With spring rock-climbing-road-trip season upon us, and summer just around the corner, I thought it’s time to look at some packs designed specifically for rock cragging. Of course, any backpack, haul bag or even a large grocery bag will do, but these purpose-designed packs make the experience more enjoyable, and are much more convenient to drag from route to route than traditional packs. A dedicated cragging pack also saves your more expensive alpine packs the wear-and-tear of a summer’s rock climbing. I gathered four models, each with a distinct approach to organizing and transporting all your rock-cragging hardware, and compared them head-to-head.
As all these packs are rather unique in their design, it’s easier to describe and review their features with images.
Arc’teryx Miura 45 – 45L – $230
One of the most unique pack designs around, the Miura can be unzipped and accessed from pretty much every side, so no matter where that elusive piece of gear is you can get to it without emptying the whole pack. Multiple external pockets stash guidebooks, snacks and other essentials. Four grab / carrying handles also double as hanging points, allowing the Miura to be used as a rope bucket. The durable, high-denier nylon outer is padded all around for increased abrasion resistance (i.e. hard items don’t poke against the material from the inside, reducing the chance of wearing through from contact with rock). Exceptional carrying comfort and light weight (1200 grams on my scale) make this a capable multi-pitch pack, and the unique features make it useful on the wall as well. Though it is the most expensive pack here it’s incredibly versatile, and even doubles well as a carry-on for airline travel.
The Miura’s clean lines and compact shape disguise a clever design and spacious interior. Two external daisy chains accommodate a bungee and provide additional attachment points. This is the only pack without an external rope strap.
I stuffed the Miura with a 70m half-rope, double rack of cams to C4, shoes, extra jackets, plus all the usual personal kit and there was still room for snacks and water. A helmet won’t fit inside, though.
Arc’teryx’s attention to detail is evident everywhere: check out the little flap that protects the zipper on the pack’s bottom. There’s also a grab handle on the bottom, not quite sure what that one’s for…
Camp Roxback – 40L – $110
The Roxback is the cragging favourite thanks to it’s ease of packing, large capacity and massive outside mesh pockets that swallow water bottles and guidebooks alike. The back-panel zipper opening keeps the shoulder straps dirt-free, and large grab handles make it easy to move your gear from route to route. The Roxback carries very well thanks to well-contoured and generously-padded shoulder straps, though because it lacks a waistbelt and sternum strap, it isn’t ideal for overly long approaches. The Roxback is an incredible value at $110, and even includes a $30 Rocky Carpet rope tarp.
Edelrid Crag Bag II – 35ish – $90
The Crag Bag II’s unique feature is the built-in rope tarp. While this is a neat feature, it’s also the bag’s downfall: once at the crag, your bag becomes your rope tarp, and you don’t have anywhere to put all your other stuff. Packed lightly or for a short day, this isn’t generally an issue, but for longer days when I bring an extra jacket or two, a couple pairs of shoes, lots of water, snacks, etc. you need to bring along another container for all those things, or don’t use the built-in rope tarp feature. Beyond this, the Crag Bag II is a very simple pack, with a couple of pass-through pockets (same pocket accessible either from inside or outside), a daisy-chain for extra kit and a basic shoulder harness. The most specialized bag in this comparison, the Crag Bag II works great if you don’t pack as much extra stuff as I always seem to.
Patagonia Cragsmith – 35L – $150
The ski-pack inspired back-opening of the Cragsmith lets you access your gear without getting the straps and waistbelt dirty. It’s easy to rummage through for gear, and works great as a dump-bag when you just want to quickly throw stuff in and move to the next route. Padded sides give the pack structure, as well as increasing durability and abrasion resistance. Multiple pockets store essentials, while the main compartment is deceptively capacious and consistently fits more gear than I think it should. A large, padded waistbelt and comfortable shoulder straps carry well for extended periods, and the pack even climbs decently, though the hipbelt does get in the way a bit. The Cragsmith is a fantastic pack: spacious, versatile, and one I keep finding more uses for each time I take it out.
If I were to have only one of these packs, it’d be the Patagonia Cragsmith. I absolutely love the backpanel access, large guidebook pocket and other organizational features.
For multi-pitch days, long approaches and all-around versatility, the Arc’teryx Miura is hard to beat. Thanks to the fully-padded sides, it works well as a camera bag, too, and I’ve even carted my laptop through a couple airports with it.
I adore the Camp Roxback for it’s utter simplicity, and the ingenious back opening. It’s my favourite pack for rock cragging, easy to move from route to route and comfortable enough for those hot-even-when-shady height-of-summer approaches.
The Edelrid Crag Bag II is more of a rope-tarp than a cragging pack. If you’re the type that has a stash of gear at some crag, this is the bag for you: carry it up there once, and you have ready-to-go storage space for rope and gear in an easy to carry package.