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.
Climbing Pack Reviews
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.
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.
“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.
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.
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.
“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.”
“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.
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.
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.
The light weight (about two pounds), adjustability, versatility, and pocketfocused design of The North Face Casimir pack ($129; thenorthface.com) 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.
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.