This Mountainsmith Apex 80 Backpack Review is about the version of the great pack which comes completely modified, still with a huge capacity, strong and durable, and with a reasonable price.
Key features & benefits
- Two access points.
- Adjustable harness.
- Height adjustable waist belt.
- Durable Cordura fabric.
- Two positions for load lifters.
- TuningFork frame sheet in the waist belt.
- Reasonable price.
- Lid convertible to a sling pack.
Who is it for
This pack is equally suitable for entry-level outdoor activities (because of such a reasonable price and quality) and for professionals (because of its quality and capacity).
With such a huge volume, this is a pack for week-long and even longer tours regardless of the activity, so it can be good for hiking, backpacking, mountaineering, expeditions, practically anything.
Apex 80 overview
The Apex 80 is in the middle of the Apex series, and it does not have the same features as the smaller Apex 60 and the largest Apex 100.
I have summarized these differences in the table:
So the design of this pack is rather traditional, you have top and bottom access. The top lid is movable and removable, and when removed, it can be used as a sling pack.
The bottom entrance is through the sleeping bag compartment, so you have a divider inside and you can access the main compartment that way.
Underneath the lid, there is a classic spindrift collar, plus a compression strap over the collar, which you can use to fix extra load carried underneath the lid, like a rope for example.
In the main compartment, you have the hydration sleeve with a hook for the bladder, and the hose port is on the right side.
The fabric is a very durable 305D multi-rip Cordura HP, and 610D Cordura.
You have an adjustable harness here and this is a completely new system in this new version of the pack. So this time it is a ladder-type system shown below in the picture, and you have double Velcro tabs which secure it in place. Having such an adjustable harness allows for family members to share the pack. The range of adjustability is 17 – 22 inches (43 – 56 cm).
The frame is X-shaped aluminum structure, plus a horizontal stabilization bar. This all is together with a PE frame sheet. The padding on the back is nicely done, and you have the Anvil Airway EVA panel structure, ridged and covered with a breathable mesh. So the ridges under the mesh should help ventilation, but you also have extra deep channels for ventilation.
You will notice that load lifters have two positions for attachment, at two different heights. This can be useful when you have an extra load in the expanded collar, or when different people with different torso size use the same pack.
The sternum strap is adjustable, and it is also a ladder-type system which will never fail, I love to see this.
The hip belt is yet another story. Here you have the TuningFork frame sheet for form-fitting over iliac crest hip bone. This is a split system designed for hugging the waist. The padding on the belt and in the lumbar zone is massive as it should be for a pack with such a capacity.
Yet another feature which I love to see in the hip belt is the front V-shaped pull-forward adjustment webbing. This is the most comfortable and the most supportive design similar to what you have in Teton Sports Mountain Adventurer 4000 pack.
In the video, you will see that the complete hip belt can be moved up and down, so its vertical position is adjustable.
In view of all this, it is not a surprise that you can carry up to 65 lb (29 kg) of weight, and you will carry it comfortably.
This new version has completely redesigned pockets, and it does not have them enough, this is my opinion about the whole new series. So you have one zippered pocket on the top of the lid. The hip belt pockets are asymmetric, on the right you have a zippered pocket and on the left this is a mesh pocket without a zipper.
The asymmetry is also in the side mesh stretch pockets’ design; on the right the pocket is with a side entrance and with a cinch cord to fix the bottle, while the other pocket is standard with a top entrance. There are no side zippered pockets.
One huge stretchy pocket is on the front, secured with buckles on the sides and on the top.
Compression straps and attachment elements
Dual compression straps are on the sides; the lower straps run both ways, under or over the side pocket, you can see one of them below. The upper side straps are connected with the buckles of the front pocket. Dual straps are on the bottom, for a pad or tent attachment.
You also have dual tool loops on the bottom section (shown below), and they are paired with dual bungee cords higher in the front. This all is for ice axes or trekking poles.
Dual long vertical daisy chains are on the front pocket. Four attachment webbing loops are on the lid, see the picture below, so here you can attach solar panels. There are webbing loops and D-rings on the shoulder straps as well.
Please see more in this video by Mountainsmith brand about the Apex series:
What is different as compared with the previous model
This is a new 2016/2017 model, totally redesigned, so see here the most important differences with respect to its previous versions, the list is long:
- The frame is completely different. Instead of two stays in the previous version, you have an X-shaped frame. This is a better system now.
- The harness adjustability mechanism is different. Instead of sliding along the stays, now you have a ladder-type system.
- The back padding is improved.
- The volume is smaller in the new pack.
- The dimensions are different.
- The new pack is heavier; instead of 2.2 kg now you have 2.5 kg.
- The capacity is smaller in the new pack.
- The front pocket is redesigned.
- There is no front entrance in the new version.
- Two huge side zippered pockets were available in the previous version. They are missing in the new.
- Hip belt pockets are different.
- Side stretch mesh pockets are re-designed completely.
- The hip belt is redesigned; it is better now.
- More durable materials are in the new version.
- Much longer daisy chains in the new version.
Pros & Cons
Here is my summary:
The rain cover is missing; it can be ordered separately here, for some $23.
I must say that I am not impressed with the divider, this is just a flap and not a true divider, no zipper, so small items can easily slide down into the bottom compartment.
Equally unimpressed I am with the sling pack, it is there and it can be used as described, but it is really not so great. This is always so with backpacks with lids that double as sling packs.
They have removed the upper side zippered pockets that were available in the previous version, this is everything but an improvement. But this is the trend in new backpacks, a totally bad one in my view.
At the moment of writing this text, the Amazon price of this pack is $160. I think this is a true bargain for such a pack. But please check the links, this changes all the time.
What users think
This backpack has received incredibly positive reviews on Amazon, with 5.0/5 average rate. No doubt there are good reasons for such a perfect rating. See my rating:
My rating breakdown of the Mountainsmith Apex 80 Pack
- Weight: 5 lb 9 oz (2.5 kg).
– 4270 cu in (70 L).
– 4820 cu in (79 L) with an expanded collar.
- Weight capacity: 65 lb (29 kg).
- Dimensions (H x W x D): 29.5 x 10.25 x 8 (74.9 x 26 x 20.3 cm).
- Torso size: 17 – 22 in (43 – 56 cm).
- Waist belt fit: 28 – 48 in (71 – 122 cm).
– 305D multi-rip cordura HP.
– 610D cordura.
– 210D nylon embossed liner.
- Frame: twin T6 0.75 inches aluminum stays.
- Waist belt width: 1.5 in (3.8 cm).
- Separate sleeping bag compartment with internal divider.
- SlingShot detachable top lid converts into a lumbar pack.
- TuningFork waistbelt frame sheet.
- Anvil Airway ridged EVA back panel padding.
- Forward pull waistbelt with V adjustment webbing.
- Height adjustable hip belt.
- Front panel stretch mesh pocket with daisy chain attachment loops.
- PE frame sheet with X configuration AL stays and horizontal stabilizer bar.
- YKK zippers.
- 3M reflective cord.
- Top compression gear strap.
- Colors: 2.
Mountainsmith Apex 80 vs Competitors
Now see the prices, $160, 158, 200. So finally you have a pack that is a match for Kelty regarding the price, this is not so frequent. Remember, those are all top quality packs, among the best on the market.
If you are familiar with the previous version of this pack, then what you see in this Mountainsmith Apex 80 Backpack Review might be a surprise for you. This new version of the pack is only with the same name, everything else is different. Strange that they kept the name. Many things are improved here, this is beyond doubt, this is a top-quality tool again, and I can fully recommend it. I have added it to my list of top-rated expedition packs.
If you need a different size from the same series, check these 60 liters and 100 liters packs. But if you need something different from the same size range, please visit my page with 56+ liters packs.
Thank you for reading. I love to hear from you so please use the comment box below. I wish you a nice day.