MHM Salute 34
Volume: 34 liter; 2073 cubic inches
Weight: 3 lbs. 4 oz
Waist Size: 26-48 inches
Torso Size: 16-21 inches
- Main body: 315D Cordura, 80g PU/DWR
- Bottom fabric: 840D Cordura, 80g PU/DWR
- “Snake-Loader” S-zipper
- VariCant dual-pivoting hipbelt
- Included pack cover
- Stowable compression straps and ice axe loops
- 9 pockets, plus main compartment
Reviewer Waist Size: 30″
Reviewer Torso Length: 18″
Locations tested: Pikes Peak, Lumpy Ridge, Eldorado Canyon, South Platte, Sangre de Cristo Mountains, Indian Creek
Days tested: 30+
Look at the backpack section of a local gear store and you’ll see dozens of different packs, each tailored for a different purpose. With all the options out there from established companies, you might think there isn’t space for a young start-up to carve out their own niche.
But in a competitive market, MHM is a small pack company based out of Denver that tries to set themselves apart with a few distinctive designs.
The Salute 34 fits in the mid-sized technical daypack category, but MHM also offer 42, 55, and 80 liter packs for larger loads as well as several smaller commuter and urban-use packs.
Unlike many companies that use basic nylon fabric in their packs, MHM elected to use more durable (though more expensive), Cordura fabric throughout the Salute 34. While I believe that three months is not enough time to truly test a pack’s durability, I also definitely believe that the Cordura will increase the pack’s lifespan.
The Salute 34 comes in one size with fixed shoulder straps and hipbelt, and it fit my 18-inch torso well.
I am, however, concerned about the hipbelt. I have a 30-inch waist, and the hipbelt, even when fully cinched down, barely tightens enough to keep the load on my hips.
Name a feature that you’ve seen on another daypack, and the Salute 34 probably has it. From a burly suspension system to an included rain cover, the Salute 34 is nothing if not fully featured. Now let’s look over those features in detail…
Suspension and Frame
The suspension system is the beefiest I’ve ever seen on a daypack, rivaling many packs in the 50-70 liter range when it comes to rigidity of the framesheet, and thickness of the aluminum stays and foam on the hipbelt and shoulder straps.
The suspension does its job, keeping the pack’s weight on my hips. I definitely appreciate the thicker padding on the hipbelt and shoulder straps—it’s a welcome relief from the common thin foam—or worse, straight webbing—that’s found on other (admittedly less expensive) daypacks. I was able to carry about 35-40 lbs. before I started pushing the limits of the suspension.
MHM also did a good job with ventilation on the Salute. I sweat a lot when I’m hiking, and I have yet to find a pack with enough ventilation to really keep my back dry. The Salute 34 is no exception, but it’s certainly better than average when it comes to back ventilation. This is probably due in part to the thick foam on the back panel, the shoulder straps, and hipbelt; while the thin foam on most daypacks compresses against my back, the Salute’s thick foam keeps the air channels open.
Similar to most other pack manufacturers today, MHM designed the hipbelt to move independently from the pack frame, a design they call VariCant. Honestly, I haven’t noticed a difference between the pivoting hipbelt on the Salute and that on any other daypack I’ve used with either a fixed hipbelt or a different pivoting design.
Overall, in the case of the suspension system, over-engineering works in the Salute’s favor.
The most striking feature of the Salute 34 is the “Snake-Loader,” an S-shaped zipper that snakes its way around the entire pack. It’s designed to allow access to all sections of the pack, and while I believe this design is conceptually genius, in practice, I found it could benefit from some refinement.
The “S” zipper really shines when you’re carrying mixed loads—for a day of cragging or a day hike with variable weather conditions, for example. Unlike traditional top-loaders or simple inverted ‘U’ zipper packs, the Salute’s Snake-Loader makes finding gear easy, a feature I found especially nice when I was carrying climbing gear.
I like to pack my helmet, shoes, and harness on top because of their bulk, but that makes finding everything else difficult. With the Salute, when I need the extra layer or the lunch that I packed in the middle, I just unzip the corresponding portion of the pack.
As with any zipper though, the zipper on the Salute has a tendency to get clogged with grit and dirt during normal use. While this certainly isn’t a fatal flaw, several times while hiking in particularly muddy or sandy situations, I found myself wishing for a simple drawstring closure. I think this could be fixed simply by putting a weather guard over the zipper.
And here’s the caveat. While the zipper on the Salute works wonderfully when I’m carrying relatively small loads,it doesn’t work as well when the pack is fully loaded. I’m sure most people know what it’s like struggling to zip a fully stuffed duffle bag; this process is made even more difficult with the Salute’s “S” zipper.
While I appreciated the ability to easily unzip the pack and grab what I need from the bottom or middle of the load, I found myself most wanting to use this feature when the pack was full. And when the pack was stuffed, it was hard to use the “S” zipper. The space needed to zip the pack makes filling it to capacity a struggle, but I think that properly placed compression straps could alleviate this problem.
NEXT PAGE: Compression Straps