The world of rock climbing is a world of gear, and all that gear needs is a place to go.
Enter the humble rock climbing backpack, a mix of the backpacker’s portable campsite and the construction worker’s toolbelt, the place where you’ll store your life-saving gear and life-improving snacks for all your climbing adventures.
Finding the right backpack can be like finding the right granola bar--to start, you’ll need to know what flavors you’re looking for. To do that, it’s worth knowing the features and functions that distinguish the types of bags. Here’s a quick rundown of four types of climbing backpacks, and the strengths of each.
Sport climbing is any climbing that relies on permanent hardware and requires you to carry less gear on both your approach and climb. Sometimes, the approach is just a drive to the indoor climbing gym, and you don’t even have to pack any snacks! As a result, sport climbing backpacks are generally lighter and more affordable than trad climbing packs and crag packs. This is a great bag to get not only if you’re starting out as a climber, but also if you’re a competitive climber looking to push the limits on established routes.
A trad pack is a standard for Trad climbing, in which climbers anchor themselves with gear like cams and nuts that are placed during the climb and then recovered. This means a trad climbing pack needs to carry a large amount of removable gear, additional layers of clothing, and (perhaps most importantly) snacks across potentially irregular terrain. A good trad climbing pack balances ease of access with portability.
A crag pack is the truck of bags, a sturdy all-rounder used for carrying your climbing equipment on the approach. A good climbing crag pack will have spacious compartments with
multiple zippers or clasps for quick and easy access to your gear. Some packs are light and well-padded, designed for short approaches, while others are bigger and more rugged for climbs where you have a long or tough hike before climbing can begin. They should also be big enough to carry any extra layers of clothing, and of course snacks.
Rope bags are more like tarps fashioned into durable bags and are designed to protect your ropes. A good rope bag is tough enough to take all the bumps and scrapes you might encounter on the way to the crag, and big enough to hold all your ropes without tangling while providing easy access. It may also double as a tarp, able to unfurl and cover a section of ground to keep the dirt out of your rope.
Whether you’re gearing up to move to the next level of trad climbing, or looking for some high quality used climbing gear to try sport climbing for the first time, having the right climbing bag is as important as having the gear and snacks that go in it. With this knowledge on your brain rack, may you climb on and find the climbing pack that suits you!