Hefting or hauling; however you’re moving large amounts of gear up a climbing or mountain route, you need a pack that’s not going to hinder you any more than it has to. As well as being fastidiously designed to meet the needs of climbers at every level, our range of technical climbing packs have the robust toughness of construction for reliability when it’s crucial.
Climbing with a pack is never going to be easy or particularly comfortable, but having the right pack that fits well and is stable makes a multi-grade difference to how you feel on a route. As well as keeping the weight as close to your back as possible, a good climbing pack will be clean-lined and narrow to avoid snagging and restricting your arms. But above all, the right pack for you will fit well: without a good fit the pack is useless for climbing.
When we’re talking about fit, we’re mostly meaning back length, as for any other technical pack. To find your back length, measure (or get someone else to measure) the distance from your C7 vertebra (the knobbly one at the base of your neck) to your iliac crest (the ‘shelf’ of your pelvis). For climbing and mountaineering, you’ll want a pack with a back panel that finishes a couple of inches below your shoulders when the hipbelt is done up comfortably round your hips, usually a couple of inches below your iliac crest – exactly where is up to you. The shoulder straps should follow the curve of your shoulders, they need to be an appropriate distance apart for your frame and there should be no daylight between you and your pack. That way the weight stays close and stable for best balance and you can look up easily to belay or check your route, even when wearing a helmet, because the pack is well out of the way.
Once you know what size will fit, design is the next consideration. A climbing pack needs to be as clean-lined as possible – external pockets and anything that protrudes could get snagged in a corner or chimney. The shape should be narrow, preferably tapered at the bottom too, so your elbows have somewhere to go when you’re getting gear off your harness. Plus of course you don’t want it sticking out behind you too far so the capacity will to a great extent be determined by your back length. It goes without saying that tough fabric is a good idea, but the weight difference between different fabrics isn’t going to make a huge difference to your overall load so unless you’re speed-climbing, don’t worry too much.
Then we come to features. The obvious required basics are a floating or removable lid, effective compression straps and a hipbelt of some description – simple webbing is great because it interferes less with your harness. Padded hipbelts are comfortable for the walk in and can be fastened round the pack for the occasional climb, but aren’t necessary for the amount of weight it’s reasonable to climb with. After that, a few extras can make your life easier, but simpler is often better as well as lighter.
Most of this holds true for mountaineering and mountain walking as well as climbing; fit is vital, clean lines are good and features can usually be an afterthought. Capacity becomes more important, as does comfort for long walks with heavier loads, but the general picture is similar.
If you’re having trouble finding the right technical climbing pack, we can help. Our team of seasoned outdoor enthusiasts have fitted more packs than they’ve had lukewarm camp food dinners so can guide or just discuss your options – give them a call or email for a friendly and experienced opinion.
Our packs are designed to last for years of everything that outdoor climbing entails, so you won’t need to change for a while. In the right pack you’ll barely feel that you’re carrying anything, so it’s worth investing the time to ensure your comfort on the ascent.