and hooks into a special reinforced loop for diagonal ski carry. The only downside is the the skis sit right on the back of your shovel, which can make it hard to pull them close to the pack.
For a 35L pack, the Pro Protection carries a bit small. Mammut claims this pack can be used for multi-day tours, and this is true if you’re in Europe and have a warm hut and food waiting at the end of each day. Otherwise, no way.
I can fit everything I need for a full day of touring in this pack, no problem, but there isn’t much room for extras. Looking at Dana Allen’s review, I can’t imagine being able to fit all of his gear in my pack. I usually pack a down jacket, extra gloves, socks, goggles, 1.5L water, food, helmet, skins, small first aid kit, avy gear, hat and a very slim pair of shoes (so I don’t have to wear ski boots on public transit). This fits tightly. If I need my crampons and axe, it fits very tightly.
(Paul Forward notes: FWIW, I am able to fit my full first aid kit, crevasse kit with rope, extra puffy jacket, chalk bottles, water, food, gloves, emergency tarp shelter and avy gear without too much trouble.)
NEXT: Features, Durability, Weight, etc.