Bottom Line: If you want a pack with a lot of pockets, extremely rapid ski carry, and light weight, this is a solid choice. It’s a bit too specialized for the casual user; there are better all-around buys out there.
The Ultimate Direction Ski Mo Pack is a rather interesting beast. Somewhere between a ski mountaineering racing pack, a running vest, and, well, something else. It lives in a lot of worlds.
First off, the features: It at once has all of them while missing out on key ones. On the front, it has two pockets that are about 400 milliliters—not huge, but nor are they tiny. They are enough for sunglasses, snacks, sunscreen, phones, and other small essentials. But they aren’t quite large enough or stretchy enough to accommodate a water bottle like a standard vest pack. While not a big deal, it would have been nice to see a bottle holder on at least one of the shoulders like those on nearly all skimo packs. The only other water carry option is a hydration bladder, which works very poorly. I preferred the layout of this pack's previous version.
The main pocket is quite squat and wide, and it offers a decent amount of space, even if it is a bit shallow. There is a hole in the base to pack shovel handle and probe. The blade sits loose and tends to cover up other gear. I really missed the separate avalanche pack. I may stitch in a strap or some other way to hold the blade in place. The loose blade causes a lot of frustration if you have other loose items in your pack; they become challenging to find, particularly when it’s steep and you can’t spread your stuff out. With that said, the extra space means I can stuff in a BD EVAC 7.
There is no shortage of storage for your average day out. Personally I’ve resorted to tucking the shovel blade into the back panel pocket. Oh yes, there is a back panel pocket. It seems that rather than taking the whole pack off, you can spin it around and access the back panel easily. Well, sure, but it’s not really anymore convenient in my experience. It’s easier just to pop it off as usual. Storing skins on the back makes sense, however: extra heat for the skins.
Don’t worry, there are still more pockets! A rope/skin pocket on the bottom stores rope out for glacier travel, and there is a crampon box on top. These are definitely handy, and if you’re counting grams they allow you to leave the crampon bag at home. Nifty! It’s a handy feature, but not as game changing as I thought it would be. Again, the idea is that users can access most of the pockets with the pack on. The adjustments, though, are so finicky that it’s faster just to take the bag off. At the end of the day, simplicity with well-practiced systems always seems to be faster for me.
The Ski Attachment is quicker and more comfortable then you would expect. You can also A-frame it if need be. That said, with a bag of cord and a bent coat hangar, you could easily build this into any pack yourself.
The chest straps are offer a really good, tight fit. The bottom hip belt does feel a bit superfluous and mostly gets on the way, except on the downhill where it provides quite a bit of control. If crouched too low, the buckle catches between your thighs and abdomen and will unbuckle. On steep terrain, this is quite frustrating. This is my biggest gripe about the pack.
Overall, it's a good pack with tons of handy features. While none of them are game changing, they definitely add fun utility. The fit is superb, and if you swap the hip-belt buckle out, you’ll find it’s a great-fitting pack. Add a superbly easy-to-use and rapid ski attachment system, and you're going to have a good time.