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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
- 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″)
- 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
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.
- 210d Duramax RipStop Nylon
- 420d Duramax Nylon
- 210d RipStop Liner
- 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
- 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
- Up to 35 lbs
- SM/MD – 1 lb 13oz / 0.82 kgs
- MD/LG – 1 lb 15oz / 0.88 kgs
- SM/MD Torso: 15″ – 18″
- MD/LG Torso: 18″ – 22″
- Waistbelt: 30″ to 54″
Disclosure: Mountainsmith provided the author with a sample Haze 50 backpack for this review.
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