Back in October I wrote a review of the AS-1 backpack, calling it the best pack on the market for adventure racing and a damn great pack for backpackers and adventure travelers as well. I was struck with the AS-1’s comfort, well thought out design, and multitude of pockets and compartments. In short, it was one of the best pieces of gear that I had used in quite some time and since writing that review, I have only continued to be impressed.
The AS-1 comes to us from a company called OutThere! which was started by adventure athlete Mike Kloser. Mike is a multi-time world champion in mountain biking and adventure racing, and all of that time spent in the field has given him a unique perspective on what outdoor athletes need from their gear.
Kloser has now taken that considerable expertise and applied it to a new, smaller pack called the MS-1 which exhibits many of the same attributes as its predecessor but in a much smaller package. In fact, the MS-1 has exactly half the carrying capacity of its bigger sibling, offering 15 liters of internal storage with an additional 5 liters in an external mesh pocket.
Aside from the differences in size however, the packs have a lot in common. Both are made from durable, water resistant fabrics and feature rugged zippers that provide easy access to the packs contents but seal the pack up tight as well. Once again, the MS-1 has plenty of pockets and compartments for carrying your gear.
In addition to the large main compartment, there are three additional internal pockets that help keep the small stuff close at hand and well organized. Externally there is a very handy zippered mesh pocket as well and additional storage on the hip belt and shoulder straps.
As you would expect, the pack is hydration ready and includes integrated hydration tube sleeves, but also has two large water bottle holsters that can be easily reached even while wearing the pack.
While the larger AS-1 is a fantastic pack for multi-day, expedition length adventure races or backpacking excursions, the MS-1 is better suited for shorter 24 to 48 hour events. I was surprised to find that once I adjusted the pack to fit my body, it was actually even more comfortable to wear than the AS-1, a pack that was already very comfy even while carrying a larger load.
The airmesh padded back panel and shoulder straps felt great, even on extended treks and I especially enjoyed the way the MS-1 fit snuggly against my body, but still allowed me to move freely and quickly.
I know I sound like a broken record when comparing these two packs, but once again I am impressed with how versatile the MS-1 can be. The pack can be used for everything from day hikes and overnight camping to mountain bike excursions and cross country ski outings.
The size is perfect for just about any kind of outing and works well as a travel pack too. I recently carried the pack on a trip to Michiagan’s Upper Peninsula and found that it carried my laptop, DSLR camera, and other travel gear comfortably and easily too.
If you were tempted by the AS-1, but thought it was simply too large for your needs, than you’ll definitely want to grab the MS-1 as soon as possible. Designed to be a great pack for adventure racing, its use extends well beyond that and you’re likely to find you’re using it for all of your outdoor adventures. If you already own the AS-1 and want the same functionality in a smaller pack, you won’t be disappointed either.
Mike typically sells the pack for $149, which is a great price for a piece of gear with this kind of quality. But he is currently running a special promotion with the MS-1 on sale for just $135. Check it out on the OutThere! homepage now.
And if you don’t want to take my word for how good the MS-1 is, my friend Randy Ericksen had put together a video review as well. For a second opinion, check out Randy’s thoughts below.