Senior year at the University of Colorado, Boulder was a big one for Jeff Popp. That was the year when, as captain of the U.C. snowboard team, he was honored as a first-team All-American. It was also the year that he decided to avoid the “white collar path” and start an outdoor company. Popp graduated from Boulder and singled out backpacks as the category that could most benefit from a makeover. And, just like that, Mile High Mountaineering (MHM) was born.
company offers a small but solid line of packs sized and purposed for
everything from urban commuting to multi-day trekking. For the past few months
we’ve been putting MHM’s 34-liter Salute Pack—the flagship of their
line—through rigorous field tests. We hauled it up multipitch sport climbs in
Spain, stuffed it full of quickdraws and climbing shoes for a weeklong trip in
France, and wore it on a 25k hut traverse in the German Alps.
The standout feature of the Salute is its unique S-shaped zipper, which winds around the top compartment and down the packs’ body. This made for lightning-fast access to everything we took with us, from energy bars at the top to our last-resort rain shell stuffed in the bottom.
When we took the pack on an eight-pitch route in Catalonia, Spain, we used the plastic-reinforced hang loop—designed much like a gear loop on a climbing harness—to quickly clip the pack to the anchor. Because the zipper system has three sliders we could always open the pack up right at the correct spot—no juggling extra layers and cameras while at a hanging belay.
Our testers were extremely impressed with the comfortable but compact suspension system that uses a lightweight M-shaped piece of flexible aluminum to create a simple frame for the pack. MHM calls it M-Flex; we just called it effective—the Salute loaded evenly and comfortably, even when we were humping 20-plus pounds up the steep hour-long hike to the climbing in Ceuse, France.
Other favorite features include a stretchy overflow pocket, which we used to store items that couldn’t fit in the main body, and the stowable rain cover. Our only quibble was a small one: Since the Salute has a zip closure there was no way to stuff bulkier items like large down jackets between the brain and body.
Available now, $215; mhm.com.
—Berne Broudy and Andrew Freeman