The Mutant name may be familiar, but the 2014 Osprey Mutant 38 and it's smaller sibling the Mutant 28 are effectively brand new technical mountain packs which have little in common with their predecessor bar the name.
- £100 / 1220g
- Floating, removable top lid and Flap Jacket cover
- Integrated climbing helmet storage
- Dual ToolLock™ for ice axe attachment
- Abrasion-resistant PU overlay on front panel of pack
- Glove-friendly buckles
- 15mm side compression straps
- Integrated gear loops on hipbelt
- Sewn in hipbelt, reverse wrap stowable
- Removable HDPE framesheet with T6061 aluminium stay
- Underlid rope carrying system
- EVA die-cut ventilated shoulder harness
- 380g of strippable mass
- Reverse-wrap Splitter™ hipbelt
The original Mutant was a simple, tough, no-nonsense mountain pack, but while there was nothing exactly wrong with it, it lacked the distinctive 'Ospreyness' that generally marks the brands packs out from most of their competitors - stuff like cunning little design touches designed to work better out in the real world along with proper game-changing innovation.
Which is why, we think, the brand went back to the drawing board to create the new autumn/winter 2014 version of the pack.
Basics first: the new Mutant is decently light for a technical mountain pack at a measured 1220g all on and the simple back system combining a stiffening plate and alloy stay and ventilated mesh foam give a really comfortable carry when loaded up. The pack's also, as you'd expect from a full-on mountain and climbing weapon, neat and slim to minimise snagging and swaying.
It's not extrovertly overbuilt like some mountain packs, but Osprey has a history of balancing weight and durability in the fabric and material department, so we're reasonably confident it'll pass longer term muster. Note to that the lower rear of the pack where it's most likely to rub and scrape on rock, has an abrasion-resistant PU overlay to add some extra toughness.
The back panel's designed to shrug of snow too and the vented form shoulder straps look like they'll be good for hotter conditions too.
But what about that Ospreyness? Well, first impressions are that there's plenty of it in evidence. The lid for example, floats to allow overloading, but sat underneath it is an additional protective flap dubbed the Flap Jacket, which helps protect the top entry to the pack even with the lid extended.
It has a secondary function too: remove the lid, easily done thanks to quick release snap buckles, and you can use it as a cover in its own right, clipped onto the original lid buckles. Why would you do that? Less weight, more clearance for looking up while wearing a helmet.
And while we're talking lids, if you've ever struggled to carry a helmet neatly on a pack, here's the answer: sat inside a small pocket on the lid is an elasticated sort of net that stretches over your helmet and holds it securely, opening down, on top of the pack. Very cool.
There's more cleverness at hip-belt level too. The hip-belt has integral gear loops so you wear it over harness in mountain route mode and still carry a selection of hardware, but if you choose, you can unthread the inner belt and fold the main fins back onto the pack where they're held in position by a simple button arrangement,
Thought's gone into the compression system as well. At first glance it's a classic Z-arrangement using narrow webbing, but here's the thing: there's a double D-ring centre fastening so you can tension the straps differentially top and bottom, plus the top buckle has a positive lock so the strap should stay where you put it, not a bad idea as you can use those side straps to carry a set of skis if you choose.
Another neat touch is that an internal zipped mesh pocket inside the main body of the pack means you retain smalls storage even with the lid removed and left at home. Oh, and Osprey has adopted a classic mix of a lower alloy bar and upper shock-corded holding point for ice-tool carriage. Not original, but welcome never the less.
And all the buckles and mechanism are designed to be glove friendly and mostly useable with just the one hand - take the main body drawcord which opens with a single-handed pull of the obvious webbing tag. All good, thoughtful and eminently useful stuff.
And last but not least, if you're desperate to save grammes, stripping out the back plate and stave along with the lid should shave a claimed 380g from your load, though we doubt it'll carry anything like as nicely in that configuration.
Early signs are that Osprey's done it again with the Mutant combining a comfortable and supportive carry with a whole arsenal of ingenious but practical features that should make it an ideal pack for anything from summer cragging to winter mountaineering via classic routes in the Alps.
Stuff like the simple but effective helmet carrier and the ingenious Flap Jacket add real usefulness and we love the way the Splitter hip-belt gives you a choice between racking gear on your pack or just folding the fins back and embracing minimalism.
And if you don't need 38 litres of carrying capacity, the Mutant 28 shares most of the same features, but with reverse-opening top zipper access and a weight of 960g and a price of £80.