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Mountainsmith Haze 50 Backpack Review

made by:
Philip Werner
Version:
1
Price:
129.00

Reviewed by:
Rating:
5
On March 5, 2015
Last modified:October 25, 2016

Summary:

At $129, the new Mountainsmith Haze 50 is an excellent value for hikers who are looking for a lightweight but feature rich backpack that is suitable for overnight and multi-day backpacking trips. Combining ultralight style features such as side mesh pockets with the more traditional closed pockets found on heavier backpacks, the Haze 50 makes it possible to undertake minimalist 'fast and light' hikes or go heavy with more traditional gear and rations.

Mountainsmith Haze 50 Backpack
Mountainsmith Haze 50 Backpack

You could say that Mountainsmith ‘has seen the light’ with the introduction of the Haze 50, a minimalist top loading backpack which weighs just under 2 pounds. With just over 3000 cubic inches / 50 L of storage capacity, the Haze 50 is ideally sized for overnight and multi-day backpacking trips with loads up to 25-30 pounds. Priced at just $129, the Haze 50 is also a great value for backpackers who want to gradually replace their existing gear with lighter weight alternatives, but still need a higher volume pack while they make the transition.

Haze 50 - Top Loading Main Storage
Haze 50 – Top Loading Main Storage

Storage Capacity

The Haze 50 has one main top-loading compartment, as is the norm with many lighter weight backpacks, in addition to two side mesh pockets, an internal hydration pocket w/ hang loop, and two tube-shaped external pockets on the front of the backpack. There’s also a small mesh pocket on the hip belt which is best suited for carrying snacks or a small point and shoot camera.

The main compartment has weight-saving, drawstring closure with an interior dust flap making it very easy to access gear without having to undo a huge number of straps or move a top lid out of the way. While lightweight, the downside with this type of top is that it doesn’t close completely and may leak water when it rains. However, the rain issue is easily mitigated using a well-know trick in the lightweight backpacking community, which is to line the inside of your backpack with a trash compactor bag to keep your gear dry. I’ve been using this method for years and it’s virtually fool proof.

In addition to the cavernous storage inside the pack, the Haze 50 sports two ingenious tube-like pockets on the front of the pack that are large enough to store snacks, extra clothing, an ultralight tarp, or a down vest. Having closed storage compensates for the lack of a top lid and is much more durable than the open mesh front pockets you typically find on ultralight backpacks.

Haze 50 - Side Mesh Pockets and Bottom Compression Straps
Side Mesh Pockets and Bottom Compression Straps

I am a big fan of side mesh pockets because I like to carry water bottles on the exterior of my backpack to prevent hydration reservoir mishaps inside it. The Haze 50 has one mesh pocket on either side of the pack with reinforced fabric bottoms to prevent tearing when the pack is dragged over rough ground. There is also a compression strap running outside the pocket which is somewhat sub-optimal because it means you can’t compress the base of the pack if there’s a bottle in the pocket. A better design is to run the compression strap through holes on the sides of the pocket, so you can compress the base of the pack and rely on the elastic mesh to hold the bottle in place, but it’s by no means a showstopper.

Haze 50 - Top Strap Buckle
Top Strap Buckle

Compression and External Attachment System

In addition to compression strap over the side mesh pockets, the Haze 50 has a 2nd tier of side compression straps, two top straps and two bottom straps for securing gear to the pack.

The side compression straps – both top and bottom – are long enough to secure snowshoes to the side of the pack. This is only way to attach them if you want to use the Haze 50 for winter use, but it is the best way to carry snowshoes because it puts the load in line with your torso and doesn’t pull you backwards.

When not in use to hold gear to the top of the backpack, the two top straps are best crossed diagonally over the main compartment to provide vertical compression.  They can also be deployed straight across for attaching items like a rolled up tent, sleeping bag, or sleeping pad to the top of the pack, which I prefer rather than attaching them to the bottom because the added weight can pull you backwards and off-balance.

Haze 50 - Bottom Gear Straps
Bottom Gear Straps

The top straps connect to loops on the front-side of the pack using an aluminum buckle which is easy to thread through the loop and is held in place by tension. My only reservation about these is that they are not permanently attached to the straps and may become lost over time. They’re easy enough to replace though, so not a huge concern.

The are two sets of ice axe loops at the base of the pack and two shaft holders above the tube pockets for attaching ice tools to the pack. In addition, there is a section of daisy chain running between the front tube pockets.

Haze 50 Hip Belt and Back Panel Padding
Haze 50 Hip Belt and Back Panel Padding

Backpack Suspension

Technically speaking, the Haze 50 is a frameless backpack in that it lacks a metal or fiberglass frame and stays. It does use an internal piece of closed cell foam as a stiffener, located in a back-panel pocket on the inside of the back behind the shoulder straps and hip belt. While you can remove this hour-glass cut foam sheet, I wouldn’t advise it, because it helps the pack from collapsing in on itself and prevents full loads from bulging into your back. If you are still hell bent on removing the foam, it weighs 3.3 ounces, but is nearly impossible to properly re-seat when removed.

For a 50 L backpack, the Haze 50 is large enough that load lifters would be useful if you have a tendency to pack heavy. With a slim but boxy shape, the pack lends itself to top loading and load lifters would offset the pack’s tendency to pull away from your back if you go really heavy.

Suspension System - Side View
Suspension System – Side View

The shoulder straps on the Haze 50 are J-shaped, which is a unisex style, although they are comfortably padded with a foam air mesh panel along the upper chest. There are elastic keeper straps on each shoulder pad for controlling a hydration reservoir hose and an easily adjustable sternum strap system is included which slides up and down the shoulder pad webbing.

The back panel is padded with air-mesh foam to cut down on perspiration buildup although it has a tendency to absorb water in rain despite a DWR coating. A sturdy gear loop is situated at the top of the foam backing along with a single central hydration port.

The place where the Haze 50 shines as a backpack is the hip belt which provides excellent load transfer to the hips. Note the open cutout where the hip belt attaches to the back of the pack. When the top and bottom parts of the belt wrap around your hip, the top strand naturally catches on top of your illiac crest, the bony ridge at the top of your hips which is supposed to carry 60-70% of your pack weight.  The hip belt cutout makes the belt much more flexible so that it can easily mold itself to your body shape and give you a custom fit that won’t slip, even if you are wearing a slippery jacket like a rain shell or  a wind shirt. Very nice.

Haze 50 Backpack - Excellent Hip Belt Load Transfer
Excellent Hip Belt Load Transfer

Likes

  • Veritcally enclosed front “tube” pockets provide easy access to gear
  • Hip belt is very comfortable and provides excellent load transfer
  • Two tiers of compression straps and side mesh pockets provide good external storage
  • Just under 2 pounds in weight
  • Excellent range of torso length (15″ – 22″) and waist sizes (30″-54″)

Dislikes

  • Interior dust flap and draw string don’t completely seal off main compartment
  • Shoulder straps are not shaped for curvy or narrow shouldered backpackers
  • Rear daisy chain does not extend the length of the backpack

Overall Recommendation

At $129, the new Mountainsmith Haze 50 is an excellent value for hikers who are looking for a lightweight but feature rich backpack that is suitable for overnight and multi-day backpacking trips. Combining ultralight style features such as side mesh pockets with the more traditional closed pockets found on heavier backpacks, the Haze 50 makes it possible to undertake minimalist ‘fast and light’ hikes or go heavy with more traditional gear and rations. Made with bomber materials for durability, the Haze 50 still weighs under 2 pounds, making it a good value for hikers who want a long lasting but lightweight backpack at a reasonable price.

Manufacturer Specifications

Materials:

  • 210d Duramax RipStop Nylon
  • 420d Duramax Nylon
  • 210d RipStop Liner

Dimensions:

  • SM/MD – 21″ x 11.5″ x 7″ / 53.25 x 29.25 x 17.75 cm
  • MD/LG – 23″ x 11.5″ x 7″ / 58.5 x 29.25 x 17.75 cm

Volume:

  • SM/MD Std – 2440 cu. in. / 40L
  • SM/MD Ext – 3050 cu. in. / 50L
  • MD/LG Std – 2624 cu. in. / 43L
  • MD/LG Ext – 3234 cu. in. / 53L

Capacity:

  • Up to 35 lbs

Weight:

  • SM/MD – 1 lb 13oz / 0.82 kgs
  • MD/LG – 1 lb 15oz / 0.88 kgs

Fit Range:

  • SM/MD Torso: 15″ – 18″
  • MD/LG Torso: 18″ – 22″
  • Waistbelt: 30″ to 54″

Disclosure: Mountainsmith provided Philip Werner (SectionHiker.com) with a sample Haze 50 backpack for this review. 

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16 comments

  1. i own the old golite jam and osprey exos 58. how does haze 50 compare to those backpacks?

    • I won’t go into a full comparison, but give you what I think are the major differences.

      The old Golite jams were basically sacks with a front zippered pocket and a roll top closure. The haze has much better external attachments, particularly on the top of the pack, and more body, in that it holds its shape better when stuffed with gear, making it easier to carry in my opinion. The haze hip belt is also better. Way better.

      The exoskeleton has a hard frame and a trampoline style back panel, so really a classic internal frame pack. As a result it can carry more weight than the Haze. But my big issue with the exos was the fit of the hip belt which is simply not long enough for most people.

  2. Great review Philip! Nice pack…

  3. thanks. this haze 50 will be on my wish list

  4. The pack looks good on initial use or. Looking deeper, I suspect it is not quite what I am looking for in a pack.
    1) Maximize Comfort: This area seems to be the best feature of the pack. Other than the shoulder straps, it seems pretty good in this regard.
    2) Maximize Utility: This is, perhaps, it’s bigest drawback. I don’t attach things to my pack, well rarely, in the case of heading out with the wife. The daisy chain is almost useless, except as a ‘grab handle”. The heavyier compression straps and buckles could easily be replaced with small er loops and lengths of small (1/8″) bungies. For snowshoes, a couple lengths of nylon cord will work. The side pockets seem pretty good, but a little taller than strictly necessary. The front pouch is OK. But the lack of full closure on the pack is a killer. It needs some sort of cover.
    3) Minimize Weight: The foam back panel is just wasted IMHO. A pocket of some sort should be provided to allow you dual use your sleeping pad. There are way to many straps and buckles…
    4) Maximize Durability: This also seems a place whete the pack really shines. Depending on seaming, it should hold up well.

    • Top cover – funny to hear that from you after using top loaders for years that closed the same way. But knowing you and your history with ultralight backpacking, I wouldn’t think you’d like this pack too much for one of the reasons I cite in an earlier comment – the fabric provides a little too much structure since it is so thick. Like I said in the review, this is a good pack for a transitional backpacker downsizing from a heavier pack feel. Unlike you I make extensive use of external attachments in shoulder seasons and winter, so I guess I like it a bit better in this regard, but I’d want even more attachments than this has!

      • Ha, hey…yeah…after a full year, about 60 nights of lugging around a Murmur I sort of got real used to the top cover… Generally there is a litttle extra space to close and roll stuff, but, I can see why GG switched, besides asthetics. It tends to keep dust, dirt, and snow out of the pack, as well as water for no more fabric weight than the roll top closure.

        Durability is something you really have to weight against light weight. I like light weights in a good servicable pack. Heavier fabrics, like the old ballistic Kevlar of one of myolder packs, is often a bit overdone. Ripstop, is not that heavy, though. But you nailed it in your last statemnt…sometimes that durability is ONLY available at a price.

  5. How does this pack compare to the GG Gorilla? I purchased the Gorilla on sale last fall for $169 based on your review, but am looking to recommend options to a friend. He thinks the Gorilla will eventually go on sale again, but is open to other options. Also, would you know if the current design of the Golite Jam ($120) has addressed any of the design issues of the older model?

    • The Gorilla has a top lid and a mesh front pocket. It is also significantly lighter weight, has an optional internal stay and a hip belt with two large zippered pockets. It’s definitely a step up from the Haze IMHO and has been my goto pack for 3 years. I can’t comment on the current Jam. I have no idea what they did to it. Maybe someone else can chime in. When it comes down to it, try on a lot of different packs and make your choice based on what fits you and what serves the functions you need it to serve. For example, I wouldn’t ever use the Gorilla in winter, but I’d have no problems using the Haze because of it’s extra closed storage.

  6. Thought you would ding this pack more severely for not having load lifters. Sounds like the unique and effective hipbelt makes up for it!

  7. 2 lbs and frameless. What a mess.

  8. I own the Mountainsmith Haze 50 backpack and I love it. The bag is really light weight and very comfortable, mostly because of the crest shelf waistbelt and the lumbar control point pad. I definitely recommend this pack to anyone who does a lot of hiking.

  9. Are you the same Tyler that is the owner and Internet Marketer of backpacking gear for Excursion Outfitters? http://www.excursionoutfitters.com.

    I see that you market for Mountainsmith. Perhaps full disclosure is required in this case.

  10. Can you tell me please which size pack you are wearing in the photo and what your torso size is.
    Thanks

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