Imagine a big backpack that stores all your backcountry ski and camping gear but is also compact enough for day missions when you’re out there. Introducing Mountain Hardwear’s South Col 70 backpack.

It’s that epic time of year again: big-pack season! Here’s the scenario, it’s spring in the Rockies, and you’re on your way to ski something a long walk away. You’re hauling camping stuff and days worth of food with you, but you’re also travelling through complex terrain, so you want to be able to get at your daily avalanche and climbing tools quickly and easily.

The problem is big packs seldom have well-organized storage for this, and it all gets thrown in the same big main compartment, or maybe two. Granted, a lot of big packs do have gear loops on the waste belt for glacier gear, and a system to hook a mountain axe or two to the outside, but those are usually about the only things you’ll easily grab. The next hassle is that, once basecamp is set up and you’re using that same pack to go ski, everything floats clumsily around inside the empty space your camping gear once occupied.

Mountain Hardwear South Col 70 Backpack full loaded
The author’s fully loaded backpack. Above photo of the author taken by Andrew Jones.

Fret not, you motivated spring peak-bagger, you. Mountain Hardwear’s South Col 70 backpack does a good job addressing these two niche issues and has paid attention to your particular problems. The South Sol has a big dry compartment with plenty of room to fit everything you need for day use, an avalanche tool compartment, as well as an extra open pocket on top of that where you can stash your crampons or skins for quick access. The side ski carriers work like a dream, and the bag cinches down super tight when empty. It’s tough, well constructed, ergonomic, and makes you look like a boss on your transitions in all that big terrain.

One gripe, however, is the main compartment is entirely top loading, without a side zipper. But, if you organize with this in mind—i.e. sleeping bag and stuff you don’t need until camp at the bottom—it still works really well. Plus you’ve got a lid with two compartments for your shades, sunscreen, Leatherman, and headlamp that you can later take right off, or fold into the main compartment. The ski carrier also works especially well.

Mountain Hardwear South Col 70 Backpack – outer view

The reason for the lack of side access is that the pack is waterproof. In theory, you could ford a river with it. Bear in mind, though, the top compartment is only shut by a draw chord, so it’s not quite like a full dry bag, but you’d do great in a rain storm.

Overall, this is a refreshingly well-adapted option for multi-day objectives in bigger mountains, especially in inclement weather.

The pack comes in small/medium and medium/large, with a bendable back frame, and will leave your companions wallowing in the slush behind you fumbling their ChapStick.

Mountain Hardwear South Col 70 Backpack  MSRP: $320 CAD


  • OutDry membrane construction main compartment
  • Flexible design concept allows removing or adding pack components
  • HardWave suspension conforms to the curve of your back and distributes weight evenly but is removable for carrying light loads
  • Multiple lash points and long compression webbing allow for overloads while effectively reducing volume as needed to keep any size load stable

    Mountain Hardwear South Col 70 Backpack – strap view
  • Large zippered front pocket allows storage of frequently needed items or tools and maintains volume even when main compartment is full
  • Easy access crampon stash pocket
  • Easy to secure and adjust ice-ax / ice tool carry system with pass through sleeve to conceal picks
  • X-Ply Ripstop front panel
  • Aluminum perimeter stay that locks into hip belt while allowing slight pivoting
  • Dual-density shoulder straps
  • Removable padded waist belt with gear loops
  • Webbing belt included so you can swap the padded waist belt and lighten the load
  • Removable top pocket with zippered security pocket inside
  • Reinforced grab handle for hauling
  • Deep wand or picket pockets with hook and loop closure


  • Fabric Accent: HardWear X-Ply Ripstop
  • Fabric Body: 400D HD Nylon
  • Fabric Bottom: 840D HT Ballistic Nylon


  • Pack Weight S/M: 3 lb. 11 oz. / 1.66 kg.
  • Pack Weight M/L: 3 lb. 13 oz. / 1.72 kg.
  • Pack Capacity S/M: 4270 cu. in. / 70 L
  • Pack Capacity M/L: 4575 cu. in. / 75 L
  • Pack Dim S/M: 34 in x 13 in x 14 in / 86 cm x 33 cm x 36 cm
  • Pack Dim M/L: 36 in x 13 in x 15 in / 91 cm x 33 cm x 37 cm
  • Pack Torso S/M: 16.0 in. – 19.0 in. / 41 cm – 48 cm
  • Pack Torso M/L: 18.5 in. – 22.0 in. / 47 cm – 56 cm
  • Pack Waist S/M: 28 in – 34 in / 71 cm – 86 cm
  • Pack Waist M/L: 33 in – 39 in / 84 cm – 99 cm