I bought a Mountainsmith Phantom pack. I had always wanted a quality daypack, and I finally got one. It was a part of Mountainsmith's Mountainlight line, which were relatively light weight packs. They don't make it any more. Mountainsmith was one of the first companies to use VX-21 fabric, which has a very high strength to weight ratio, as well as high abrasion resistance. This pack has been carefully designed to minimize weight. Most other packs use 1 inch nylon webbing for most of their straps, but this pack uses 3/4 inch. Most other packs use 1.5 or 2 inch webbing for the hip belt, but this pack uses 1 inch. Even the nylon buckles are lighter than conventional buckles. The frame is carefully optimized to minimize weight while providing as much support as possible. I like it much more than the wimpy frame in my The North Face Voyager pack.

Overall, I highly recommend the pack. It is light, comfortable and supportive. I would add some crampon straps, lose the 'ski guide loops', and add a hook to the top of the hydration pocket. Unfortunately, I believe that the pack has been discontinued. Get one while they are still available.

Here is what their web site said:

This top-loading genius packs along a full weekend's worth of gear and has the technical features needed to push limitations.


* Custom fit top hood with pocket and zippered valuables pocket * Front pleated mesh pocket * 2 ice tool loops * Top load access * Side and bottom compression straps * Ski guide loops * Perforated HDPE Framesheet with single aluminum stay


* VX-21 core fabric * Perforated HDPE Framesheet with single aluminum stay * Breathable Brock Foam shoulder straps and waistbelt * Delta Compression System pulls weight into lumbar

I am pretty sure mine is size large, which is 3300 ci, 3lbs 3 oz, and fits 19-22 inch backs (It fits me fine, and my back is 19 inches).

Back view

  phantom back ms
  phantom back pocket

This is a view of the back of the pack. Many features of the pack are visible. There are two ice axe loops which I have folded up. There are two compression straps on the bottom of the pack which can hold a sleeping pad or clothing under the pack. There is a large central mesh pocket, as well as elastic cord which criss-crosses the mesh pocket. There are two side mesh pockets which can hold water bottles. There is a upper pack compression strap, and the lid strap also acts as a compression strap. The second picture is a close up of the back mesh pocket. On the top of the pocket is a clip which mates with a strap on the rear of the lid area. It can be used to compress the center/top of the pack, or to secure the top of the pack if the lid is removed.

Pack side

ms phantom side

This is the side of the pack. The lid of the pack is on. It shows the gray pack compression strap as well as the tan lid strap which also helps compress the pack.

Pack bottom

ms phantom bottom

This is the bottom of the pack. The two bottom compression straps are visible. The ice axe loops are visible. There are two reinforced webbing loops, outboard of the compression straps. These are the 'ski guide loops' The webbing is folded over and sewn for much of the length. I am not much of a ski person, but I really doubt there is any use for these ski guide loops. I called Mountainsmith and they agreed that the ski guide loops served no obvious purpose. The reinforced black rubber triangles are where the delrin frame rod ends inside the pack.

Pack front

ms phantom front ms phantom shoulder

This is the front of the pack, i.e. the part which rests against your back. The lid attaches to the pack with three adjustable straps. Next to the lid is a haul strap. You can see where the framesheet is cut away in the center, where your head might push against the pack. There is a back pad which is split to allow air circulation. There is a black pad for the center of the hip belt. The hip belt is not removable or adjustable. The bottom of the shoulder straps attaches about two inches out on the hip belt, rather than the pack body. The second picture more clearly shows the shoulder straps. There is a small area worn above the straps. I sent the pack back to Mountainsmith and they attached circular reinforcements of about 2 inches in diameter on both sides, even there was only wear on one side. They aren't visible, as they are under the exterior fabric. There are load lifter straps above the shoulder straps, as well as a sternum strap for the shoulder straps. The shoulder straps are padded and the underside has mesh to help with air circulation.

Pack hip belt

ms phantom hip

This is the hip belt. It is padded and under the padding is mesh to help air circulation. There is a strap that helps compress the pack towards the belt. The belt webbing is 1 inch, which is plenty strong, and attaches to the hip belt in a V, one side sewn to the belt, and the other side used to adjust the webbing. This gives a 2 to 1 leverage to tighten the belt, as well as helps distribute the force.

Pack lid

ms phantom lid top ms phantom lid bottom

This is the pack lid. It is removable. The top has a urethane coated zipper. There are small rubberized loops on either end of the zipper which aren't visible. The bottom of the lid has a mesh pocket, and a nylon keyholder on yellow webbing which is barely visible. One of the rubberized loops is visible next to the outer zipper pull.

Pack frame

ms phantom frame

This is a picture of the inside of the pack. There is a yellow hydration bladder, which is removable. The perforated HDPE framesheet is clearly visible. The central aluminum stay is visible through the black fabric in the center. There is a delrin frame rod, which goes from one side of the bottom of the pack, curves 180 degrees around the top of the pack, and then goes back down the other side of the pack to the bottom.<.p>

Pack repairs


I have made some minor repairs to the pack. The picture is one upper pack compression strap and one lid strap. These are 3/4 inch straps. There were minor tears in the straps from animal damage. I didn't notice them when I sent the pack back for repair. I sewed them up with nylon thread. My repairs should last forever. Of course, if you sent the pack to Mountainsmith they would likely replace the straps for free. The background of the repairs is the back pocket, which gives you an idea just how small the damage is.

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