I initially worried that 32 liters would be too small for patrolling or long tours. But once I started to load gear into the pack, I realized that there was enough room for all my essential gear—with some space left over.
I’ve been using a North Face Patrol 35 pack for the last few years that, although it could accommodate most of my necessary gear, would bulge and extend outward when it was overstuffed. Even when it’s full, the PowderKeg has a compact feel, and it will replace The North Face Patrol pack this season.
So while the PowderKeg won’t be the best option for an overnight trip (and it isn’t intended to be), it’s great for long tours and days in the backcountry.
All of the storage pockets (avi stow, main compartment, top pocket, hip belt pockets) have large rubberized zipper pulls that are easy to grasp and pull open. I was able to open every compartment with my Kinko patrol gloves on.
Plus, all of the zippers on the pack are weatherized to prevent water from seeping inside.
There’s a pocket on each side of the hip belt. These pockets are well-situated and come with good zippers. I do wish they were a tiny bit larger (e.g. as in big enough to hold a handheld digital camera), but this is a minor gripe.
VariCant Dual Pivot Hipbelt
The hipbelt is connected by two pivot points on each side of the pack, helping prevent it from bouncing around. As I mentioned before, this pack never restricted my movements, and I think the hipbelt should take much of the credit.
I liked the adjustment strap location on the hipbelt. The straps are located by the pivot, which keeps the strap ends out of the way, yet still easy to access. I also really appreciated that the hipbelt was supportive without being too thick. Thick hip belts can create pinch zones when I’m bending over to strap in or buckle boots.
I should note that one of the pivots broke while I was riding at Treble Cone. I’d found a cliff I wanted to drop, so I climbed up and tightened the pack to fit snuggly. I landed on the snow harder than I’d anticipated, compressing my knees and bending down quickly. I heard a popping sound and felt the pack loosen up a bit. Once I took the pack off, I noticed that the plastic pivot had burst out of the pack, but I was able to repair it with some bailing wire and eventually with a pop rivet and rivet gun. Now, it works perfectly once again.
Ice Axe / Crampons Storage
When I was in New Zealand, I used an ice axe and crampons at two of New Zealand’s largest ski areas—Whakapapa and Turoa. From these ski areas you can take gorgeous tours up to the crater lake of the volcano. This place is known for its incredible terrain—and its ice.
When I wasn’t using them, I kept my crampons inside the pack; since the fabric is so strong I wasn’t worried about tearing it. I could also fit the crampons on the outside of the pack by strapping them onto the sides of the main compression straps.
The ice axe loop was very useful and easy to use, and it kept the axe away from my head while I was riding down the slope. When I’d carried an Omega Pacific 60cm ice axe on The North Face pack, the axe would click against my helmet (scary), but this wasn’t an issue with the PowderKeg.
After about two weeks of use, I noticed that the Cordura coating on the side of the pack had started to crack and peel, but so far, it’s remained in place. There are a few other spots that have started to fray and the sternum strap buckle is cracked. Granted, I haven’t been exactly easy on this pack…
Overall, I’d say this pack has been very durable. I didn’t have any issues with waterproofing—for the most part it seems to be highly water-resistant.
The MHM PowderKeg might seem small at 32 liters, but it’s proven to be more than adequate for patrolling and long days in the backcountry. As a snowboarder, I found that the dual pivot hipbelt kept the pack close and comfortable without restricting my movements.
I was very impressed with how easy it was to strap my snowboard and ice axe onto the pack. I think it’s great that this pack will work with both skis and snowboards, and that you have several options for carrying either.
This pack will be my go-to pack when I’m in the backcountry, and when I’m patrolling at Taos.