OK. I'll try and make this straight to the point and clear. I wouldn't go as far as to say that this is the best pack ever. It doesn't have every feature I'd like for mountaineering. For example, it could use some webbing loops like two daisy chains or something for more strapping. However, it is definitely a good all around pack and it's definitely a good purchase. It carries load much better than my last pack which was something closer to a rucksac made by REI. I recently took the pack with me to climb Mt. Shasta. I hauled up tons of gear including a 60m climbing rope to practice some snow climbing stuff. The most packed it got was on the descent from base camp. At that point rope, sleeping pad, probe, shovel, ice axe, crampons, snowshoes, helmet, WAG bag, top rain/snow shell, were all strapped on the outside of the pack. The rope, top shell, and WAG bag were secured under the top flap. It was a little awkward getting it all strapped on. I tie a cordlette using four small loop sewn into the front of the pack. Things definitely fit better when I'm wearing at least one of either my crampons or snowshoes so that both aren't strapped on. The shovel head fits well in the front wide pocket. The hip belt comes out, but I'm not sure from which points I would haul the pack from. I personally like the bottom access...I put my sleeping bag and bivy sac in there (easy access). The top flap has lots of space for store oft-used items. There's a strap inside at the top that compresses from the top. I found this useful for securely the rope as well. The fanny pack option is a little annoying. The buckles come out and get in the way. I don't even like the concept of a fanny pack...I prefer bring a super thin stuff sack type pack (but I don't normally do that).
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