The new Osprey Mutant 38

Sleek black Osprey Mutant waits patiently for its owner. ©Karen Bockel

In the recent months I’ve observed a few of my friends sporting a new Osprey Mutant backpack out in the hills. I could recognize it from afar: trademark Osprey style with a tight package, slim design, a few attachment options, but no frills and no oversized hip belt. Hmm, I thought, that would be a nice upgrade to my well-loved original Mutant 38L which is starting to show signs of wear after many adventures in the crags and the high alpine the past few years.

So, I called up Sam Mix at Osprey and talked him into sending me the coveted new Mutant (thanks, Sam!). Straight out of the box, I took it to our Chicks Mount Baker clinic, a 4-day alpine backcountry trip with technical and overnight gear, meaning tents, sleeping bags, ropes, and more. I’ll give you an actual list below of everything that I crammed into the backpack.

I had asked for a S/M size, which fits great for a shorter torso, even when using a harness for climbing.  With the smaller size, I never catch the back of my climbing helmet on the backpack lid, which is key whether you’re looking up to scout the route ahead or leading an ice route and looking for the next swing. The smaller size does have a reduced volume, though.

My original S/M Mutant 38 had a pretty voluminous body despite its sleek appearance. The new version’s shape seems a little narrower, which caught me by surprise when it came time to pack my overnight gear for Mount Baker. On a good note, though, there are a few simple attachment points on the outside to carry extra gear.

Most importantly, the new Osprey Mutant has two separate side straps, simplifying the old zigzag system that was a bit cumbersome to use. Now you can simply unclip the buckles, tuck in your tent poles, snow pickets, or butterfly rope coils, reclip the buckle and you’re good to go. The straps can also be used to compress the pack when you’ve dropped your extra gear at the base of the route.

On the outside panel, there are two Toollocks with bungee tie-offs, convenient and easy to use ice axe storage. The lid of the pack is removable for when you’re really trying to go light.

There are a few more noteworthy features such as a helmet carry and an internal hydration sleeve– I don’t typically use them, but both can be very practical.

Overall, this pack stays true to Osprey’s mission of providing well-designed, functional packs. This new Mutant is definitely my new go-to for 1-day alpine missions, cragging, and other medium-sized adventures. And now that I know that the Mutant 38 has a bigger sister, the Mutant 52, I might choose that for my overnight climbing trips 😉

Mount Baker Gear:

Tent Poles (my co-guide Lindsey Hamm carried the body and fly)

Lightweight sleeping pad

Superlight sleeping bag

60 m rope


Snow picket

Crevasse rescue kit and climbing hardware

Ice axe

Lunch and snacks for 4 days

Long underwear, extra socks, hat and gloves

Compressible water bottle

Emergency locator device

Map, Compass and notebook

Sunscreen and phone


Yep, I had all that. Thanks, Osprey!