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ProView – Trango Mountain Vault

I had the pleasure of testing the Trango Mountain Vault Gear Bags – both the 42 and 72-liter sizes. These well-built, fully-featured, rugged bags stood up to everything I put them through and look almost brand new.

Trango Mountain Vault

Product Description: The Mountain Vault is designed with the needs of the explorer in mind. When traveling to remote destinations, protecting your gear becomes even more important. A lockable zipper combines with a waterproof/sealed body to protect your gear on anything from small trips to the remotest mountain destinations. The exterior features multiple tie down points for secure loading on anything with legs or wheels and customizable carry strap options make transport a breeze. The small 42L bag fits in to most airline carry on dimensions, and the large 122L swallows gear for even the largest expeditions, and the 72L is perfect for mid-sized loads.

Offer price: MSRP: $159.95 - $174.95

  • Quality
    (5)
  • Features
    (3.5)
  • Fit
    (4)
  • Durability
    (4)
  • Eco-Friendly
    (4)

Summary

Trango’s Mountain Vault bags are bulletproof, waterproof, durable bags that will haul whatever gear you need, wherever you’re going. The thoughtfulness that has gone into the design, from making the Vaults the correct checked bag size, to well-placed pockets, to waterproofed zippers, make the Vaults a top choice of expedition bag.

Overall
4.1

Pros

  • Very rugged, durable
  • Perfect size for airline travel

Cons

  • Adjusting the shoulder straps is a real pain

Performance

I have a few other expedition bags, so I’d like to start by framing the context in which I have viewed and, thus, used these bags. For me, these bags are about transportation. Their main goal is to get climbing and camping gear between point A and point B, whether by plane, bus, or bar. The tag that they came with seemed to show the 42 liter at the base of an ice climb as if they were used as an approach bag… I don’t think anyone would view them in that manner, so I won’t discuss the pros and cons of them in that application.

That being said, I primarily used these bags on a month-long climbing trip across the west. My travel was mostly by car, but I had the chance to fly with these bags on two separate airlines as well. 

Flying with the 72L Vault was a dream. Most airlines allow for 62 linear inches for a checked bag (this is calculated by simply adding up the length, width, and height of a bag, in inches). The Mountain Vault checks in at about 60 inches, depending on how stuffed it is. The same applies for the 42L size but in a carry-on capacity. Many airlines allow for 45 linear inches (more restrictions here because it has to fit in an overhead bin, usually around 22x14x9), and the 42L checks in around 43 linear inches.

Thus, the issues turns to weight. For almost all airlines, the checked bag weight limit is 50 pounds (Spirit is a notable exception at 40 pounds, more on that later). For my first flight, I was able to fit a really impressive amount of gear into 40 pounds. The full list (see photo):

  • Full double rack from BD .1 to 3, with a 4, 5, and 6
  • 70m, 9.8mm rope
  • 3 pairs of shoes: approach, climbing, trail running
  • Dozen alpine draws, dozen quickdraws
  • Harness and personal belay gear: belay device, GriGri, lockers, knife, quad-length sling, etc
  • Odds and ends: headlamp, water bottle, sunscreen, harness bottle
trango-mountain-vault-review-dirtbagdreams.com

All of that checked in around 40 pounds! Obviously, your mileage may vary depending on number, brand, etc, but I think the takehome is that everything (in the climbing kit) that one needs for a full climbing trip can fit into the 72L Mountain Vault. In terms of space, there was plenty of extra as well. 

The 42L size has served many different purposes on my trip. First, it was used to sequester off aid climbing gear: daisies, ladders, aid-specific protection, haul line, etc. I really only use this gear for aid climbing, so it was very helpful to be able to physically separate it and make gearing up for free climbs that much easier and less clustered.

In the latter part of my trip, the 42L served as a food storage bag. Buying groceries inside Yosemite Valley is prohibitively expensive, so the best beta is to stock up on dry goods several hours away. I typically don’t grocery shop for 10 days at a time when living out of my car (because of space and organization), but the 42L was a perfect place to stash and organize that much food. 

trango-mountain-vault-review-dirtbagdreams.com

Fit/Comfort 

The mountain vault is not comfortable to wear. But, no expedition bag that I’ve owned is. Thus, I don’t really consider this a detractor. The bags are designed to effectively haul gear, not to have big, padded straps for long approaches. The straps are long enough to accommodate almost any load size and body size combination, so no worries there.

Look/Style

I think these bags look great. The 500D PVC body has withstood many abrasions and scuffs, which keeps the bags looking great. At the end of the day, they look like expedition duffels, so they look cool because they allow us to do cool things.

Features

These bags are packed with features! I can’t list them all, but for simplicity, I’ll denote them in list format. First, the good:

  • 500D PVC waterproof body: short of immersion, I would trust these bags to keep anything dry, even in driving rain. The zippers are fully sealed, and you can obviously see water beading off of them (especially when you accidentally leave them out at camp during a rainstorm… see picture).
  • Soft handles: several climbing partners immediately commented on this aspect upon picking up the bags. The handles are surrounded by a super plush, foamy wrap that makes them very comfortable to carry. Especially when these bags are at a full 50 pounds, this makes a difference.
  • Pockets: I generally am of the persuasion that expedition duffels are meant to haul gear and not do much else, but the few included pockets are really well thought out and placed in good locations. Each bag has a small exterior pocket that’s great for car keys or bag tags. Also, they both have a big, mesh pocket on the underside of the lid. This was fantastic for storing easy-to-lose items like sporks, filters, spices, fifis, or gear-organizing slings.

And, a few of the features left something to be desired.

  • Zipper “lock point”: Maybe this is just an issue with the ambiguity of the English language, but the lock point won’t do any good against a thief with a knife (or scissors or a sharp pen…). The fabric could be easily ripped, and thus the lock point doesn’t offer much in the way of security outside of a quick, opportunistic thief. I suppose something is better than nothing, though! If Trango intends for this to be more of a lock point in the sense that the bag won’t open on its own, this makes more sense. I put a carabiner through this point to see if I liked the idea, but I think it’s mostly useless. As a plus to Trango though, it’s because of the solid zipper design that I don’t feel like the bag is going to randomly open up. 
  • Strap adjustment: I really, really disliked the strap adjustment mechanism. It was not intuitive to make the straps shorter, although it was easier to make them longer. It requires one to strategically “give slack” to one side of the strap in order to make the strap shorter on the other side. Take a look at the photo and let me know if I’m missing something, but the ~10 people who I asked to adjust the straps couldn’t figure it out easily right away. 

Weight/Packability

The 42L and 72L versions check-in at 2.44 and 3.13 pounds, respectively. The bags themselves come with plastic storage sleeves which allow for them to take up much less room in my closet when they are in storage. 

Durability/Construction

These bags are hefty. As soon as I picked them up I was impressed with the construction. Every single touchpoint on the bag is reinforced and durable, from the zippers, attachment points, straps, sidewalls, and mesh pockets. I cannot stress enough that I think these bags will last for years to come.

Friendliness to the Earth

I could not find any literature concerning Trango’s stance on eco-friendliness and environmentalism. There are a few different certifications that exist (Bluesign and stated non-usage of PFC waterproofing) that Trango does not carry.

The Final Word

Trango’s Mountain Vault bags are bulletproof, waterproof, durable bags that will haul whatever gear you need, wherever you’re going. The thoughtfulness that has gone into the design, from making the Vaults the correct checked bag size, to well-placed pockets, to waterproofed zippers, make the Vaults a top choice of expedition bag.

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About the Gear Tester

Outdoor Prolink Pro
Patrick O’Hare

Patrick O’Hare is a Senior Climbing Guide at Front Range Climbing Company. He has been working in outdoor education for eight years and loves helping individuals progress in their climbing careers. You can keep up with his climbing and photography @pjophoto. 

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