Inhale the Outdoors, Exhale the Office – A Review of the Mile High Mountaineering Flatiron 38 Pack

The best way to test the structural integrity of any backpack is to drop a 15-pound bowling ball – from a distance of 10 feet in the air – into the main compartment.  If it doesn’t rip a hole through the bottom of the pack, continue with testing its durability by filling it full of honey and allowing wild animals to have their way with it.  In that same line of analysis, spray it with pheromones and once again allow wild animals to have their way with it.  If it remains relatively intact thereafter, the pack is most decidedly a decent product and should be endorsed as such.

However, if you want to keep the pack…it’s not recommended that these tests occur.  In fact, it’s not suggested that these tests are even a reasonable way of reviewing a product – such as the Mile High Mountaineering (MHM) Flatiron 38 Pack.  And did I use these review tactics?  Absolutely not.  I want to keep this pack because it’s just too good to let a bunch of wild animals have their way with it.  

This all-season pack has what most snowshoers desire in any backpack: An all-you-can-strap buffet of options.  Got a bulky sleeping bag and tent?  Strap them to the side of the bag.  Is there room for a pair of snowshoes to be stored on the front face of the bag?  Sure there is.  You can strap a small child to this pack as well (not recommended).

There were enough straps and gear loops to hang accessories, including my Whistles For Life emergency whistle, a compass, two Survival Straps, a waterproof jacket, a pair of trekking poles, and much more.  In all, the Flatiron pack has several external expression straps, eight gear loops, accessory clips, and two adjustable ice axe loops.  In my opinion, this would be the perfect pack for photographers who carry loads of equipment into the backcountry.  

Backcountry skiers and snowboarders are no exception – this pack has their target features.  Once I have a chance to do some backcountry skiing, the Flatiron 38 will be my go-to pack for sure.  It has the right design features to handle heavy ski gear for the slog up…and awkward snowshoe gear for the ride down.  

The Flatiron is a top-loader with a full, water-resistant zipper that spans the length of the front of the pack.  This prevents from having to unstrap/unravel all the gear from the top-loaded system and allowing for easy access to gear. 

Plus, there are four kick-ass colors to choose from – so the pack is made to look entirely different from everything else on the trail.  I selected the green…because nothing I own is green (especially neon green).  Not to be outdone, the yellow, red and black are exceedingly rad choices too.  

While the Flatiron is the smallest of MHM’s packs, it performs like a multiple-day backcountry trekker.  Think of the possibilities.  To further prove MHM’s value as a company (strictly making backpacks and accessories), Snowshoe Magazine’s writer Maria Icenogle is hiking the Appalachian Trail using the Divide 55 pack.  

Maria is testing the Divide 55 for its durability and longevity on the trail.  Word has it, the pack is holding up great…extending Maria’s trek on the AT.  To read more about Maria’s adventures, check out her blog:

MHM’s largest pack is the appropriately-named Fifty-Two 80 – an 80-liter behemoth that’s a lean 5 pounds, 5 ounces.  No matter your pursuit, any of the three MHM packs are sure to gratify.

Check out these Flatiron 38 features:

*Two side stretch pockets to store water bottles and such
*Total volume is 38 liters; total weight is 3 pounds, 6 ounces
*Main pack fabric is 315 denier ripstop Invista Cordura Plus, Nylon 6.6, 80g PU/DWR
*Frame material is 3mm x 20mm 6061 tempered aluminum stay and 1.5mm HDPE framesheet
*Aluminum stay can be removed without opening the pack for more mobility

I particularly enjoyed the Flatiron’s Backdraft Air Channeled backpanel.  My lower back benefitted from the extra padding, which seemed to provide support for the waistbelt from shifting when I moved from side to side.  It fit comfortably, supported my lower back and eliminated common backpack annoyances.  

This was all made possible by the combination of the backpanel, the variCant dualpivoting hipbelt, the Flow A.C. suspension, and the Rip n’ Pull adjustable harness.  Signified by bright blue straps within the core structures of the pack, the user can adjust the pack’s positioning based on comfort levels and the pursued activity.  Again, think of the possibilities.   

And the innovation doesn’t stop there.  MHM’s packs force the user to pack heavier items closer to the back, including a pocket for a hydration bladder.  However, Jeff Popp (president and founder of MHM) suggests storing a bladder in the top pocket for easy access once the Flatiron is fully packed (and allowing for the science of gravity to take place).  With five pockets – plus the main compartment – the total cargo can be plentiful but not laborious on the trail.    

Not to be forgotten (and well hidden), underneath the top pocket is a mesh storage area and an additional pocket containing an integrated Packslicker rainfly.  So, if the hiking/snowshoeing environment gets a bit too wet, the rainfly will protect the pack from some unwanted moisture.  Once unfurled, the rainfly stretches over the entire pack.  A sweet addition!  

Most of my testing occurred in the spring, on the snow-covered (and sometimes dry trails) of the Colorado Front Range.  I have yet to test the Flatiron in an exceedingly cold environment – an experience I will have no problem applying once the snow season returns.  For now, the Flatiron is ready for any and every backpacking quest.

Oh…I almost forgot…

If a 15-pound bowling ball was dropped into the Flatiron from a height of 10 feet in the air, it would survive the test because it’s made from 840 denier Invista Cordura HD, Nylon 6.6, 80g PU/DWR.  You read it first on Snowshoe Magazine.  

For more information on the Mile High Mountaineering Flatiron 38, visit  

Photos courtesy of MHM and Eli Frick.

About the author

Ryan Alford