Mountain Project Logo

What should I be looking for in a multi-pitch trad climbing pack?


Original Post
anotherclimber · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Apr 2016 · Points: 70

I've already looked at and tried on the Trango Ration Pack and Petzl Bug. 

My impression of the Trango pack is that the price is competitive, but it feels really flimsy. Like it would fall apart pretty quickly with lots of use. Particularly the shoulder straps. My assumption is that they are going for really light weight in the design at the expensive of durability. The haul option with the shell you put over it looks interesting, but I'm not sure that's really necessary for the moderate grades I'm leading at this point. And the lack of a top cover seems weird. Although if the material is not water proof it probably doesn't matter. 

The Petzl Bug seems much more durable. I like the option to put rope(s) over the top and have gear loops on the outside if I need to connect things on the exterior on a long approach. 

What features should I be looking for? And what packs might you recommend I look at besides these two?


Mike Mellenthin · · San Francisco, CA · Joined Nov 2014 · Points: 70

Packs are my favorite subject to rant about :)

Are you spending less than 8 hours on the route? Does the walkoff not require you to wear crampons or something weird like that? Clip your shoes and your water to your harness, put a bar in your pocket, and leave the pack behind.

Do you need a small pack? REI Flash 18 is cheap as heck and you can roll it up and stick it in your big pack for long approaches. That said my buddy has this tiny Blue Ice pack that I'm super jealous of.

Do you need a pack for an approach? Get a light 35-45 liter pack you can strip and climb in. I have an old BD Speed 40 pack with the frame sheet and padding ripped out. Big enough to carry stuff for an overnight, light enough and it rolls down small enough to climb in. The thing is falling apart though.

For a ~20L pack I think the ability to tie the rope on top is overrated -- it results in a super weird load. I usually just backpack coil the rope and put the flash pack on over that if it comes to it. YMMV though.

Brian Abram · · Celo, NC · Joined Oct 2007 · Points: 498

I have a Patagonia Linked, and it's really comfortable and durable. But I recently got a Tufa Mochilla, and it is more comfortable, slightly bigger, and it's replaced it. My wife likes how it rides slightly lower, and it doesn't get in the way when she looks up with a helmet on.

Twinboas · · Quincy, CA · Joined Apr 2013 · Points: 700

Patagonia ascensionist 35L with the internal frame removed. Bomber pack that holds a ton of stuff, carries weight well, and is durable. The new 2017 ascensionist sucks btw.

Sean H · · Salt Lake City, UT · Joined Dec 2008 · Points: 120

I have a Marmot Kompressor that I got on sale for like $30. It's very light and simple, and fits well in a bigger pack. I've had it for years, and it has plenty of signs of wear, but works well. It's carried my partner and my poop down from the Whitney/Russell zone, been to the Bugaboos, up multi-pitches in redrocks, and probably held some cans of beer into the odd concert or Psicobloc comp. Highly recommended.

anotherclimber · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Apr 2016 · Points: 70

Mike,

Thank you for the questions. That has helped me think through this. Any multi-pitch I do is going to only be no more than a single day, grade IV, and probably less in most cases. I believe the only situation where myself as the leader would need to wear a pack is multi-pitch with a long approach and walk off where we can't leave our big main packs at the base of the climb. And I would need to carry enough layers, water, and food. Any other situation I'd have the second wear the pack only. And your right, tying the rope over the top of the pack probably would not be super important, as whenever I've seconded with other partners we've always made a rope back pack over the top of small packs. This gives me food for thought. Thanks again.

rafael · · Berkeley, CA · Joined Jul 2009 · Points: 50

Durability is usually very important, if it's not, just get a hiking pack, no need for a climbing specific pack. I find I quickly destroy packs on rock when I climb. The other feature I think is absolutely necessary is a handle on the top, just a loop of webbing is fine. I always clip the bag to the belay power point to facilitate fast access to food, clothing, water, spare gear, etc

Kevin Heinrich · · Kinda All Over · Joined Mar 2013 · Points: 45

If simple, cheap, and replaceable interests you, check out the REI Flash 22 for $50. I have used it on hundreds of pitches at this point and it has held up great. It can hold a layer + double rack + harness + shoes + food for the approach no problem. It even fits a 70 meter rope for rope soloing if your into that.

Rich Brereton · · Pownal, ME · Joined May 2009 · Points: 140

You might want to lead with a backpack in the cold. If I'm climbing a multipitch route in the cold, I'll bring a belay jacket. If it's just a shell I can tie it around my waist, but if it's a puffy it needs to go in a bag. I want to throw it on as soon as I'm done leading a pitch - I don't want to wait for my partner to second and get the bag up to me. If the wall is steep and clean and the route straight I don't mind hauling, but if it's ledgy or loose or there are roofs or traverses it's better just to wear a pack (this all assumes there are no offwidths or chimneys that would disqualify wearing a pack). You can switch from hauling the pack to wearing the pack as each pitch demands.

If you're going to clip approach shoes to your harness or bag, as that Trango bag encourages you to do with its dedicated plastic clips, be sure to inspect the clip-in point on your shoes. Some of those pull-tabs are really weak. I had a pair of Patagonia sneakers where the pull-tab blew out with a gentle tug.

To be honest, both models you are looking at have a lot of external doodads that seem a tad unnecessary. Streamlined packs are less likely to get snagged on the way up, whether worn on your back or hauled. I've had good luck with BD bullet packs in the past and it seems like they have kept the newest model clean and doodad-free. They're a tad smaller than the packs you are looking at, 16L, which will keep you lighter. Hope that helps. Good luck!

Muscrat · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Oct 2011 · Points: 3,610

I have climbed a lot in the jet pack from mountain tools

https://www.mtntools.com/cat/mt/packs/02jet.html

strong enough to haul (i have too many chimneys with this tagged up on a sling), small enough to stash, well balanced. Not cheap, made in america.

Or the bullet from BD. uber light, small. Does not fit much (16L),  but on class IV or V, it works. 

Paul Deger · · Colorado · Joined Sep 2015 · Points: 35

It seems like packs are either 20 L or less or 30 L and more. I would really like 25 L for single day 3-4 pitch - anyone know of this size? 

anotherclimber · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Apr 2016 · Points: 70

Thanks for all of your responses. It was very much appreciated. I ended up going with the Petzl Bug. Durability seemed more important to me. 

Mark Hudon · · Lives on the road · Joined Jul 2009 · Points: 415

You'll throw away any of the Metolius Haul packs before they wear out.

Ryan Hamilton · · Orem · Joined Aug 2011 · Points: 20

OR used to make an 18L that I love. I'm surprised they don't have it anymore. The Petzl bug looks good, but I think I'd hate the daisy chain on it. Seems like it would catch on stuff too often. The BD Bullet looks good, but I'm not sure how durable it is. To the guy above that thinks multi-pitch packs are dumb. I don't understand why you think a back is more dumb than clipping a water bottle and a pair of shoes to your harness. I use a small 18L pack all of the time. My partner and I usually share it. The 2nd climber wears the pack and we trade off. Get to a shady spot and pull out your water and snack and then get back to climbing. 

Mike Mellenthin · · San Francisco, CA · Joined Nov 2014 · Points: 70
Ryan Hamilton wrote:

OR used to make an 18L that I love. I'm surprised they don't have it anymore. The Petzl bug looks good, but I think I'd hate the daisy chain on it. Seems like it would catch on stuff too often. The BD Bullet looks good, but I'm not sure how durable it is. To the guy above that thinks multi-pitch packs are dumb. I don't understand why you think a back is more dumb than clipping a water bottle and a pair of shoes to your harness. I use a small 18L pack all of the time. My partner and I usually share it. The 2nd climber wears the pack and we trade off. Get to a shady spot and pull out your water and snack and then get back to climbing. 

Assuming you are talking about me?

In any case I don't think they are dumb. I just think climbing at your limit is way more annoying when you have a pack on. I use an 18L too, mostly when I need to carry a jacket or more than a soda bottle full of water, and think it's a great option for all day free routes. OTOH I see a lot of people in the valley hauling the kitchen sink up 3 pitch routes. It sounds like you like having a pack and have a system that works -- sweet!

I also have a rant about wearing heavy and bulky approach shoes (as opposed to minimal runners or something) and bringing them on the climb when the climb is 20 minutes from the car, but I'll save it for another time.

I second Mark Hudon that the Metolius haul packs are indestructible.

OP: Petzl bug looks pretty cool and sounds like it would fit your needs.

Rich Brereton · · Pownal, ME · Joined May 2009 · Points: 140
Mark Hudon wrote:

You'll throw away any of the Metolius Haul packs before they wear out.

Do you mean they're indestructible, or that you'd throw them away because they suck? Or both?

Mark Hudon · · Lives on the road · Joined Jul 2009 · Points: 415

 I'm a total weenie, I don't like to climb encumbered with a water bottle, my shoes hanging from my waist, and a windbreaker wrapped around my harness. I'll gladly drag a pack. Max Jones and I essentially invented haul packs back in the 70s. 

 And really, come on guys, there's 1 million ways to skin this cat, and the best way to skin it for you, is the way you like.  It's not dumb or smart to drag a pack, it's not smart or dumb to carry it all on your waist, it's simply the way you like to do it. Don't add any more importance to it than that.

Mark Hudon · · Lives on the road · Joined Jul 2009 · Points: 415

They certainly don't suck. For the size pack we are talking about here, and it's intended use, they are probably the best pack out there. They are not the most comfortable pack you'll ever own, but they will be the most indestructible pack you'll ever own.

BigB · · Red Rock, NV · Joined Feb 2015 · Points: 340
Parker Wrozek · · Denver, CO · Joined Mar 2012 · Points: 83

What is with people tying a wind shell around their wasit? Just get a wind shell like the Patgonia Alpine Hoody which packed is as small as my hand and clips right to the harness. 


As far as bags go the Tufa climbing mochilla bag is nice. If you add a waist belt to it...might be pretty perfect. 

rgold · · Poughkeepsie, NY · Joined Feb 2008 · Points: 525

For long one-day rock routes, I'm a fan of the single pack for two people carried by the second.  If there are real chimneys in the offing, we install a tether on the pack so that the second can drop the pack and climb with it hanging from the harness belay loop.  Very occasionally we'll do a short haul with a loop of the climbing rope.  The packs get a little scratched up but don't see a lot of wear.  I had one of the original BD Bullets for many years, and I've now had an 18L Petzl Bug for quite a while. (Note: the daisy chain has never caught on anything...)  I like the Bug for its rectangular shape and the presence of compression straps to tamp down submaximal loads.  But the Bug is now a bit long in the tooth and on the heavy side compared with more recent offerings.

If there is any kind of doubtful weather, and maybe even if there doesn't seem to be, I've found out the hard way that is is a good idea to have a light waterproof shell clipped to the leader's harness, rather than in a pack which might be a rope-length away when the clouds open up

For shorter climbs or in places where we aren't going to get chilled, I'll just carry the light shell on my harness, try to get super well hydrated before the climb, and only carry a very small water bottle on route.  The lightest possible approach shoes also go on the harness.  I actually have the Mammut multipitch chalk bag pictured above by BigB and it is handy for storing a knife, a pair of short prusiks, some kind of energy bar or gels, and a cell phone.  There is a bungy cord for attaching a light windshirt, but I'm afraid of it coming loose. (There is a keeper clip which is hard to operate and not totally confidence-inspiring.)  Nowadays, a lot of windshirts and light shells stuff into a pocket and clip to the harness and I think that's a much better solution than bungying to the chalk bag.

If the weather, locale, or season make it possible that the belayer will get chilled before the second arrives with the pack and insulation, then it is worth considering having both climbers carry their own packs so the leader can throw on a jacket when they reach the belay.  A streamlined pack like the very comfortable and eminently haulable Patagonia Linked Pack (16L) with a rain shell and light down sweater or jacket is hardly noticeable while climbing, and I think it is hard to argue that a whole bunch o' stuff hanging off your harness is somehow better than having the items in a pack.  That said, I do like to keep the light approach shoes on the harness and out of the pack in order to keep pack weight and bulk down.

If the party is going to be carrying insulation that is not so compressible, i.e. fleece rather than down or synthetic insulation, or if they start out wearing midlayers that are shed later in the day as it warms up, then 16-18 L may be getting on the small side for two people.  I don't own one, but what looks to me like the best step up would be the Patagonia Ascentionist 25L pack if you can find one; Patagonia has stopped making that size.

I've never found it all that comfortable or convenient to carry a rope attached to a small-volume pack. My Petzl Bug has straps on the base of the pack that are truly worthless; the more recent Bug and most other packs have a strap on top for this purpose which is a little better.  Although it seems that people are actually forgetting how to do this, the good old mountaineers coil carried diagonally over the shoulder as in days of yore is actually the best solution.


Guideline #1: Don't be a jerk.

Post a Reply

Log In to Reply