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Reviews > Packs > Frameless Backpacks and Day Packs > Mountainsmith Red Rock 25 pack > Test Report by Jamie DeBenedetto

Red Rock 25 front view

Red Rock 25

Reviewed by Jamie DeBenedetto
Updated August 27th, 2013

Red Rock 25 back view

Report Contents

April 16th, 2013

June 24th, 2013

August 27th, 2013

Reviewer's Information

Field Tests May through August

Collective Use and Field Conditions

Product Information & Description

Pros and Cons

Long Term Conclusions

Arrival Condition


Final Thoughts

First Impressions



Initial Report
April 16th, 2013

Reviewer's Information


Jamie DeBenedetto


Me and the Saguaro

Age and Gender

40 year old female

I spent many hours of my youth fishing, rafting, creeking, and day-hiking in the wild places of Arizona. I caught the backpacking bug in high school. Presently I work as an exPAWdition leader so I'm in the field, usually with a pack of dogs, about sixteen times a month. Primarily I'm a day-hiker with the occasional family camping trip mixed in throughout the year. When backpacking I prefer hammocks over ground sleeping and I gravitate toward multifunctional gear that enhances my comfort level with minimal fuss and weight. My total pack weight is typically less than 25 lbs (11 kg).


Location The Grand Canyon State - Phoenix, Arizona USA

Personal webpage


5' 11" (1.8 m)


170 lb (77 kg)

Torso Length

18.5 in (47 cm)

















Product Information Back to contents

Manufacture URL

Year of Manufacture

Presumed 2013

Made in



$79.95 (US dollars)

Color Options

Evergreen, Heritage Black, Chili Red, and the one I have Midnight Blue with yellow interior and accents

Care Instructions

None listed


Mountainsmith offers a "Lifetime Warranty against material and workmanship defects."

(Listed Specifications - Taken from the included product tag and website)

Volume & Dimensions 1586 cu in (26 L); 19.25 x 12.25 x 7.5 in (49 x 31 x 19 cm)
Weight 25 ounces (709 g)
Load Capacity up to 25 lbs (11 kg)
Torso Range 16 to 20 in (41 to 51 cm)
Materials Outer shell: PU Coated Nylon; Inner Lining: PU Coated Polyester; Padding: Polyethylene and EVA foam

(Observations as received by this tester)

Weight (taken with a digital office scale) 25.4 oz (721 g)


Side mesh pocketsProduct Description Back to contents

The Mountainsmith Red Rock 25 is a flexible framed daypack designed to accommodate users in both urban and outdoor settings. The pack has several features; working my way from the exterior inward they are:

  • Padded shoulder straps with adjustable sternum clip, reflective stripe and elastic strap (presumably to secure a reservoir tube or other small items) Interior mesh pouch
  • Paddled vertical back panels that create a ventilation airway down the center. Mountainsmith calls this the Anvil Airway.
  • At the apex of the Anvil Airway is a single hydration port. Situated just above that is the load lifter strap.
  • Dropping down there is a removable 1 in (2.5 cm) hipbelt attached via buckles. The hipbelt extends to a maximum of 39 in (99 cm). It does not have pockets.
  • At each side there are two slightly angled mesh side pockets deep enough to almost completely swallow a 1 L Nalgene bottle. (pictured top left)
  • Just above the mesh pockets are two "V" shaped compression straps.
  • Running vertically along the lower front is a single four ring daisy chain with a little reflective anchor loop running horizontally just below. (pictured bottom right)
  • Each side of the Red Rock also has a small loop of reflective cord and a complimentary hook and loop strap located higher up to secure trekking poles or similar items.
  • The interior of the pack is made up of two main zippered compartments and three smaller ones. The largest sits closest to the users back panel and houses a hydration loop with small hook, a 10 x 6 in (25 x 15 cm) zippered mesh pocket (pictured top right), and the hydration sleeve, which Mountainsmith claims is also big enough for a 17 in (43 cm) laptop. The other main compartment has a key hook and an organizer panel. (pictured bottom left) The last two compartments are simple pockets. One is at the top front just above the daisy chain and the other runs vertically along the front of the pack next to the daisy chain.
  • All exterior zippers have a 2 in (5 cm) pull tab.


Interior Organizer PocketArrival Condition and Informational Material

The Mountainsmith Red Rock 25 looks to be in perfect working order with all straps, buckles, zippers and clips looking and performing as they should. The fabric inside and out is blemish free and I did not find any loose threads or incomplete stitching. Overall craftsmanship is great. The only informational material was the hang tag conveying typical stuff about the company, specifications, features, warranty, etc. written in six different languages. It's all easy to understand and simply organized. Very helpful information, had I not had access to the webpage, I wouldn't have missed a thing. Using the pack is totally intuitive with regard to its features so there's really no need for any more elaborate paperwork. Daisy Chain and Vertical Stash Pocket

Expectations and First Impressions Back to contents

To begin with, it looks sturdy. I'm anxious to see how well the Duramax nylon shell and bottom holds up to the prickly, brushy and rocky terrain of the Sonoran Desert. It also looks comfortable and I like the color scheme, not very girly but to be perfectly honest I get sick of everything marketed to women in pinks and powder blues so it's a nice change. The pack has two features that already stand out in my mind. One is the height of the side mesh pockets. I was glad to see how much of the Nalgene bottle was actually covered once inside. I'm hoping this means my bottles will stay put. Secondly, I'm most interested in evaluating the Anvil Airway. Going into our hot season we'll see temps well above 100 F (38 C) daily for several months meaning perspiration will happen!

On the flipside I'm not used to using a pack without hipbelt pockets. I'm wondering if I'll miss those or if the other small pouches on the bag will make up for their absence. I also noticed both shoulder straps have stretchy cross straps only, intended no doubt to secure the hydration hose. I typically hang my GPS unit from one shoulder strap (for quick access) and I'm concerned this elastic strap isn't going to accommodate this set-up. Finally, I don't have a laptop so the hydration slot will probably only be used to house a reservoir or possibly a sit-pad.

I'll be replacing my regular work pack with the Red Rock 25 so I expect to use this pack about four days a week. It will be mainly carrying 1 L of water for me and 3 for the dogs in both plastic water bottles and a 2 L Platypus bladder; human and K9 first-aid, poop bags, dog water bowl, spare leash, 10 Essentials kit, sometimes a lunch, GPS, camera, and foam butt-pad. For extended day trips I will amend the gear list if it's relevant in my future reports.

Back to contents

Field Report
June 24th, 2013

Since mid-April when the Mountainsmith Red Rock 25 arrived it's been used on 29 day hikes. I've also used the pack while walking through local parks, along urban washes (or arroyos), and in dog parks 13 times. The majority of these treks took place in the Sonoran Desert in or near Phoenix or Cave Creek, Arizona. Elevations range between 1,500 ft (450 m) and 2,300 ft (700 m). Temperatures fluctuated from the mid 70'sF (24 C) up to the low 100'sF (39 C). Weather was mostly clear and sunny, no precipitation. Use time was between one and half and four hours on each outing.

Field Tests April through June Back to contents

Red Rock among the rocksThere's no doubt the Mountainsmith Red Rock 25 is spacious. As mentioned in my previous report, I carry at least 4L of water, a bunch of first-aid stuff, several doggie items, my ten essentials kit, and some personal gear totaling around 15 lbs (7 kg). Even with all that, I still have room to spare in just about every compartment. The side mesh pockets have worked well for both 1L and 1.5L bottles. I've used a few different brands and they all stay put during normal walking or light jogging. The taller 1.5L bottle did fall out when I bent over for more than a few seconds. More slender bottles had the same problem. It is possible to secure a bottle like a Nalgene that offers a loop near the cap by using the side compression strap located right above both pockets. I've used this option with success.

As a hydration compatible pack the Red Rock has a few issues. The hydration sleeve is roomy, handling my 2L reservoir easily. On the negative side, because this sleeve is also designed to handle a laptop it's actually too wide causing bunching of the material at the opening so that when I'm loading items into the other side of the main compartment they get hung up on the sleeve or drop into the hydration channel. This is a minor inconvenience but annoying nonetheless. The hang loop inside has been unnecessary so far. The hose port is wisely situated between the shoulder straps so the hose can be used along both straps and the opening itself is nice and wide, all of which I like. I'm totally indifferent toward the elastic strips on each shoulder strap. They do hold the bladder hose in line but they are totally useless with regard to attaching any other items to the shoulders.

This lack of attachment points has been a challenge for me. I must have my camera and multi-tool in an easily accessible location. I like them to be either on the chest strap or on my shoulder strap which wasn't possible on the Red Rock without getting creative with a small carabineer and a pouch made by another manufacture. The chest strap was easy to adjust and buckle/unbuckle at home but in the field I found it more difficult, especially with gloved hands.

Conversely, I found the load lifter handle and all the zippers worked perfectly with my gloved hands. The zippers are very sturdy and there aren't any loose threads anywhere nearby to catch on. Love quality materials! The load lifter handle is an often overlooked feature but not for me! I almost always hang my pack at rest stops, partially because the desert floor is full of stickers and little clingy seeds that want free rides down the trails but mostly because a few of my furry companions are males and they sometimes get wild ideas about property ownership! The Red Rock's handle is robust and the opening is wide enough to accommodate several branch sizes. I'm very pleased with it.

I haven't needed to use the daisy chain or the trekking pole loops so I'll have to evaluate those in the last part of the series. I'm also going to save my comments about the Anvil Airway system, the belt strap and the organizer pocket for my Long Term report. I haven't really made up my mind about them yet. Load lifter handle in use

Pros and Cons Thus Far Back to contents

Aspects I'm pleased with…

  • Plentiful cargo space
  • Zippers easy to use with gloved hands
  • Side mesh pockets easily hold large water bottles as well as smaller items
  • Hydration port is nice and wide
  • Carry handle is sturdy and long enough to be useful

Aspects I'm underwhelmed with…

  • Hydration pocket gets in the way of the main compartment
  • Difficult to attach things to the shoulder straps
  • Chest strap is hard to buckle and adjust with gloved hands

For my final observations please check back in about two months when I'll be posting my Long Term Report.
Jamie DeBenedetto - 2013

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Long Term Report
August 27th, 2013

Collective Use and Field Conditions Back to contents

In the final two months of this test I used the Mountainsmith Red Rock 25 on seven more day hikes to desert mountain or creek areas for a test series total of thirty-six treks. Additionally, I wore it on 14 other outings in local parks and on urban wash paths. Since we are in full blown summer conditions here in Phoenix, AZ (elev. 1,500 ft / 450 m) it's been used in primarily hot, sunny conditions with temperatures in the 100's (37 to 43 C). I did have two exceptions to that where I was hiking in light rain and higher humidity. The temperatures on those two treks were in the low 80's (28 C). Hikes lasted between 1.5 and 4 hours per outing.

Long Term Conclusions Back to contents

Mountainsmith is synonymous with quality construction so I wasn't surprised to find that the Red Rock is bomber tough. I've hauled it, hung it, scraped it, tossed it, jostled it, and sweat on it several times every week for the last four months and the condition of the material is fabulously unfazed. If I washed off all the dirt and sweat marks it would look brand new. I'm very pleased with the durability of the Duramax nylon. Agua Fria hike with Red Rock

The pack's many features are also quite good. There are plenty of pockets with room for everything I needed and then some. The zippers run clean and can be operated with gloved hands. The stretchy side pockets easily take girthy water bottles and the load lifter handle and hydration port are large enough to actually do what they are designed to do.

The Anvil Airway, which serves to ventilate the users back, was another of the packs many positive attributes. I purposely wear a loose wet long sleeve shirt on summer hikes and after years of working outdoors I naturally sweat quite easily so my evaluation is based on general comparison to other packs I've used in these same conditions. Given that, I think the Anvil air chamber does help for two simple reasons: one, I don't recall feeling heat building up along the sections of my back where the pack touches but I do recall feeling air flow at times when there was a strong enough breeze. And second, while my back was still sweaty (can't imagine any way around that in 109 F / 43 C temperatures) I never felt that saturated wet sensation like I used to get with the old book bag I carried in high school. The padding on either side of the airway also gave ample support and protection from objects inside.

Unfortunately, I had absolutely no use for the organizer panel or the daisy chain so they didn't really get any testing but the trekking pole loops did come in handy on one occasion. Well, at least one of them did. I tried this feature with one of the MSR poles I own, which telescopes down into three segments and does not have a tip guard or basket. Loading/unloading the pole into/out of the "system" was no problem, an open loop at the bottom of the pack and a hook-and-loop tab hiding behind the load stabilizer straps higher up are the only components. It's a simple system that worked fine to hold the pole in place except when bending over. I had trouble getting the hook-and-loop to tighten down enough on the shaft to keep the pole from slipping.

In all, the Red Rock has many commendable qualities, but in my opinion it has two significant flaws that keep it from being a really fantastic dayhiking pack: the hipbelt and the lack of attachment points on the shoulder straps. The manufacturer gave this bag a generous carry capacity of 25 lbs (11 kg), they used quality materials, put them together well, and complimented it all with spacious compartments which makes it easy to carry lots of stuff. Regrettably, I found it to be very uncomfortable to wear for hours of use because the hipbelt does very little to distribute weight off my shoulders. The max I carried was only 15 lbs (7 kg) and I struggled. I can't imagine how unrealistic another 10 lbs (4 kg) would be. I realize they are marketing this as an urban use bag as well so I can totally understand someone in that setting not wanting a more robust hipbelt, perhaps something detachable would address this issue for both types of users.

The other underwhelming aspect was the nonexistent attachment options on the shoulder straps. Without hipbelt pockets there is really no where to carry those extra items I routinely need while on the move; things like my GPS unit, camera, multi-tool, etc. which I prefer to carry in a place where they can be reached without having to stop to take the pack off. The two elastic bands on the shoulder straps worked fine to keep a hydration hose in check but were much too flimsy as lash points.

Final Thoughts Back to contents

If I had to sum up the Red Rock 25 in ten words or less, I'd say it's rugged and roomy with a bit of an identity problem. If conditions call for a sturdy pack that I know will hold whatever I need for a day hike I will certainly consider the Red Rock as a trustworthy option. I don't think it will be my daily go to pack, however, because of the comfort limitations I experienced.

My thanks to and Mountainsmith for giving me the opportunity to be part of this test series.

-Jamie J. DeBenedetto - 2013

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Read more gear reviews by Jamie DeBenedetto

Reviews > Packs > Frameless Backpacks and Day Packs > Mountainsmith Red Rock 25 pack > Test Report by Jamie DeBenedetto

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