When it comes to climbing, the best climbing packs you carry your gear in can be just as important as the gear itself. Climb difficulty, the length of the approach, the type of gear necessary, and several other factors influence what specific pack will best suit your needs. Here is a breakdown of the types of climbing bags and some tips on how to choose.
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Table of Contents
- Types of Climbing Packs
- How to Choose a Climbing Bag?
- Best Climbing Packs on the Market Review
- 1. Mammut Neon Gear - High End
- 2. Petzl Bug Climbing Pack
- 3. G4Free 40L Foldable Backpack - Best Budget
- 4. Metolius Speedster Bag - Best Rope Bag
- 5. Tendon Rock Climbing Backpack
- 6. Mountaintop 75L Backpack - Best for Alpine Climbing Trips
- 7. Cotopaxi Tarak 20L Climbing Pack - Trendiest
- 8. Black Diamond Bullet 16 Backpack
- 9. Wasing Backpack
- 10. Black Diamond Crag Backpack
Types of Climbing Packs
Perfect for beginner climbers to crag frequent flyers, crag packs are designed for durability and accessibility. These are the most common backpacks for mid-level climbers who aren’t hauling too much gear and don’t need the lightweight options necessary for multi-pitch summits. While crag-specific backpacks will include features designed just for rock climbing, daypack backpacks and hiking backpacks will also get the job done at the crag.
Depending on the specific size, crag packs are used to carry rope, harnesses, shoes, chalk bags, quickdraws, snacks, and water through the approach to the crag. Since crag approaches tend to be less accessible than other hiking routes with overgrown greenery and sharp rock scrambles, backpacks designed specifically for the crag are often made out of more durable material including Cordura and ripstop nylon. This also means they can be worn up the wall if need be.
An effective crag pack will have ample outer loops for clipping gear that needs to be easily accessible and several handles for easy movement between sections of the crag. Crag packs will range from roughly 30 liters to 50 liters in size. If you plan to transport rope in your crag pack, opting for the 50 liter option would ensure additional space for the rest of your gear. If you have a separate rope bag, a 30 liter crag pack will typically have more than enough space for gear, snacks, and essentials.
Multiple-Day Mountaineering Packs
Planning to wander into the wilderness with all the gear necessary to climb and survive? These larger 40 liter to 70 liter backpacks can accommodate all the gear needed for multiple-day rock climbing and mountaineering trips including rope, quickdraws, harnesses, climbing shoes, camping gear, and multiple-days worth of food and water. These backpacks will generally have fewer outside access points and opt instead for a top-loading design in order to streamline the bag for long treks and climbs. Similarly, these bags tend to have fewer outside loops and pockets for clipping gear to as immediate accessibility is less of a concern when you’re hiking longer distances between crags. These backpacks also come in a variety of options for ice climbing and cold weather trips.
These bags are designed specifically to carry your lifeline wherever you need to go — whether that’s through a short approach to the crag or up the side of a multi-pitch cliff face. Some rope bags will unzip into tarps to keep rope and other gear off the dirt at the base of routes (one less thing for you to carry separately). Depending on the type of climb and the type of gear, sometimes a rope bag has all the extra space, loops, and nooks and crannies to carry everything necessary for a day at the crag — just clip a harness and shoes to the outside of the rope bag and you’re ready to go.
Other rope bags are smaller designed just for the rope to be clipped onto crag packs or multiple-day mountaineering packs as an attachment. Ropes, of course, can be coiled and carried in crag packs or other backpacks — but the design of a rope bag goes the extra mile to ensure one of the most important pieces of gear is protected and maintained.
These packs are great for beginner climbers who aren’t quite ready to venture out onto the real rock or seasoned climbers in metropolitan areas where a climbing gym is more accessible than daily trips to the crag. Climbing gym bags range in style and design from a typical gym bag to a smaller backpack — both effective designs depending on personal preference. Climbing gym bags need to carry shoes, chalk, a harness, and office gear. They generally feature separate internal pockets to store climbing gear and office gear because laptops and chalk don’t exactly mix well. These bags may have fewer outer loops than other types of climbing bags in order to keep valuable gear secure in non-climbing environments.
Boulder Bags and Multi-Pitch Summit Packs
This type of climbing bag is similar in size to climbing gym bags, but that is essentially where the similarities stop. Designed to be a small, lightweight addition to a not-so-lightweight, unwieldy crash pad or the lightest, most effective way to carry the bare minimum weight up a multi-pitch cliff face, boulder bags and multi-pitch summit packs are designed to carry just the essentials that don’t already fit on a harness.
Essentially smaller versions of crag packs, boulder bags and multi-pitch summit packs will have outer loops for clipping gear that needs to be immediately accessible without getting in the way. In the case of multi-pitch summit packs, almost all of your gear will be attached to your harness — the pack just needs to be large enough for food, water, and additional layers for that top route wind. These packs range from 10 to 20 liters and can fit inside larger climbing bags for multiple-day trips with a range of climb types.
How to Choose a Climbing Bag?
Different climbing bags are designed with different types of openings which can impact accessibility. Depending on the type of climb, accessibility can impact anything from convenience to safety. Top loading climbing bags are typically streamline in design and make it easy to make sure gear is packed and secure. However, if your climbing shoes are at the very bottom of the bag there’s only one way to get through them — through the top. While other styles of opening are common in climbing bag design such as clamshell openings or burrito openings, the second most common after top loading bags is the hybrid design — a large, top-loading pocket with side zippers for easy access to items buried deeper in the bag.
Sizing and Comfort
Having an appropriately sized bag will make all the difference in comfort. This is especially important for the multiple-day climbing backpacks — carrying 70 liters worth of gear for any significant distance isn’t exactly easy, and it gets less easy with a pack that isn’t sized correctly. The length of the torso and waist measurements are a more accurate way to size hiking bags than just height. Load lifter straps and sternum straps are also something to consider depending on the amount of weight you plan to carry.
It may seem like a small feature, but a climbing bag’s ability to extend can make all the difference in certain situations. Some climbing bags are designed with tarps that extend out to protect rope on the ground — dirt can have detrimental effects on climbing rope and, as a result, climber safety. Some climbing bags even fold out into loungers for that crag session fifth hour nap. Other climbing bags include top tie-down tarps that allow a little extra space for after a day of climbing when your arms don’t have the energy to coil the rope back up quite as tightly as it was at the beginning of the day.
Best Climbing Packs on the Market Review
1. Mammut Neon Gear - High End
Best for: Crag Pack
Weight: 3.3 lbs.
Size: 9.8 x 5.9 x 6.7
Capacity: 45 liters
Specs: Built-in rope bag, large back opening, internal gear loops, aluminum internal frame, 420-denier Triton ripstop nylon, top lid pocket
Pros: As one of the top rock climbing brands, a Mammut bag is guaranteed to be specifically engineered for exactly what a rock climber needs. Everything about this bag from the internal gear loops to the climbing shoe mesh pocket to the ripstop nylon is designed for a day at the crag. It even includes a built-in rope compartment, removable rope tarp, and a stowable rope attachment strap on top of the pack. The large top-loading option allows for quick gear packs while inner and outer daisy chain loops allow for plenty of storage options. With a 45 liter capacity, the Mammut offers the capability for multiple-day trips or crag sites that might call for some extra gear such as meals or hiking boots.
Cons: This bag comes with a steeper price tag than a lot of the other options available on Amazon. It also features only one external, compact pocket for essentials like wallets or keys.
2. Petzl Bug Climbing Pack
Best for: Multi-Pitch Summit Pack/Boulder Bag
Capacity: 18 liters
Specs: Large exterior pocket, small accessories pocket, hydration system compatible, , high quality durable nylon
Pros: Petzl is another one of the more tried and true rock climbing brands so you can be confident that the gear is durable, effective, and will last through years of crag trips. The Petzl Bug is designed to sit snugly against your body — perfect for rock scrambles on the approach and keeping gear tight to your body for multi-pitch summits. The last thing you need during a multi-pitch climb is your gear catching on a rock or tree. With 18 liters of capacity, this pack can fit the snacks and essentials needed for a multi-pitch or shoes and chalk for a day bouldering. For bouldering trips, the Petzl features a daisy chain strap down its center to securely attach quickdraws, chalk bags, or whatever other gear you may need. Moving to a metropolitan area? The Petzl Bug’s compact design means it’s just as effective as a gym climbing bag as an outdoor climbing bag.
Cons: Depending on size and color preferences, this bag gets a little pricey for its size.
3. G4Free 40L Foldable Backpack - Best Budget
Best for: Crag Pack
Weight: 12.7 oz
Capacity: 40 liters
Size: 22.8 x 13.4 x 7.8
Specs: High quality water and tear resistance nylon fabric, folds to 9.4 x 7.8 x 3.9
Pros: This bag’s claim to fame is certainly its weight and its price tag. The G4Free Lightweight Foldable 40 lb Travel Daypack is deceivingly durable considering its lightweight material. Despite how small the pack can fold, it can also carry everything you need for a day trip to the crag. At under $20, it’s far cheaper than any crag pack designed by brands such as Black Diamond, Patagonia, or Mammut — but it does the same job. With one main compartment, two top pouches, a front spandex pouch, and outer loops, this pack sports all the specs to comfortably carry your gear. The foldability of the bag also makes it great for those multi-day trips to different crags — use the bag for a day trip to the crag and then store it before continuing your longer journey.
Cons: In order to shave down on weight, the G4Free is not particularly well padded. While this won’t impact a day trip to the crag with a short approach, this bag may not be the right call for a longer hike.
4. Metolius Speedster Bag - Best Rope Bag
Best for: Rope Bag/Boulder Bag
Weight: 3.08 lbs.
Size: 21 x 14 x 3
Specs: Includes 52” x 58” tarp
Pros: The Metolius Speedster Bag has the capability and capacity to be a boulder bag (shoes, harness and chalk etc,) a rope bag — or both. The Metolius Speedster has enough room for but not limited to a 70 m rope, shoes, harness, draws, and a chalk bag. The bag comes with additional zippered pockets for small items like wallets, keys, gopros etc. With both a top-load opening and a front zipper pocket, accessibility is no issue. As one of the more prominent rock climbing brands, Metolius gear is guaranteed to be durable and last through countless trips to the crag. If multiply ropes are needed for your climbs, this bag can be designated for just rope and attached to a larger backpack. In addition, Metolius includes a built in 52” x 58” tarp to protect your rope at base ground
Cons: This bag lacks the outer loops that other boulder bags have for clipping gear.
5. Tendon Rock Climbing Backpack
Best for: Crag Pack, Trad Climbing Pack
Size: 22.2 x 8.4 x 6.5
Weight: 4 lbs.
Capacity: 45 liters
Specs: Includes 55” x 47” coated rope tarp made with durable water resistant material, backpack made of durable polyester with a polyurethane coating, clamshell zipper design, external tightening straps
Pros: While Tendon is a less prominent rock climbing brand, its backpacks feature a lot of the same specifications and capabilities as the higher end rock climbing bags such as a built in tarp. The backpack itself is made of a durable polyester material with a clamshell zipper design for easy access. The external tightening straps allow for additional gear — although the 45 liters of space within the backpack easily allow storage space for rope, shoes, harnesses, quick draws, snacks, water, and other essentials. The backpack includes hanging loops and mesh storage spaces specifically designed for storing gear and the outer pocket is just the right size for a phone, wallet, and guidebook. To top it all off, this backpack’s foam backing is removable for lounging
Cons: The Tendon Rock Climbing Backpack is similarly designed to Trango’s but slightly more expensive. Depending on brand preferences, you could save roughly $30 by opting for Trango as an alternative.
6. Mountaintop 75L Backpack - Best for Alpine Climbing Trips
Best for: Multiple-Day Backpacking/Climbing Trips, Trad Climbing Pack
Weight: 4.8 lbs.
Size: 13 x 11.4 x 32.7
Capacity: 75 liters
Specs: Daisy chains for outer gear storage, hydration system compatible, high capacity for gear, 8 compression straps, nylon
Pros: Mountaintop has been designing hiking backpacks for more than 30 years. For multiple-day climbing trips, this is the bag to have. Capacity options include 55 liter, 75 liter, and 80 liter — so no matter what your adventure, there’s a Mountaintop bag the right size. The eight external compression straps are perfect for attaching rope bags or crag packs between climbing sessions. While the bag offers a top loading design, it also features zippered front access to quickly reach the gear you need from the main compartment. The back of this backpack also adjusts to varying lengths which makes it both versatile and comfortable for any individual taking to the trails for an extended period of time. And the built-in rain cover will keep gear dry during rainy treks and nights between crags.
Cons: With how much capacity these packs can handle, the shoulder straps are a little light on padding depending on preference.
7. Cotopaxi Tarak 20L Climbing Pack - Trendiest
Best for: Day-trip Crag Pack
Weight: 1 lb. 3 oz.
Capacity: 20 liters
Size: 21 x 8.5 x 8
Specs: Dynagrin ripstop nylon, internal hydration sleeve
Pros: The Cotopaxi Tarak is one of the trendiest climbing backpacks available on Amazon. Cotopaxi boasts individually designed backpacks — manufactured in the Philippines, creators are given creative license to use whatever remnant material color fabric they choose so every backpack is different. On top of being trendy and environmentally friendly, the Cotopaxi 20L is durable, features a hydration sleeve and is designed with a zippered front pocket and top lid for easy accessibility. The pack also includes several diagonally crossed external straps perfect for clipping gear, shoes, chalk bags, and anything else you need for a day at the crag. At 20 liters, the Cotopaxi is perfect as a day-trip crag pack, boulder back, or even a multi-pitch summit pack.
Cons: The Cotopaxi only has one easily accessible outer pocket and, because of the environmentally production process, the material is not particularly waterproof. While this generally doesn’t cause problems for day trips, the Cotopaxi might not be ideal for longer trips with unpredictable weather.
8. Black Diamond Bullet 16 Backpack
Best for: Day-Trip Crag Pack, Gym Bag, Multi-Pitch Summit Pack
Weight: 1.1 lbs.
Capacity: 16 liters
Size: 18 x 11 x 3
Specs: Hydration system compatible, removable foam backpanel, external zippered pocket, internal mesh pocket, 420d nylon and 1260d ballistic nylon
Pros: At 16 liters, this Black Diamond pack is perfect for a whole range of climbing capabilities. The backpack’s streamlined design means it would work well as a multi-pitch summit pack for food, water, and cold weather essentials. The lack of external gear hooks and varied internal pockets means it also serves well as a gym bag for metropolitan areas. And the durable material of the bag makes it effective for day-trip bouldering trips. This pack also includes a removable foam backpanel for crag lounging.
Cons: This backpack almost wants to be a crag pack. However, it lacks the external gear storage and capacity to be versatile enough for the crag.
9. Wasing Backpack
Best for: Crag Pack, Trad Climbing Pack
Weight: 3 lbs.
Capacity: 55 liters
Size: 27 x 12.5 x 10
Specs: Internal zippered divider, molded back panel, aluminum internal frame, bottom zipper access with rain cover, hydration system compatible
Pros: While it has the same capacity as the Mammut Neon Gear, the Wasing hiking backpack is a fraction of the cost. With a molded backpanel, internal frame, bottom zipper access, and internal zipper divider, the Wasing backpack includes all the storage features crucial for keeping gear organized during a trip to a crag. At 55 liters, this pack has more than enough room to accommodate rope, shoes, harness, quick draws, guidebooks, water, snacks, and other essentials. The molded foam back panel keeps you cool for longer approach hikes and the rain cover and water resistant ripstop nylon will keep all your gear dry.
Cons: This bag lacks the same adjustability technology that some other higher capacity hiking backpacks offer — pay attention to sizing when purchasing. The straps also start to get uncomfortable once the backpack has been loaded up with roughly 35 lbs. of gear.
10. Black Diamond Crag Backpack
Best for: Crag Pack
Weight: 1 lbs.
Capacity: 40 liters
Size: 22 x 15 x 4
Specs: full-length zipper for alternate access, external accessories pocket, integrated rope strap, top loading design with drawcord closure
Pros: The Black Diamond Crag backpack is another bag specifically designed to effectively store rope, shoes, harnesses, quick draws, and everything else you need for a trip to the crag. The top loading design makes it easy to keep gear secure and load everything up at the end of the day — but full length side zippers also allow for easy access to different gear throughout the day. External accessories pockets are perfect for wallets, keys and guidebooks. The bag also includes a specifically designed integrated rope strap.
Cons: This crag pack is cheaper than the Mammut option but significantly more expensive than the Wasing backpack option.
While the more mainstream climbing brands may only be available through companies like REI and Backcountry, these backpacks do the same job — sometimes for a fraction of the cost. With the wide range of climbing backpacks available here, there’s a durable, effective, best climbing packs perfect for whatever climbing adventure you choose to go on.