MHM Salute 34 Backpack Review

Mile High Mountaineering Salute 34L 2013

Conor McDonald

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    I don’t know what makes you look more like a jobob; no ski strap and your tips flopping about, or tying your sweatshirt around your skis.

I don’t know what makes you look more like a jobob; no ski strap and your tips flopping about, or tying your sweatshirt around your skis.

Everyone is very passionate about where they are from; Mile High Mountaineer is leading the charge for Colorado backpack companies. Their Salute 34L bag can handle it all. I have used the Salute for rock climbing, ski touring, and school. Its unique Snake-Loader™ zipper system makes it great for a rope bag, or the outer strapping system is great for securing your skis to the bag; either way you will have plenty of room inside the Salute for your personal gear. If you are looking for a bag that can handle anything you throw at it in a days challenge, the Salute will deliver.

Tester: Conor McDonald 5ft 10in, 158lbs, 32” waist, 38” chest

Days: 100+


2074 cu. in. [34L]

24 x 10 x 9" [60.69 x 25.4 x 22.86cm]

3.8 lbs. [1.7kg]


Main Pack fabric: 215 denier ripstop Dynajin SPU, Nylon 6.6, 80g PU/DWR

Bottom Fabric: 500/630 denier Invista CORDURA® HD, Nylon 6.6, 80g PU/DWR

POP color: 210 denier Honeycomb Duraford, Nylon 6.6, 80g PU/DWR


M-Flex™ suspension system

VariCant™ dual-pivoting/adjustable hipbelt

Snake-Loader™ zipper system w/ heavy duty #10 YKK RC zipper

Perforated foam backpanel, shoulder straps and hipbelt

Integrated Packslicker™ rainfly

Large external over-loader stuff pocket

Deployable ice-axe straps

4 deployable compression straps

9 pockets + main compartment

4 poly-tube gear loops

Made In: Philippines 

Environmental Claims:

I was able to talk to one of the MHM representatives about the company to find out some background information. However in our talk they never brought up anything about there Environment Claims. This does not mean they don’t care about it, but they didn’t state anything specific about this topic.

Social Responsibility:

Michelle Hodulik is the Product Designer & Customer Relations Manager for MHM and I was able to bounce a few emails back forth with her. I asked her this question; what does MHM do in regards to there Social Responsibility. She simply replied, “aside from the actual pack manufacturing, every part of this business has been built with local companies and people that we're proud to work with. Everything from product design, graphic design, accounting, advertising, marketing, PR, printing, business development, trade shows, shipping and t-shirt manufacturing has benefitted American businesses and makes up a much larger part of MHM than just the manufacturing.” 

In short she is trying to say that even though they cant manufacture their product in the U.S. they are try to help the U.S. economy by providing job opportunities within their company for citizens in the United States.

How did you get the gear? Purchased personally 


The Salute has a great suspension system to it; you can easily see that MHM has spent a lot of time working on the little details. One of their big selling points for the Salute is the VariCant™ dual-pivoting/adjustable hip belt; it is beefy but flexible and can take a beating. I love this hip belt, when I throw my skis on the pack I can cinch this baby down and all the weight goes from my shoulders to my waist. It has perforated foam on the hip belt to protect your hips. This makes it easy to carry a lot of weight on your waist and inevitably save your shoulders.

Another great design feature the Salute has is the M-Flex™ suspension system. MHM raves about how this system lets you load down your pack with just about anything and it will be able to handle it. It has a very sturdy frame to it; they combined plastic, padding and mesh to create a sturdy, comfortable, and breathable suspension system. This might sound like a weak frame compared to other companies, however this frame is strong enough to handle a beating. The best part about the M-Flex™ suspension system I think is its breathability; it lets you have less sweat stained shirts at the end of summer!

I have put so much stuff in this backpack it is unreal. I have hauled skis, climbing gear, and personal equipment all at the same time for 12 miles through the rugged gore range of Colorado with the Salute. Not one step of the way was I complaining about the suspension system; MHM has this system dialed in!


To my understanding the Salute only comes in one size, however it has lots of adjustable straps to try and fit the users in the best possible way. All of the sizing straps adjust traditionally. This is a medium sized bag; it has enough room in it for any typical day outing, no matter what sport you are engaged in.

However, it may be a little big for an around town bag; I will give you my opinion about that matter later in the review. MHM has an awesome compression system for this bag though; it will make the bag smaller and more compact if your gear does not fill to maximum capacity. I am a young fit guy so having that extra room doesn’t bother me.

Load Carrying

Load Carrying, not even a question, MHM has nailed this topic on the Salute. Whatever you are able to fit in the Salute she will be able to handle it. The Salute has enough room to fit your needs inside the back and enough straps on the outside to carry your equipment efficiently.

With the excellent frame, solid waist belt, and adjustable shoulder straps you can load this baby up.  I have easily put 50 pounds in this pack and have had no problems with it. However, I will never do another day hike again with 50 pounds on my back. If I do, I know this bag will handle it better then my body.


This backpack has a very unique design to it; it may look confusing at first but makes for an organized pack structure. Starting on the outside it has two pockets in the hip belt; I normally put my phone and food in them. Moving to the outside of the bag you will find two side pockets; these are great for your water bottles. To cover the majority of the outside it has a front panel pocket that buckles down; in the winter I will put my shovel in it. Finishing up the outside part of the Salute is a zippered top flap pocket; great for that first aid kit or emergency equipment that you need quick access to!

Access your gear from top or bottom

Access your gear from top or bottom Snake Loader Zipper Completely Unzipped Snake Loader Zipper Completely Unzipped

The Snake-Loader™ zipper system featured on this back makes for easy access to your whole pack at anytime. You can completely unzip your bag so it folds out into a tarp, or if you don’t want to open your bag all the way you can unzip the bag at a specific spot.

Lastly, when you look inside the bag there are two waterproofed zippered compartments. I don’t really use these pockets, however if you needed to protect your valuables these compartments will stay dry.

If you are a visual person and want to see these features, here is a quick two-minute video showing you the bag, no talking needed, they let the Salute speak for itself


This is where the Salute might loose a few buyers. MHM designed an awesome backpack, I love the concept of it, but there are a few design flaws that really upset me.

The Snake-Loader™ zipper is awesome, however the zippers are stiff and sticky; this is not a new bag for me, I have had it for two years and the zippers are still stiff and sticky. Another flaw that I have encountered while using my Salute is breaking buckles. The company tried to make a lightweight small buckle system for this pack, great idea, but they break easily! Over the last two years I have broken four out of the nine buckles on the Salute. I don’t know if I am to hard on the buckles, if it’s too cold for the buckles or what, but they seem to break if you aren’t careful with them.

Broken buckle

Broken buckle

I have no ties to this company, I simply love their designs, and the fact that they are from Colorado, so I will try and redeem them. They have an awesome strap keeper system that I never use. I normally let the extra buckles and straps flap around rather then utilizing the hidden strap hide away pockets. This way you can protect your buckles, straps and keep a nice clean bag. I am too lazy to put them away, I always want to use them, and maybe one day I will.

On the other hand, I hate to boast again, but this bag did get named by National Geographic as "Gear of the Year" and Men’s Health Magazine as one of the “Top 5 products available”. 

Hydro Sleeve

No matter what sport you are doing or if you are just walking around you always seem to get thirsty. Whether you carry a Camelback, a Sigg bottle, a Platypus, or a Thermos you seem to always have some form of liquid in your bag.

I am not much of a Camelback guy, I love carrying around Sigg water bottle that are dented and abused.  The mesh pockets on the outside of the Salute are great for bottles. The Salute does have a Hydration sleeve in it that I do not use.

The Salute has a very simple design for its hydration system; it has a mesh pocket inside the bag for your Camelback, and a small hole on top of the bag for the tube to come out. However, there is no clip or strap to hold your water tube close to you or in front of the bag. Maybe I should start using this system more often and save on Sigg bottles.

Rock Climbing Day Bag

Weather you are going to send some vertical cracks involving lots of Trad gear or have a fun day at the sporting crag, this bag can handle your gear! Here is what I usually carry when I go looking for a new sport crag:

Patagonia Super Alpine Jacket

Patagonia R2 Jacket

Patagonia Guide Pant

Black Diamond Crag Climbing, Glove Cobalt

La Sportiva Futura

Black Diamond Momentum Harness

12 Black Diamond HoodWire Quickdraws

4 Petzl William Locking Carabineers

4 Black Diamond 18mm Runners

60m Petzl Contact 9.8mm

Black Diamond ATC Guide

Ultra Light First Aid Kit

Guide Book

Sigg 1L Water Bottle

Gummy Bears

1 to 2 Coors Banquets

I think that’s about everything I bring to the crag; a few extra beers might find their way into my bag if it’s a banger blue bird day. Also if the rope doesn’t fit inside the bag or you want to show off that you’re a sick climber bro it straps down nicely over the top.

The Salute makes it much easier to carry your stuff to the crag, rather then your old awkward shoulder rope bag. Load this baby up, head to the wall, arrive, unzip the Snake-Loader™ zipper all the way, put your gear on they now tarp, flake your rope and climb on!

 While your partner is climbing you can access the waterproof zipper pockets if needed. This might be a technical move while watching your climber, belaying him and getting your phone out of the waterproof pocket. This could be considered a really dumb move to some or an expert move to others. But at the end of the day if you can get your phone out for that epic iPhone shot, your stoke level will be twice as high when you’re bragging about it to your friends that night.

 I can’t express how awesome of a rock climbing pack the Salute is, this is what the she was built for! A stiff and sturdy bag that can turn into a ground rug for your rope is defiantly cutting edge.

Use caution when using all the pockets at once, it may lead you to forgetting which one you put your car keys in!

Repelling with the Salute

Repelling with the Salute


I have been ranting and raving about how awesome the Salute is for rock climbing, can it be used in the winter? Yes it can, that’s what I love about the Salute, year round use! I use the Salute right now for my main backcountry day bag. Skiing in the Alaska backcountry you never know what your going to run into, here is an average list of gear that I carry on my outings.

Patagonia Super Alpine Jacket

Patagonia Nano Puffy

Patagonia Nano Puffy Vest

Hestra Seth Morrison Three Finger Mitt

Hestra Fall Line Glove

Vintage K2 PBR Beany (pretty proud of it)

Extra Smartwool Socks

Black Diamond Momentum Harness

30m Blue Water 8.0mm Rope

Crevasse Rescue Kite

Black Diamond Serac Crampons

Black Diamond Raven Pro 60cm Ice Ax

Black Diamond Mole Hair Skins

BCA Profile 240 Probe

Black Diamond Deploy Shovel

Ultra Light First Aid Kit

Slope Inclinometer  (bragging rights for your steepness)

Snow Crystal Cheat Sheet

Swix CH10 Wax (to rub on skins)

Sigg 1L Water Bottle

Cliff Bar Shot Blocks

Candy (anything chewy and fruity)

Now a lot of people in the lower 48 are not going to be going into the backcountry with all this gear, however this shows that it can handle the load. Most outdoor sports are expensive, hence this backpack loves to carry all your expensive equipment; whether it’s getting thrown in dirt or covered in snow.

I have been talking a lot about the Snake-Loader™ Zipper on this bag and how awesome it is for rock climbing. However in the winter this zipper sometimes is hard to zip open; cold hands, cold weather, water, ice all lead to a challenging zipper. This zipper is bomb proof though; it keeps the elements out and your gear protected.

I talked about how I am always breaking buckles on this bag earlier and this could be why. They have four compression straps on the outside of the Salute; I think they work awesome for putting your skis on the bag. It works but my bindings are always resting on the buckles causing them to break.

Some people know there is an art to carrying an ice ax on your bag. The Salute has a Deployable ice-axe straps that makes it easy. It keeps your axe snug to your bag and the blade out of harms way.

My dream place to use this bag would be in the Bugaboo’s. Its full of glaciers and granite walls, imagine Yosemite put on a glacier. This bag would carry your rock climbing gear while your skinning across a glacier, and vise versa when you’re climbing the granite walls. 

Hiking Daypack

In all honesty how much stuff do you really need to bring on a day hike. Now days the trend for most outdoor enthusiasts is light and fast, Ueli Steck wannabes. If you want to suffer all day with few provisions go ahead, or grab your Salute, go slow, and enjoy the views.  This bag is great for a daypack; it has plenty of room, lots of zippered pockets, and is easy access to your goods.

Town Bag/Travel Daypack/School Bag

I don’t know if it’s just me but if you see someone walking around town or at school I always notice what kind of bag that person has on. A bag can tell you a lot about a person, if they’re a hipster, a hippy, a businessman, or a sick climber bro. I love walking around school or town with the Salute; it definitely makes me feel like a sick climber bro.

There is plenty of room for your schoolbooks! I attended four collage classes a day, that’s four textbooks and an old 2003 MacBook. Simple question, do you want to show everybody that you have a sick Colorado bag and that you’re a climber bro? YES!

Pre-Pow Salute

Pre-Pow Salute


The Mile High Mountaineering Salute 34L is a little on the high price at $229.00 ( checked 03-29-15). If you want a local, new brand backpack, you have to pay the price, sorry.


Lets face it, just about any outdoor sports these days involve expensive equipment. How are the people being treated and cared for that’s allowing you to enjoy your gear? In my geography class this semester we spent two weeks talking about this topic, such as fare trade agreement with coffee. How does this tie into Ethics?  Everything, how is this company treating the people that are making our products?


Generally speaking this is a fairly new company so I figure they are still working/evolving with these challenges. Hopefully as MHM gets bigger in this industry they will update us with this topic.


Whether you’re from Colorado or not, the Salute will make all your climbing friends jealous when you show up at the crag and, will be even more jealous when they see you using it to boot up a couloir in the winter.