Attention climbers who like a bigger crag/approach/expedition pack with lots of room, lots of pockets, and a cush carry: The Mystery Ranch Stein 62 is your jam. Soft, supple, and very comfy on the back, the Stein 62, while not a climbing or cragging pack per se (it’s a scaled-down version of their Expedition Series packs), still has enough bells, whistles, and climber-friendly features to make it well worth occupying the “workhorse” slot in your quiver.
To begin, the Stein 62 is a solid, roomy size—62 liters—that lets you easily stuff multiple shoes, draws, rack, warm clothing, and rope, with room left over for things like a drill, etc. if you’re into new-routing. (Sixty-two liters is also a great size for backpacking to basecamp in the backcountry, such as the Diamond on Longs Peak, Incredible Hulk in the High Sierra, etc.) It all goes in and it’s all easy to get to thanks to three access points: the classic expanding-shroud top loader, a full-length urethane side zip, and a lower horizontal zipper for the “sleeping-bag compartment” that, once you tuck the compression flaps and divider out of the way, lets you quickly grab heavier items at the bottom of the bag like draws, rack, and so on. If you’re a bit of an over-prepper like me (I’d way rather have too much food, water, and clothing at the cliffs than not enough), you’ll appreciate all the pocket and storage options as well: the double exterior water-bottle holders; plus-sized double-compartment top lid with two deep, giant, side-by-side pockets for your sundries; and two detail pockets on the front, one a half-sized vertical pocket, the other a big, roomy pouch that’s nearly the width of the backpack.
The Stein 62 weighs 4.7 pounds, comprising a hard-wearing 400D ripstop nylon, carbon-fiber framing (two notably thin composite stays that take up very little room in the pack body), a full-length lightweight foam frame sheet, their Futura Yoke suspension (shoulder straps plus hip belt), chest strap, four side compression straps, and a couple of ice-axe loops plus daisy chain on the front. I tested the Stein 62 on climbing days with long approaches (30–60 minutes), in the Flatirons and Boulder and Clear Creek canyons, on terrain that varied from strolling along a service road to desperate, Eiger-like exposed scrambling to reach a handful of sport routes (don’t ask…). The main thing that jumped out and has stuck with me is the pack’s comfort—like, mega-comfort.
First of all, you get to tailor the Stein 62 to your exact height and torso length using the adjustable frame, which adheres via a giant Velcro patch that lets you customize where the yoke rides vertically. This feature was super-dreamy—I was able to quickly situate the pack exactly where I wanted, with none of the hassles (and chafing) of dealing with the “kind of fits but not really” scenario we all know too well. This pack truly is one size fits all. This ingenious Velcro attachment also lets you detach the yoke and rig it into the top lid, to create a detachable summit or day pack.
But now to that suspension: this thing is a well-padded beast, with broad, supple shoulder straps and a hip belt that made this the most comfortable, well-carrying big pack I’ve worn. The shoulder straps are each a full 3-inches wide where they ride on your shoulder blades, and the hip belt tapers from 5 inches in the middle to four on the wing tips; all are coated in a cozy honeycomb mesh that also runs the full length of the yoke. Meanwhile, the shoulder straps have just enough internal foam to be supportive, and the hip belt has a luxurious inch of foam inside. You can feel the difference between this and more spartan packs on long approaches—I experienced zero digging or chafing, and spent so little time readjusting or shifting the load on the trail that I essentially forgot I had the pack on. The one downside, if using this pack in more technical applications, is that the plus-sized hip belt can feel a little overbuilt or confining. Still, I wore the pack with hip belt on, on lower-fifth-class scrambling and while rappelling, and didn’t find this to be a major issue—and it’s one that can be remedied simply by releasing the hip belt if you find it annoying. I also dug how quick and easy to adjust the hip belt was, with its dual side straps that let you balance the load equally.
I loved the Stein 62 as a beast mode/workhorse/long-approach/backpacking-to-basecamp pack that loads big but carries small, with a close-to-the-body fit that’s good on the unstable terrain we climbers so often encounter, and with the Cadillac-like comfort you want for bigger, heavier loads (the pack carries up to 75 pounds). No, this is not a fast-and-light alpine pack, but it’s so versatile and well built, and—again—comfortable that this is a money backpack for just about every other situation when you need a big boy on your back.