The REI Mars 80 has quite the reputation, almost a cult-like following. Before buying this pack, I researched it like crazy. And the thing that jumped out at me is this: with how many people rave about this pack, there is not much on the web in terms of personal reviews. Sure, REI has great reviews on the Mars 80 but nothing in-depth. And everything else out there seems to be just a blanket statement or purchase encouragement. I would much rather talk about how I’ve used this pack and what my personal opinion is after owning it for a couple of years.
First of all, I’m a pretty big guy. 6’2″ and 220lbs. I have broad shoulders. I have a size large in this pack.
The REI Mars 80 is really comfortable. I’ve hiked miles with 55lbs on my back and it’s crazy how it balances and carries the load for you! It’s a pretty big pack but there are so many adjustable options, you can customize it down for a much smaller load. That’s actually one of my favorite features of this pack. I’ve used it quite a bit hunting with a very small load. Strap it down, carry some water, snacks, camera, as well as everything I would need if I’m successful and need to pack out an animal. It’s a joy to wear and really versatile in my opinion.
I also really like the multiple access points, yet very streamlined, simple features. You can unzip the entire main compartment when you’re packing up camp, or you can go through the top instead. The exterior pockets are great too. The pocket at the top has two small zippered sections to it. One for important small items: map, hunting license, etc.; and the other pocket for readily accessible small items: knife, headlamp, etc. There is also a great expandable pocket on the back middle that is perfect for food/snacks while hiking.
This thing fits me great, and that’s most important! It’s very adjustable and the staff at REI will help you get fitted for free if you’re not super experienced. The main thing here is torso length, so go get measured first and make sure you order the correct size. Once you’ve got that all figured out, this pack is easy to adjust and you can make really accurate adjustments that sometimes make a world of difference, especially with a heavy load.
Some other things about this pack that make me happy are:
– color, neutral grey
– lightweight, yet rugged tough
– easy on and off
– great buckles
– hydration reservoir compatible
I’m using my pack with a Sawyer 2-liter hydration system and a CamelBack bite valve. Everything works perfect together. For most product reviews I like to give some sort of con or an honest opinion of something I don’t love about the product. Unfortunately though, or I guess I should say fortunately, I have no dislikes or cons on this one. This is an absolutely perfect pack for me! I’m not an ounce counter. I’m not a crazy technical guru. I’m just a dude having a great time in the outdoors and doing my best to not leave all my money out there while still having great gear and staying comfortable. Who are you and what’s important to you?
You can pick up the REI Mars 80 exclusively through www.rei.com. Free shipping on orders over $50. It never goes on sale but the price of $200 is such a great value you can’t beat it. Maybe use a 20% off member coupon or an REI member dividend to make it even cheaper? That’s what I did. It’s sold out right now but this is a classic pack that they should continue to have throughout the year.