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Reviews > Packs > Lumbar & Torso Packs > Mountainsmith Day Lumbar Pack > Test Report by Kathleen Waters

January 23, 2008



NAME: Kathleen Waters
AGE: 56
LOCATION: White Lake, Michigan USA
HEIGHT: 5' 4" (1.63 m)
WEIGHT: 125 lb (56.70 kg)

I started hiking in 1998 after an eye-opening climb up Hahn's Peak in Colorado. Hooked, I return to Colorado often. I've hiked/snowshoed glaciers, rain forests, mountains and deserts in domestic and exotic locations, including Iceland, Costa Rica, Slovenia and Death Valley. At home, I plan for 2-3 hikes of 6-8 mi (10-13 km) weekly and one weekend hike monthly. Weekday hikes take place in Pontiac Lake Recreation Area, a mixture of heavily-wooded moderate hills and flat terrain. Weekend hike locations vary. My hiking style is comfortable, aiming for lightweight. Current pack averages 25 lb (11 kg) including food and water



Manufacturer: Mountainsmith
Year of Manufacture: 2007
Manufacturer's Website:
Listed Weight: 1 lb 7 oz (0.77 kg)
Measured Weight: 1 lb 13 oz (0.82 kg)
Listed Volume: 854 cu in (14 L)
Listed Dimensions: 15" x 13" x 10" (38 x 33 x 25 cm)
Fabric: 450 denier recycled Velocity body fabric; 150 denier PET recycled rip stop lining

Warranty: Most Mountainsmith products are covered by a Lifetime Warranty against materials and workmanship defects.

Other details: YKK zippers, Delta Compression System

"Each Tour and Day Lumbar Pack uses between 13 and 16 plastic bottles. By the end of 2007 - these two products alone will save 1.1 million plastic bottles from the landfill." quote from Mountainsmith website.

* On the retail placard, the number "17" is indicated for number of bottles used.
Mountainsmith Recycled Lumbar Day Pack
Mountainsmith Recycled Lumbar Day Pack


Mountainsmith Day Pack Back
Mountainsmith Day Pack Back

Wow! This is one snazzy piece of gear!

I thought the Mountainsmith Recycled Lumbar Day Pack (hereafter referred to as "Day Pack") looked rather interesting when I viewed it on the Mountainsmith website, but until I had it in my hot little hands, I had no idea how interesting. The website lists the basic features of the Day Pack but is kind of short on detailed explanations and the cool factor of this pack didn't sink in until I started to explore it.

First, I'll get the cosmetic details out of the way. The Day Pack I am testing has a vivid blue body with black straps, webbing, zippers, equipment loops and accent hems. Bright yellow zipper pulls and bungee cords provide reflective highlights. The zipper pulls are larger than most others I've had and have black rubber-like ends.

There is a small Mountainsmith cloth label centered on a band of black on the front of the Day Pack and an even smaller logo on the sliding shoulder pad. A discreet "Recycled" logo and the word "Day" are embroidered on the right water bottle holder.

The body of the Day Pack feels smooth and cloth-like - no resemblance to a plastic soda bottle here! The waistbelt is thinly padded and the interior is covered with a black mesh fabric. The same fabric covers the nicely padded back panel and the moderately stiff sliding shoulder pad. Two cotton-like woven water bottle pouches on either side of the Day Pack are supplemented with a solid fabric panel down the middle of each pouch.

The main interior compartment of the Day Pack is the same bright yellow as the exterior zipper pulls and has a nylon/soft vinyl feel to it. There is a very subtle same-color windowpane pattern. With the bottom compression straps fully loosened, the main compartment expands to 4.5" (11.4 cm). This compartment also has an attached "hanging" zippered compartment inside it, about 9 x 5 in (23 x 13 cm), perfect for small items.

Access to this main compartment is provided by two two-way zippers and is protected by a cover. Oh, and access is on the TOP of the Day Pack!
Mountainsmith Day Pack Interior
Mountainsmith Day Pack Interior

Mountainsmith Day Pack Keyclip
Mountainsmith Day Pack Keyclip
A second smaller compartment in front of the main compartment expands to 2.5" (6.4 cm) when the bottom compression straps are fully loosened. Access to this secondary compartment is through a one-way zipper which is also protected by a cover and is on the front of the compartment. A neat little feature is the plastic key clip which is attached to the top of the interior of this compartment by a fabric webbed strap.

There are three webbed loops on either side of the Day Pack for attaching accessories to it or to attach the Pack to a full-sized Mountainsmith Pack as an auxiliary pack. There is a bungee cord for lashing additional accessories to the front.

The two side water bottle holders feature a bungee cord and barrel lock closure which completely closes the pouches.

Lastly, straps and belts! There are two sets of compression straps, one on the bottom and one Delta Compression System of triangulated straps on the waistbelt which compresses the weight of the Day Pack into the lumbar area. Two hand straps enable the Day Pack to be carried like a brief case and the removable (via "big clip" buckles) shoulder strap adds another carrying option.
The waistbelt body is 5.5 x 12 " (14 x 30 cm) and according to Mountainsmith will accommodate waists up to 50" (127 cm). A "big clip" buckle fastens the belt closed. When not needed, the waistbelt tucks neatly behind the padded mesh back panel.


I spent my first few minutes inspecting the Mountainsmith Recycled Lumbar Day Pack un-twisting all 10 of the twist-ties used to keep all the various straps neat and tidy. When done, I was able to see that the detachable shoulder strap fully extended is 42" (107 cm) long. The shoulder strap clips on and off with a plastic clip buckle.

I found two more webbed loops on the back of the Day Pack which I suspect are for the optional "Strapette" kit which Mountainsmith alludes to on their website, but doesn't explain (there are no instructions included with the Day Pack).

The waistbelt when tightened to the maximum is 29" (74 cm). This is a perfect fit for me - Scarlett O'Hara, I'm not! I found I can easily reach down my sides and using the "slide and pull" buckles adjust the compression straps with the Pack nicely supported on my derriere.

Now that I have fiddled and adjusted everything appropriately, I'm ready to pack and go hit the trails!


For the purpose of testing the Mountainsmith Recycled Lumbar Day Pack, I can promise almost daily use over the four month testing period. I will be on an extended trip to Canon City, Colorado for most (if not all) of the testing period.

Since I will be out in the boonies on our undeveloped 35 acres of land in Canon City, CO, walking even to a neighbor's house is a hike. Heck, our driveway is almost 600' (183 m) long! Going to the mail box - a daily trip since I work from home - is a 2.5 mile (4 km) trek. One way! I like to walk and these trips will be made walking unless the weather is absolutely horrific. I fully plan on using the Mountainsmith Day Pack so as to make carrying mail back home easier, carrying water with me - I never go anywhere in Colorado's dry desert/mountain areas without water - and carrying whatever else I may need; rain gear, wind shirt, etc.

In addition to the above listed daily trips for mail, I plan to use my bike for transportation into town for short shopping trips, trips to the library, etc. Downtown Canon City is about 4 miles (6 km) away and I'm excited about the chance to ditch the car and high gas prices. On these forays, a good day pack will be quite handy and the Mountainsmith Day Lumbar Pack will be perfect for me to test out .

Then there will be lots of local day hikes on the Riverwalk, the Garden Park Fossil Area, Red Canyon Park and the Royal Gorge area. These will be perfect opportunities for testing the day pack. I can't wait to get started.


This concludes my Initial Report on the Mountainsmith Recycled Lumbar Day Pack. See below for the results of my first two months of field testing.

Kathy Waters



During this field testing period, all of my backpacking took place in south central Colorado. All backpacking trips were weekend jaunts into the approximately 100,000 acres (40,468 hectares) of BLM land encompassing the Cooper Mountain range/Royal Gorge area near Canon City or the Wet Mountains south of the Arkansas River Valley. All day hikes were also in the same regions, with durations ranging from 2 to 6 hours.

The Cooper Mountain range is mostly pinon pine and juniper-covered high desert with rough primitive game and mining trails (for the most part) and is easily accessed just outside of my property fence line. So this was (and will be) most often chosen for my weekenders. My husband and I generally pack up, grab the GPS, pick a trail and go without any planned destination in mind.

The Wet Mountains rise up from the Arkansas River Valley and are dense ponderosa pine and sage forests. One of my favorite trails there is the Barlett Trail in the southern part of the Wet Mountains.

Elevations I tested in ranged from 5000' up to 14000' ( 1524 m to 4268 m) and temperatures over summer and fall varied from 50 F to 95 F (10 C to 35 C).


Since the Mountainsmith Day Pack can be used in a variety of ways, I've tested it under three different configurations. I've carried it around by hand using the two short handles. I've used the shoulder strap to carry the pack slung over my shoulder. And, of course, I've most often used the Day Pack as a lumbar pack strapped around my waist.

As a hand carried pack, the Day Pack worked wonderfully on a recent business trip to Las Vegas. I used the Day Pack as an airline carry-on primarily for my laptop. I have a 12 x 10 in (30 x 25 cm) laptop which just fit vertically inside the main compartment, along with a crossword puzzle book, pencil and some travel brochures. While I felt confident about the padding provided by the front and back of the Day Pack, I added a rolled up tee shirt on the bottom of the Day Pack underneath the laptop. In the front compartment of the Day Pack, I carried my glasses, wallet, assorted cosmetics and a couple of protein bars. Airlines are getting really stingy about free snacks!. I even used the zippered "airline ticket" pouch for exactly that purpose. The mesh water bottle holders handily provided for (what else) a bottle of water!

Even with all of the above in the Day Pack, I had no problems carrying the pack and juggling my rolling duffel bag. The handles comfortably accommodated the weight of the laptop (6 lb/3 kg) and I did not feel the circulation to my fingers being cut off due to stiff materials. Total weight when using the Day Pack in this manner was about 10 lb (4.5 kg).

Opening the zippers to remove the laptop during the security checks was a breeze and I never had a problem with them snagging. The bright yellow zipper pulls made it easy to see exactly where the pulls were located. And since the Day Pack has multiple compartments, I didn't have to worry about odds and ends falling out while removing the laptop during the security checks.

I also used the Mountainsmith on numerous occasions as a shoulder-strapped over-size tote around town. During several day trips in south central Colorado for sightseeing and festival visiting, I found the Day Pack to be a wonderful convenience as a substitute "purse". I was able to carry water bottles, a small folding umbrella (in one of the mesh water pouches), extra windbreaker, maps/travel brochures, digital camera, keys, protein snacks and all the usual purse paraphernalia! And I still had room left over for souvenirs! All this, and much more comfortably lugged than a traditional purse or tote.

The key holder clip kept my keys from disappearing to the bottom of the pack and the zippered "airline ticket" pouch was a handy secure place for my dollar bills. Using one of the water bottle pouches for my umbrella meant an easy reach for immediate protection when a drizzle started one day in Cripple Creek. The barrel lock mechanism that held the umbrella secure was quickly opened and I stayed dry. The opposite held true when I wanted my water bottle on the other side of the Day Pack. A quick push of the barrel lock and I became "wet" ;)

The shoulder strap has a sliding pad which did a good job of protecting me from any irritation on my shoulders. The sliding pad has just enough of a "grippy" material to enable the strap to stay put on my shoulder without the grip snagging my blouse or shirt. I was also able to adjust the strap to fit my length preference which for me enabled the Day Pack to ride right on my hip. At no time did I feel any discomfort from the weight of the Day Pack on my shoulder. Alternately, on one hike on the Pueblo Riverwalk, I lengthened the shoulder strap just a bit and slung the Day Pack over my head so the strap crossed over my chest. This was great because then I had both of my hands free!

By far, most of my Mountainsmith Day Pack testing has been as a lumbar day pack while hiking on the trails. Of course, by definition, I have only used it hiking as a day pack. But, that doesn't mean the pack hasn't been stuffed full! An average day hike would find the following hauled around the hills: two full bottles of water or iced tea, two protein bars and a couple of packs of jerky bites, my digital camera, extra batteries, sunscreen and lip balm, my head light, a waterproof shell (big old Columbia ski shell), a wind jacket, extra socks, gloves, cell phone, keys and bear spray. Average weight of this gear was 10 lb (4.5 kg). Most of the time, because I would start out on the trail with a light fleece jacket on over a Capilene long sleeved tee and I would get hot, I would end up with the fleece jacket stuffed under the lashings on the outside of the Day Pack.

While hiking, I have found the Day Pack to be very comfortable and useful. It moves with me without throwing me off balance when climbing or jumping over rocks or the like. The Day Pack sits nicely on my back.
Mountainsmith Dya Pakc
Mountainsmith Day Pack at Rest!

In order for me to wear the Day Pack, I need to pull the waist straps on the belt to the tightest position possible. My waist with a couple of light layers on is 29" (74 cm). This leaves two long "tails" in front which I tuck into the back of the waist belt. There are two sets of compression straps on either side of the Day Pack which are easily within reach and by pulling on them I am able to stabilize the Day Pack on my back for maximum comfort and minimum shifting of contents even while hiking on the trail.

When using the Day Pack as a lumbar pack, I unclip the shoulder strap and leave it at home. Conversely, when using the Day Pack as a hand-carry or shoulder-carry tote, I tuck the waist belt into the mesh padded back of the pack.

The buckles and clips for the various straps all have worked without any problems thus far in my testing. There has been no wear or tear on the Day Pack fabric as of yet, despite repeated contact with branches, both live and dead. No seams have shown any signs of pulling and the interior lining of the compartments remains intact.


So far in my testing I've found the Mountainsmith Day pack to be a great pack with multiple uses. Not only is it very well suited on the trails, but it is also stellar for casual use. I've gotten extensive experience using the Mountainsmilth Day Pack while traveling. It makes a perfect laptop carry-on for air travel and a very much appreciated roomy bag for around town shopping; keeping my water bottle handy, storing a just-in-case wind jacket, library books and more, all at the same time!

Utility, good looks and durability! What more could I ask for?


I will be continuing to use the Lumbar Pack on every possible occasion in the next two months (and most likely way beyond the testing period!). I will use it in town, when traveling, walking to my mailbox and more importantly on the trails for day hikes.

This concludes my Field Report. Please see below for the results of my next two months' testing.

Kathy Waters



As in my Field Report phase, during this period of long-term testing, all of my hiking/snowshoeing experiences were day hikes which took place in south central Colorado. All trips were 2 to 6 hour jaunts into the approximately 100,000 acres (40,468 hectares) of BLM land encompassing the Cooper Mountain range/Royal Gorge area near Canon City or the Wet Mountains south of the Arkansas River Valley.

The Cooper Mountain range is mostly pinon pine and juniper-covered high desert with rough primitive game and mining trails (for the most part) and is easily accessed just outside of my property fence line. So this was (and will be) most often chosen for my day hikes. My husband and I generally pack up, grab the GPS, pick a trail and go without any planned destination in mind.

The Wet Mountains rise up from the Arkansas River Valley and are dense ponderosa pine and sage forests. One of my favorite trails there is the Barlett Trail in the southern part of the Wet Mountains.

Elevations I tested in ranged from 5000' up to 14000' ( 1524 m to 4268 m) and temperatures while hiking/snowshoeing over the past two months varied from 10 F to 52 F (-12 C to 11 C).

I also got a lot of supplemental use of the Mountainsmith Day Lumbar Pack around town and while traveling by plane.


My testing concentrated on the following features: comfort, storage capacity, suitability and durability.

My findings are as follows:

When I first received the pack, it took a minimal amount of very intuitive and easy-to-do strap adjustments to fit the lumbar pack to my body. As I have a fairly short torso - 18.5 " (47 cm) - the pack takes up a good portion of my back. Less than a traditional day pack, but certainly more than a traditional "fanny" pack.
In the earliest weeks of testing, when wearing light layers of clothing, I needed to tighten the waist belt to its absolute smallest size. As testing and winter progressed and my layers became bulkier, I had to loosen up a bit. The waist belt was very easy to adjust, fortunately, as I often shed and don layers multiple times on a single hike as the weather conditions and my fluctuating body temperatures dictate.

I found the lumbar pack sits very well on my back with all the weight supported nicely on my hips and derrière. When carrying the heaviest loads - 15 lb ( 6.8 kg), I needed to pull the compression straps on the sides of the pack as tightly as possible. This action snuggled the pack up more closely to the contours of my torso and relieved any strain I might start to feel. Shortening the compression straps was easy to do even when in motion by grasping the straps and giving a pull. After a period of time, however, the compression straps would slide a bit and loosen up again, requiring another tug or two.

The Mountainsmith's air mesh foam back was very cushion-y and I appreciated its comfortable hugging of my lower back. I did not notice a lessening of sweating however, over any other traditional day pack that I own. No more, but no less, either.
Mountainsmith Day Pack on the Trail
Mountainsmith Lumbar Day Pack on the Trail

When loading the lumbar pack, I was sure to place the heaviest items towards the back of the pack. In most cases, this meant my hydration pack. If I was not carrying a hydration pack (and sometimes, even if I was), I would have two 1 L (32 oz) bottles of water, one on each exterior side in their individual mesh pockets. Any other heavy item would go on the bottom of the pack with lighter items on top. The pack is small enough that I needn't worry about not finding something. I had no problems with distribution of weight contents causing back or shoulder strain. Due to the size of the Mountainsmith lumbar pack, it was almost always filled to capacity when I hiked, so shifting weight was negligible.

Using the lumbar pack with the shoulder strap was a breeze. The plastic clip to attach and remove the strap was a simple push-and-slide-out mechanism. I found that the sliding shoulder pad cushion, while comfortable, did indeed slide a bit too much for my liking. I often needed to re-adjust the pad and hike the strap back up onto my shoulder. When using the pack as a laptop carry-on case during travel, I would wear it bandolier-style slung across my chest. This eliminated the sliding and had the added benefit of giving me hands-free storage.
Mountainsmith Day Pack on the Trails
Mountainsmith Lumbar Day Pack on the Trail
I continue to be amazed at just how much I can cram into this pack. For its 854 cu in (14 l) size, the Mountainsmith seems much bigger. Even with my hydration pack, I still can carry food for the day, extra socks, gloves, hat, an additional base layer, my headlamp, digital camera (attached to the waist belt), my Orikaso bowl, silverware, sunscreen, extra bottles of water externally, and more. On those occasions when the pack was full and I needed to remove a fleece or shell layer of clothing I was wearing, I just stashed it in the bright yellow corded lashing on the back.

If the pack was not filled to capacity, it was neatly compressed via the compressions straps to whatever size was conducive to a balanced load.

The dual compartment system of the lumbar pack made it easy for me to organize items in what, to me, was the most logical way. I generally put the heaviest and/or bulkiest items in the larger, back compartment where - when I carried one - my hydration pack was first stashed. The outer compartment stored smaller and more frequently accessed items.

Accessing the two compartments while wearing the pack on the trail required me to be a contortionist just to open the zipper of the outside compartment. Accessing the main compartment was impossible without twisting the whole pack to the front of my body. But, hey, that's what trail mates are for, no? Accessing the mesh water bottle pouches on either side of the Mountainsmith was very easy and I could do it one-handed.

While on the subject of water, my one wish for future Mountainsmith Lumbar Day Packs is for a hydration tube opening. Then my tube could be threaded through to the outside of the pack without having to use the zippered opening and leaving the zipper slightly open to accommodate the tube.

After 4 months of near daily use, the Mountainsmith Lumbar Day Pack still looks almost new. I can't find a single loose thread or snagged bit of fabric anywhere even though I've often gotten the pack caught on juniper and pinon pine trees while bushwhacking. Even the mesh water bottle pouches are still intact and I know I've broken dead branches that have been caught in them.

At no time did I ever have a problem with the zippers snagging or separating due to overstuffing of the compartments or cold weather. All straps remain taut and intact - no unraveling to be seen.

On many occasions, I used the pack stuffed to the limit of its capacity with gear. There have been no adverse consequences of my actions such as stretched out fabric, loosened seams or tears. Even when I used the pack as a laptop carry-on, it bore that weight without material failure.

We've had no rain the past 4 months, so I can't speak for the Mountainsmith's resistance or lack of resistance to water. However, we have had quite a bit of snow and I can state that snow doesn't faze this pack! Of course, our snow is very "dry" snow - you can't possibly make a snowball out of it. But, the pack has been subjected to snow showers and laying in the snow. All the contents have remained dry and the pack itself didn't absorb any noticeable moisture.


This is hands-down my favorite day pack! It is just so darned versatile that I use it everywhere. Around town, I use it with the detachable shoulder strap to haul paperwork to meetings, stash purchases, pack up library books and more.

It is definitely a winner when it comes to air travel. I can safely jam in all that I might need during my travels and my laptop slides in and out quickly at security check points.

The day pack is very attractive and I don't feel like I just came out of the mountains when I'm in a casual setting. Many people comment on (and ask where I got it) how neat the Mountainsmith day pack is. When carrying it in two different outdoor gear retail locations, personnel have commented on how the lumbar pack is the "pack of choice" among the employees of those stores.

Of course, where the Mountainsmith really shines is on the trails where it is truly at home! It is just the right size for a day hike where I need to carry a good supply of water, some snacks and the usual assortment of trail needs, including extra socks, shell, etc.

Even when I have it packed to its fullest, the lumbar pack is relatively strain-free to carry and doesn't put undue pressure on my upper back. Now that my testing is over, I plan to order the optional Strapette to make the Mountainsmith Lumbar Day Pack even more comfortable.

Lastly, I love that the materials are recycled and helping our environment! Knowing that is just the icing on the cake!

Thank you to Mountainsmith and for the opportunity to test this awesome product!!

Kathleen Waters

This report was created with the Report Writer Version 1. Copyright 2008. All rights reserved.

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