Montane Medusa 32 Rucksack

© Steve Long Collection
Montane Medusa Labelled  © Montane
Steve Long reviews the Medusa 32 from Montane's brand new rucksack range. It's designed as a mountain master, super light (913g), multi-season endurance pack. Suggested usage is mountain ascents and ultra distance where weight is critical but comfort cannot be compromised.


(Click the labelled image to expand).

  • Fabric: Raptor TL
  • Reinforced fabric: Raptor UTL
  • Back pad / shoulder straps / hip fins: Contact Mesh
  • Side Pockets: Granite Stretch
  • Colours: Moroccan blue / Shadow webbing, Shadow / Black webbing
  • Weight: 913g
  • Size: One size
  • Fit: Active Mountain

See a 360 degree view here on the Montane website.
More info in this UKC Gear News Item.

Having agreed to test this prestigious new offering from Montane, I was surprised to find that the distributors became surprisingly coy for a couple of weeks: “All of our stock is at the trade show just now, apart from a couple of pre-release samples – but we don't want to send you any of those. This is a flagship item and we'd rather wait until the retail stock arrives so that you don't get the wrong impression.”

On the Lofer via Feratta near Salzburg  © Steve Long Collection
On the Lofer via Feratta near Salzburg
© Steve Long Collection

But after a couple of weeks a small box arrived in the post. At first I thought it was a paperback that I'd ordered, but no, out tumbled a neatly folded bundle of charcoal coloured silky cloth tucked in upon a vivid orange foam back pad.

The bag looked awfully fragile for a mountain pack. I've never seen a pack of this capacity (35 litres) that is so light in weight nor, paradoxically, with so many innovative design features – it weighs less than a kilo! It feels as if every feature has been carefully considered and re-engineered for a lighter, more streamlined solution. The drawcord at the top, for example, (or “Cord Lord quick release mechanism” as it's dubbed), releases part-way by simply pulling the looped cord, or fully with a finger or thumb in the other end of the loop. It takes a bit of getting used to as there is no toggle to squeeze, you just pull the loops, but it works well once you get the hang of it. Come to think of it, this could be a good fastening design for a chalk bag as well...

"I've never seen a pack of this capacity (35 litres) that is so light in weight nor, paradoxically, with so many innovative design features..."

Since my first reaction was shock at the featherweight construction, I've subjected the sack to a fairly vigorous test regime. It's been used as cabin baggage on several journeys, and on arrival has served variously as a cragging sack in Kalymnos, Spain and Portugal, a hiking sack in Wales and Serbia and a via-feratta and multi-pitch climbing sack in Austria. Despite my initial misgivings it seems to have emerged unscathed from these trials and tribulations.

The back panel is very comfortable and well-ventilated, and the chest strap is another interesting innovation – indeed I've absolutely no idea how they designed it; the mechanism is counter-intuitive but it works – again it takes some getting used to, but I suspect this feature will gradually spread to other brands – it's light, strong and easy to release, as well as adjustable for height across the chest. To unfasten it you just tug the cord attachment. The other buckles are less radical in design but seem pretty tough, which is good news as broken buckles are a common disintegration point for rucksacks.

Opening the Montane Medusa 32  © Steve Long
Opening the Montane Medusa 32
© Steve Long
Inside pocket of Montane Medusa 32 with key clip  © Steve Long
Inside pocket of Montane Medusa 32 with key clip
© Steve Long

On the Lofer via Feratta near Salzburg  © Steve Long Collection
On the Lofer via Feratta near Salzburg
© Steve Long Collection
The Medusa has pretty well every feature that you would require in a multi-function sack; for example one side of the hip belt holds a zipped purse for lipsalve, cash etc, while the other side has a gear loop for runners. There are various toughened attachment points for clipping gear or hauling, and a choice of means for carrying ice tools either spike up or down, including a toughened flap/tube to keep ice picks out of harm's way, a popular feature in cable-cars.

The hood design allows excellent coverage of the sack entrance, with the result that so far its withstood showers without any leakage, however I've so far managed to escape a lot of the UK weather this spring. The “buddy pocket” on top has an outward facing zip, meaning that your partner can open it for you to retrieve gear. This is one feature I'm not so sure about – it could also be billed as a “tealeaf pocket” as it can shed gear when left inadvertently or surreptitiously opened. At least the keys won't fall out because there's a little plastic clip for them. And there is an elasticated flap pocket inside the sack for a water bladder along with a flap-protected exit hole for the hose with a clip on the shoulder strap.

This rucksack is not aimed at mountaineers looking for a heavy-duty labour beast, although it's not work-shy, as I've already demonstrated! However the sack comes into its own for anybody who wants an ultra-light sack without compromising on comfort or features. It comes available in two colours – mine is charcoal (“Shadow”) but I think the ice blue version looks more distinguished, albeit somewhat reminiscent of the “Karrimor azure” of a few years ago. The capacity of 32 litres is ideal for the “light and fast” approach but it's worth noting that the slinky material and narrow cut means that you have to pack the sack with care otherwise it can look rather metaphorically like a snake eating a rabbit, or grandma's lumpy stockings.


Comparing this rucksack with most other bags is like comparing a Ferrari with a Land Rover. Treat it with respect and you should be able to travel fast and light!

Steve Long at Lotus Summit  © Steve Long Collection
Steve Long at Lotus Summit
© Steve Long Collection

Steve Long

Steve Long is a qualified mountain guide, works for the MLT and is an extremely experienced instructor and climber. He has produced a DVD aimed at recreational climbers - Self Rescue for Climbers - which is a comprehensive guide to solving problems encountered in such situations as multi-pitching in the mountains, sea cliffs or roadside crags.

For more information Montane/Packs

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26 May, 2012
What was wrong with my review: ;p I've used mine several times now and am happy with it. I love the drawcord feature and find the lid very useful, it's deep/re-enforced so holds it's shape, that seems to stop gear falling out when you open it. Only small complaingt is the side pockets/wand pockets are a bit tight for water bottles, they hold them securely but I can't get them out without taking the pack off. A minor gripe and at least I know I won't loose one!
30 May, 2012
Hi Martin, Your review is spot on! I would have referenced it if I had noticed it beforehand. I did do a search for reviews as part of my research but unfortunately your review didnt come up - I guess because its tucked away in a forum. But you're right - a day sack for technical scrambling is the ideal use for this sack and where its features come into play.
30 May, 2012
Thanks Steve :o) Do you know if they have any plans for a larger pack at all? Could do with something in the 70 litre range... Cheers, Martin
30 May, 2012
Looks like it'd be a perfect summer Alpine pack. As for your comment about light weight packs, you've obviously never noticed the Arc'teryx Cierzo 35 which is about 600gm. I'm kinda torn between the two, but I think that the Montane despite the extra 300gms will probably be a slightly better pack in terms of comfort and features. Especially the small pouch on the hipbelt, I really like them, very useful.
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