Mountainsmith Lookout 50 Backpack Review

July 4, 2013
Mountainsmith Lookout 50 Backpack

The Good

  • Very comfortable
  • Several pockets create organizational options
  • Stable with heavy loads
  • Good price point
  • Excellent padding on hip belt and shoulder harness

The Bad

  • Needs a 3rd main access point
  • No integrated rain cover
  • Hip belt pockets need zippers

The Mountainsmith Lookout 50 is the little brother to the Apex 80. This pack performs very well in terms of comfort, organization and stability in comparison to other backpacks in this category.  The price point of this backpack is also very good. The addition of an incorporated rain cover and additional main access point would have made this pack even better.


The Mountainsmith Lookout 50 provides two access points to the main compartment, one via the storm flap and the other through the sleeping bag compartment. These points made packing easy and provided options for organization and storage, but a third access point, perhaps a long zipper access on one side, would have been nice.

The Lookout has a convenient front zippered pocket that is large enough for storing the “10 Essentials”, plus has a second mess storage pocket on the inside. It also features two stretch hip-belt pockets that provide good storage, but they are not zippered, thus making me nervous when storing a small camera or GPS device in these pockets. While nothing fell out during the testing phase, during bushwhacking or scrambling I did check on these items regularly. Zippers would definitely improve the utility of these pockets.

Two side stretch mesh pockets are deep and easily accepted 1-liter bottles and have an added compression strap that I used to further secure a bottle or other items. The Lookout also comes with a very large lid that will accommodate many items. The lid is removable and can be used as a shoulder sling or a lumbar pack. I found this a very convenient feature for side trips or the occasional scramble to a summit peak.

Hip Belt
The Lookout incorporates much thicker padding in the hip belt than most other packs in this category, which really adds to the pack’s comfort. This, together with the Illiac Crest Shelf and excellent lumbar support, results in the hip belt effectively transferring the load from the shoulders and upper body to the hips and lumbar area for increased comfort.  

Backpanel/Shoulder Straps
The Lookout has thick padding on the shoulder straps—thicker than most packs in this category—which added to overall comfort. The Anvil Airway back panel provided good airflow up and down the pack, but not quite as good as some other Mountainsmith packs.

The pack performs well and is very stable carrying loads in the 35- to 45-pound range, in a variety of terrain and on the occasional scramble. The Lookout did not float or sway and was very comfortable carrying big loads on steep ascents and descents. Even with loads in the 55-pound range, the Lookout was still stable and comfortable.

Overall Comfort
This is a very comfortable pack mainly because of the thick padding on the shoulder straps and hip belt and the really nice lumbar support. The ability to move weight from the shoulders and put it on the hips and skeletal system is excellent for a pack this size. While I almost never carry more than 35 to 40 pounds in a 50-liter pack, I could easily do that in this pack.

The Lookout 50 backpack proved durable in a variety of weather and tough terrain conditions. After numerous rugged and tough backpacking trips that included bushwhacking, scrambling and squeezing through slot canyons, it only showed a few scratches and a slight imperfection in the fabric on the lid.


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