Review by: maculated, 2005-04-26
When the Mammut Pillar arrived, I thought, "Good Lord, this is [i]yellow[/i]!” There's just something about yellow things. I have a yellow mountain bike and it makes me feel faster. The light and efficient design of the Pillar is just that much more zippy with the yellowness of it all. But you really don't care about the fact that it's yellow, and I accept that.
Let me preface this review with the following: I've tried a lot of packs in my day. My "gear closet" is full of packs, but the one I use most is an Osprey from back when they still made them in Colorado. It's a women's speed hiking pack and it has a lot of stuff going on -- lots of pouches, lots of straps, heavily padded frame. I look very serious about climbing when I've got it on. But it's also huge.
So, when the Mammut rep I met with at the OR showed me the Pillar, I was all eyes. At 40L, this pack is a lot smaller than my behemoth, and it is definitely the product of specialty engineering with a versatile climber in mind.
[size=9]REI models, eat your heart out.[/size]
When I took it out of the box, I clapped gleefully at one of my favorite features: the top helmet securing system. How many of you out there clip your helmets to the outside of your packs when hiking? If you clip it to the top of your pack, you often find yourself beaned in the noggin by the very thing meant to protect it. If you clip it to the back, that swinging motion doesn't do much for your already-weighted balance -- sometimes a confidence breaker on sketchy terrain. Not so with the Pillar.
This pack really isn't meant to packhorse that much gear, but that's okay. Its cylindrical shape and no-frills construction gives way to what amounts to a perfect sport climbing pack.
It took me a while to figure out the purpose of some of the pack’s features. When you open the top, there's a daisy chain and two Velcro straps. While I sat there scratching my head about the Velcro closures, I remembered that [i]this[/i] pack is also a rope bucket. So, I took one end of the rope and Velcroed it with one fastener, flaked my cord into the pack, and Velcroed the other end. Being practical-minded, I tossed my harness, draws, and shoes in for good measure and made the approach to a nearby climbing spot. Upon opening up the pack, both ends were still fastened and waiting, and everything appeared copasetic. The rope flaked out of the bag smoothly, though I was on the ground so it required my securing it upright (something this pack doesn't really like to do on its own). I imagine that if you intend to use this pack for this purpose expressly, it’ll fare better on multi-pitch routes, but truth be told, I am not a big fan of the rope bucket. I did like the "flake into pack" for cragging, however, and it also took the duty of rack carrying off my hands as this time, for once, there wasn't room.
I love the compression system of this pack (again, quite a respite from my usual monster). It came very well compressed -- with four straps on each side and another that loops over the zippered top. This pack can become very small if you want it to. At the same time, there is plenty of storage space in addition to the main compartment.
The Pillar is hydration compatible; just unzip the top, find the elasticized pocket, and slip it in. The pack comes with an opening for the tube to pass through, and there are clips on either shoulder for securing it.
Other awesome features are the handles. One skinny, low-profile handle hides just behind your neck and a large, substantial handle rides prominently on the outside middle. This is a great feature for hauling it around the crag, or grabbing it out from under a pile of gear on an extended road trip.
There are also low profile attachment points for ice tools, which also worked quite well for a stick clip.
[size=9]Rather than blowing it, I’ll let Mammut explain the Butterfly.[/size]
But, as it must always be, nothing can believably approach perfection. Its “Butterfly System” is adaptable many types of bodies. Dan, my 6'1", large-framed climbing partner fit the pack just as well as I did (5'6" medium frame), with minimal adjustments. I was, however, not impressed with the amount of pressure the pack put on my shoulders in its attempt to take weight off the waist (care of the Butterfly System). After the long hike into Pine Creek in Red Rocks, my shoulders were aching, and though the pack comes with many stabilizing and adaptive straps, I was never really able to adjust the weight of my rack to a comfortable level. Again, that's why I think this makes a much better sport pack than trad.
The sternum strap also proved to be pretty much useless. Gear guide editor, J_ung, and I were comparing notes on the Mammut packs we were each reviewing and he mentioned his sternum strap popping off. I told him I hadn't noticed anything, but, following the rules of physics, the next time I put the pack on, the sliding grip popped right off as easily as a stripper's bra.
The sliding sternum strap seems to be gaining popularity -- its round plastic tab moves easily along a cord covered in fabric, giving you maximum control in strap height while cutting weight. I have found the same mechanism on the newer Osprey packs and a few others. The problem is that the strap has a tendency to work its way up on the wearer, and if it reaches the very top of the cord, the narrowing of the fabric that allowed its installation grants it emancipation readily. I sincerely hope that if the industry really does feel this sternum strap style is a great improvement over the webbing slide of older and more conventional packs, they consider adding some kind of stop to the top and placing the attachment point on the bottom instead. Now that I've become accustomed to the poppage, I tend to absent-mindedly push the strap down during approaches and keep it a bit looser than usual; this seems to solve the problem.
This pack's low profile and cylindrical design make it a great way to tote gear on multi-pitch, drag through chimneys, and I really think it shines as a sport pack. The fabric is strong, the color choices are festive, and as with all Mammut's products, the construction is solid.