Climbing Pack Reviews

Whether you need a crag pack or an expedition-style backpack, Climbing magazine's reviews will help you choose the right one. Bullet packs, crag bags, ice packs—you'll find them all in Climbing's comprehensive reviews.
  • Gear: 6 Crag Dog Essentials

    Gear: 6 Crag Dog Essentials

    Gear picks for your favorite climbing partner.

  • HPGearGuide15Alpine

    Climbing Gear Guide 2015: Alpine

    Weight, versatility, durability, and weather resistance are of the utmost importance in the high country. Here are 12 products that meet and beat all the requirements.

  • HPECAlpine

    Gear Guide 2014: Alpine

    Rock, ice, or snow, these 12 tester-approved toys will get you to the top.

  • HPECTrad

    Gear Guide 2014: Trad Climbing

    From cams to carabiners to shoes, here are 18 of the best new products for plug-and-chuggers.

  • ECSport

    Gear Guide 2014: Sport Climbing

  • HPEC

    Gear Guide 2014: Editors' Choice Awards

    Innovative, smart, lust-worthy, and just plain cool: 10 new must-have products that topped our testers’ lists.

  • $59;

    Summit or Bust

    Whether you’re stuffing a five-ounce model into a larger pack or you’re leaving the car with one pack on your back, we’ve got a choice to suit your needs.

  • Camp-Roxback-Pack

    CAMP Roxback Pack

    Drop it right in the dirt, unzip, and go—a full-length zipper against your back (we promise you won’t even feel it) allows the Roxback to lie on the ground in a more accessible and clean position (no more putting the grimy side against your sweaty back). The frameless design keeps the weight minimal at 1 lb., 10 oz., but the 40-liter capacity still easily fits a day’s worth of sport climbing gear and then some.

  • Millet-Prolighter-38

    Millet ProLighter 38 + 10

    Shoulder season in Colorado is an all-around climber’s dream—and this might just be the ultimate all-arounder pack. Whether targeting remote trad lines at Lumpy Ridge on crisp fall days, early-season water ice, or wintercondition alpine in Rocky Mountain National Park, the ProLighter handled every load well and was comfortable and stable to carry. “A rack, helmet, layers, food, and rope easily disappear in this pack,” said one tester.

  • Black-Diamond-Speed-22

    Black Diamond Speed 22

    Somewhere between a bullet pack and a full-sized cragging or alpine sack, the frameless Speed 22 is ideal for stripped-down missions where deftness and agility are more important than pure carrying comfort. “This was my favorite pack for solo scrambles when I needed to carry a rope and harness for the rappels,” said one tester.

  • Marmot-Sphinx-15

    Marmot Sphinx 15

    “I normally loathe taking packs through chimneys, but this one held up really well to abrasion, and the compression straps on either side make cinching it down easy,” our tester said. Hopping from crag to crag in Eldorado Canyon, she comfortably carried water, two jackets, and a guidebook.

  • Millet-Axpel-42

    Millet Axpel 42

    Swiveling waistbelts and “dynamic suspension” are becoming pretty common among packs, but for its new line of mid-sized packs, Millet is doing something unique. The pivot point lies several inches above the lumbar pad, in the middle of your lower back. Our testers said these innovations significantly increased stability and carrying comfort: “It moved with me when I was boulder-hopping on the way to the Petit Grepon in Rocky Mountain National Park,” one tester said.

  • Pieps-Alpinist-Pro

    Pieps Alpinist Pro

    A “workhorse for a variety of climbing” is how our main tester described the burly, 36-liter Alpinist Pro after using it for everything from ice routes in Washington’s Cascades to rock climbs in Arizona’s Cochise Stronghold. Despite weighing only 2 lbs., 10 oz., the pack has plentiful features.

  • The-North-Face-Casimir

    The North Face Casimir

    “I used the 27-liter version for everything: winter gym sessions, ice climbing in Chamonix, bouldering in Joe’s Valley, Utah, and sport climbing throughout the Front Range,” one tester said. “The suspension system is minimalist but a pleasure to wear all day.”

  • Moon-Climbing-Aerial-Pack

    Moon Climbing Aerial Pack

    “Its charm and perfection come from what it lacks,” said a tester who took this 38-liter pack out for multi-pitch days in Eldorado Canyon, Colorado, through the winter. “It’s refreshingly simple with no bottle openers, crampon patches, or ice tool loops. Just functional and sturdy.” Credit a design that’s catered specifically to rock climbing.

  • First-Ascent-Bacon

    Eddie Bauer First Ascent Bacon

    Many “summit packs” are little more than stuff sacks with shoulder straps, but the Bacon is as hearty as its namesake. Ultralight (23 oz.) but tough, the 28-liter Bacon has a lightly padded back and internal webbing “skeleton” that kept loads centered squarely on the back and made it comfortable to carry modest loads up to 15 lbs.

  • Millet-Cliff-Org-32

    Millet Cliff Org 32

    This is a pack that makes you say, “Why didn’t I think of that?!” The outside is cleanly designed: The top has a recessed area and buckle to nestle a rope with two side compression straps to keep it in place. Two grab handles (one on top and one in the middle on the outside) make it easy to throw around from car to crag.

  • North-Face-Casimir-Pack

    The North Face Casimir

    The light weight (about two pounds), adjustability, versatility, and pocketfocused design of The North Face Casimir pack ($129; made it one of the best medium-sized bags we tested. We carried it on daily gym outings one week and to Chamonix, France, for some ice climbing the next week and found it fitting for both uses.

  • Gregory-Alpinisto-35-158

    Pack Mules

    Finding a pack that is perfect for everything from trad cragging to backcountry pursuits can make you feel like a whiney Goldilocks. It should be comfortable and stable enough to haul a double rack, food, layers, and water five miles or more into the alpine, but light and trim enough to stay out of the way when leading a crux pitch 500 feet off the deck.

  • Get Organized

    Perhaps the worst part about trad climbing is tripping over that $1,500 glorified weight belt slung over your shoulder. We tested the Hummingbird Hover gear sling/pack system ($59.95; on trad routes throughout Colorado and found it was a superb alternative to a traditional over-the-shoulder gear sling.

  • Wild-Things-Guide-Pack-158

    Just Enough

    How much space do you really need in a pack? The 26-liter capacity of the Wild Things Guide Pack ($175, definitely raised my eyebrows. It’s minimalist for sure—no external pockets; the waistbelt is nothing but two-inch webbing; and there’s no framesheet, just a removable pad. But it proved to be just enough for all my multi-pitch days, especially as an “up and over” pack for climbs where we didn’t return to the base of the route.

  • No Tip Necessary

    No Tip Necessary

    The Edelrid Caddy's ($44.95; shoulder strap orients the broad, low-profile bag sveltely under your arm for easy carrying. The generous tarp features innovative grab loops on each corner that allow you to transport the rope easily between nearby climbs without folding everything up completely—no more dropping one corner and having the climbing rope spill out into the dirt.

  • Stoic Welded Haul Duffel

    2012 Gear Guide: Packs

    9 new packs tested and reviewed, from rope bags for sport climbing to alpine sacks for lightweight ascents.

  • Bag tester Drew Thayer postholes his way into Kolob Canyon in Zion National Park in March. Photo by Noah Gostout

    U-Haul Crag Bags

    Seven user-friendly crag bags for short approaches - Picture this: You’re in Rifle, Colorado, land of the car-belay, and you need to get your rope, draws, shoes, cell phone, post-send libations, and some sustenance all of 20 yards away. You left your big pack at home because, after all, it’s Rifle, and you don’t need backpacking-style suspension. Plus, going elbow-deep into a top-loading pack to find a brush or lost draw is beyond annoying.

  • GG-Vaude-UL-Comfort_31453.jpg

    2011 Gear Guide: Packs

    How should you carry your gear for a long rock climb with a big approach? Do you choose the behemoth backpack that swallows everything, and then leave it at the base? Or do you go with a teeny leader pack for climbing, and be forced to hike in and out with your harness on and gear jangling around the outside of the thing? Fortunately, a third option exists: the stuffable pack. These designs have been around in various forms for a while, but in recent years, more pack manufacturers seem to have gotten serious about them.

  • EC-Singing-Rock-Crux_31219.jpg

    2011 Gear Guide Editors' Choice

    After months of testing on hundreds of routes, we offer up our picks for the most innovative, useful, and just damn good gear of the year. The Singing Rock Crux, Mammut Smart Alpine, Black Diamond Gridlock Screwgate, Petzl Grigri 2, Five Ten Arrowhead, Arc'Teryx Squamish Hoody, Beal Joker 9.1, North Face Verto, and Salewa Rapace GTX all won our high praises and took home the Editors' Choice Award.

  • From Monsters to Bastards - No. 246

    From Monsters to Bastards - No. 246

    A year and a half ago, I noted in our leashless tool review that the designs then available were only a precursor of shapes to come.

  • Wild Things Ice Sac - Alpine Pack Review

    Wild Things Ice Sac - Alpine Pack Review

    Solid, clean, functional, and lightweight — Wild Things has hit every base in its bid to create a real alpinist’s pack.

  • Vaude Expedition Rock - Alpine Pack Review

    Vaude Expedition Rock - Alpine Pack Review

    Germany-based Vaude has recently returned to the U.S. market, and if this pack and its two-figure price tag are any indication, it’s going to give the home crowd a run for the money.

  • REI Talus - Alpine Pack Review

    REI Talus - Alpine Pack Review

    Some loved the full-length side zipper that gave them ready access to buried gear without having to unbuckle, unfasten, and unload. Others saw this as a blow-out waiting to happen.

  • MontBell Lightweight - Alpine Pack Review

    MontBell Lightweight - Alpine Pack Review

    Although MontBell is a company dedicated to the principle of “fast and light,” this pack practically forces the user to go heavy.

  • Marmot Alpinist - Alpine Pack Review

    Marmot Alpinist - Alpine Pack Review

    It’s an impressive pack, very comfortable to carry, and very light, but the design has complexities, features, and downright shortcomings that render it less than ideal for the alpine arena.

  • Lowe Alpine Mountain Attack - Alpine Pack Review

    Lowe Alpine Mountain Attack - Alpine Pack Review

    Here’s a state-of-the-art wolf in yesterday’s clothing. The Mountain Attack’s unadorned, retro styling belies the notion that materials and designs must be high-tech to make the grade.

  • Granite Gear Alpine Light - Alpine Pack Review

    Granite Gear Alpine Light - Alpine Pack Review

    As the company’s name implies, Granite Gear makes equipment that will stand up to punishment, and this pack is a good example.

  • Cold Cold World Chernoby - Alpine Pack Review

    Cold Cold World Chernobyl - Alpine Pack Review

    Clean, smart, and utilitarian, the Chernobyl is a pack designed for climbing. There is no internal frame and the capacity is on the smallish end of the spectrum — but we didn’t mind a pack that reminds us to keep it light.

  • Black Diamond Shadow - Alpine Pack Review

    Black Diamond Shadow - Alpine Pack Review

    At first glance, the Shadow’s 210d SilNylon fabric seems woefully lightweight for mountain warfare, but after stepping on it with a crampon and then watching as the fabric self-healed the punctures to nearly invisible pinholes, it made a believer out of me.

  • Arc’teryx Needle - Alpine Pack Review

    Arc'teryx Needle - Alpine Pack Review

    The workmanship is a thing of beauty and the packbag fabric is bomber, and whenever we had to fish something out, we appreciated the fact that it’s light-colored on the inside.

  • Alpine Pack Review - No 230 - April 2004

    Alpine Pack Review - No 230 - April 2004

    We’ve scrutinized the newest generation of high-tech rucksacks and assembled a choice selection.