I didn’t like the Mountain Hardwear Sortie pack at first – but then it grew on me.
I immediately recognized the obvious merits of the bag: the Sortie accommodated more than enough supplies for a day or two, had an internal frame that was rigid but comfortable and ensured both even load dispersal and minimum sway.
The top cover pouch unclipped from both sides, allowing easy access to the main compartment and had two pockets: an outer one for frequently needed items and a less visible inside pocket for valuables.
The outside pocket also opened from either side and the main compartment accommodated a hydration system with an elastic holding partition and tube outlets over both shoulders. The top cinching straps (there are two sets on the Sortie) both clip and cinch, allowing for quick release while maintaining the selected tension.
Perhaps most impressive, though, was that while I was using it, the Sortie’s slim body enabled me to maintain my natural center of gravity and enjoy a completely unfettered range of motion, even when using my poles.
And yet at first, something just wasn’t right.
Finding the shoulder straps too wide and stiff, I loosened them to take more of the weight on my hips, but that increased the lateral sway and backward pull. Then I realized that all I had to do was use the pack about four times and it would sort itself out: the shoulder straps gradually gained in flexibility without sacrificing strength or form, and I found that they molded slightly. Now they fit me perfectly and I can share the load between shoulders and hips comfortably – so much so that I barely notice the weight of the gear.
So ultimately my recommendation is this: give the Sortie a chance. You might want to up the waterproof quotient with a silicone spray, but for an affordable pack ($139 retail) that distributes weight and moves with you so well during active use, my guess is that you’ll be happy either way.
For more information on Mountain Hardwear products, visit http://www.mountainhardwear.com.