High Mtn Gear Wrangler 35L Backpack Review

High Mtn Gear Wrangler 35 Backpack Review

Simple yet extremely effective is how we would describe the High Mtn Gear Wrangler 35 Backpack (shop now). Constructed with waterproof, sustainable ECOPAK composite fabric, this frameless roll-top design weighs just 19.5 oz, but stores significantly more than that thanks to its massive external pockets.

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  • Weight: 19.5 oz
  • Price: $295
  • Materials: ECOPAK 200/400 Recycled Composite Fabric, UltraStretch
  • Frame: Removable 1/4″ foam sheet/sit pad.
  • Load Capacity: 25 lbs (estimate)
  • Internal Volume: 35L
  • External Volume : 8L (estimate)
  • Pros: Ultralight. Waterproof, durable, sustainable fabric. Articulated shoulder straps. Large external pockets. Made in America.
  • Cons: Not seam-taped. No weight transfer to hips. Front external pocket entry is a bit narrow.

Wrangler 35 view of shoulder straps

About High Mtn Gear

If you’ve never heard of High Mtn Gear, perhaps that because you’re not a serious alpine or Big Wall climber, and haven’t yet needed an ultralight port-a-ledge, ice screw storage, or haul bag. We’ll forgive you though; we hadn’t either. Nonetheless, this PNW cottage industry climbing gear brand just dropped an exceptional ultralight backpack, one we know our readers will love. What’s more, High Mtn Gear founder, Kyle Willis, has been an absolute joy to work with and we’re stoked on the brand he’s building.

wearing the high mtn gear wrangler 35 backpack

High Mtn Gear Wrangler 35 Construction and Materials

The pack itself, Wrangler 35L, takes on a classic build that ultralight pack enthusiasts will find familiar: a roll top closure pseudo-dry bag main body with shoulder straps, three large external pockets on the sides and front, and a y-strap closure over the top. It’s a time tested design, proven on and off the trail.

close up on ecopak ultra

But there are some nifty innovations. For starters, we’ve not seen this exact chassis built in ECOPAK fabric. ECOPAK material is made by our new favorite textile brand, Challenge Sailcloth. What’s more, it’s super sustainable, made entirely from recycled polyester and plastic water bottles. Mind you, this is a composite fabric, similar in feel and function to Dyneema. It is waterproof, absorbs less moisture, is more durable, and has better UV resistance than laminated nylons.

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side view


For how simple the Wrangler Backpack is, nearly every feature, from straps to pockets, has something notable worth discussing. Let’s start with the pockets. Challenge UltraStretch has become our new favorite material for outer pockets, thanks to its ability to expand when full and shrink down when empty. It is significantly stretchier and more durable than most stretch mesh. When factoring in its ability to expand, this pocket is just massive. You can get a whole day’s worth of snacks and knickknacks inside.

side view of wrangler 35L

The twin side pockets are also excellent. Perfect for Smartwater bottle storage. Photos on the product page prove it can fit two per side, but we tested it with a single 1L Smartwater bottle + sawyer filter one one side, with a 1.5L Smartwater on the other. Each side has a simple-yet-burly reflective shock cord + lineloc compression strap that can secure the top of a sawyer filter, or reduce the volume as needed.

close up on ice axe loops

Given that this pack was designed by an alpine climber, it should be no surprise that the ice axe storage is perfect. Two static nylon webbing loops at the bottom, two cinchable shock cords up top.

While this pack is frameless, it does come with a removable, thin foam back panel that can double as a sit pad. We found this was more than sufficient to block lumps from jabbing into the back; just be sure not to pack bulky items, like a stove, on that side. The removable ultralight hip belt is nothing more than nylon webbing. Nice to secure the pack from bouncing around if you’re really huffing it or scrambling on class III, but not necessary or particularly helpful for walking at a slow and steady pace on the trail.

close up on hip belt strap

Perhaps the most interesting and noteworthy feature of the High Mtn Gear Wrangler 35 is the articulated, interchangeable shoulder straps. We’re hearing more and more about the benefits of this style of shoulder strap, and these are done well.

testing the shoulder straps for high mtn gear wrangler 35 review

The foam is both soft and firm, and clearly will last many years. Nylon webbing daisy loops run the length of the shoulder straps, with a widened attachment point for camera clips on each side.

close up on articulated shoulder straps

A final and noteworthy and interesting element is the “hybrid aluminum/plastic G Hook” to adjust the top Y-strap, pictured above. We’ve never seen this system before on a backpacking pack, but found it to be equally as effective as the buckles which are normally used in this slot. No complaints yet. close up on plastic aluminum g hook

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What Could Be Better?

For starters, this design comes with all of the baggage typically associated with frameless packs. Frameless is an intentional choice to reduce weight and bulk. However, the fact remains that the entire weight of the pack will be felt on the shoulders. It does not transfer any weight to the hips whatsoever. That being said, all of this is mitigated if you can pack it with a sufficiently ultralight load as is intended. We recommend trying to stay at or below 20 pounds with all gear and consumables. It would probably get uncomfortable past that.

high mtn gear wrangler 35 zoomed out on back side

It’s a tall order for small brands to deliver on, but everyone prefers taped seams when they can get them. While the ECOPAK fabric used to build the High Mtn Gear Wrangler 35 is waterproof, the system in its entirety is not. As such, we recommend using liner bags to store water-sensitive items like as a quilt or down jacket. That’s par for the course though, so not a big complaint.

gathered ultrastretch pocket

Secondly, we note the gathered opening on the front external pocket. That is to say, is it narrower at the opening than the rest of the pocket. On the plus side, this makes it extremely secure. Even flipping the pack upside down is unlikely to cause items to fall out. On the downside, for your average backpacking scenario, this can create a bit of a wrestling match to reach in and extract gear if the pack is fully loaded up and the UltraStretch material is pulled taught over the contents. For backpacking-use, we think a wider opening would make the pack more user-friendly.

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pack rests on a summit

High Mtn Gear Wrangler 35 Review Verdict

We’re quite keen on the High Mtn Gear Wrangler 35. From the sustainable ECOPAK main body to its large UltraStretch external pocket, we love the premium build out of this pack.  It is suitable for day hikes, exceptional for peak bagging, and downright excellent for minimalist backpackers able to achieve a 10 pound base weight. If you’re in the market for a frameless ultralight pack, definitely consider the Wrangler 35.

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hiking with the wrangler 35