Comparison Review: Cragging Packs

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.

TheAlpineStart_Arcteryx_Miura_45-1The 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.

TheAlpineStart_Arcteryx_Miura_45-2The backpanel is slightly pre-curved, and rigid to prevent lumpy cams from digging into your back. The shoulder straps and waistbelt, though simple, are comfortable even for long hauls.

TheAlpineStart_Arcteryx_Miura_45-3Four grab-handles are positioned on each side of the pack, making it easy to carry around, but also work as hanging loops.

TheAlpineStart_Arcteryx_Miura_45-4The top pocket is BIG.

TheAlpineStart_Arcteryx_Miura_45-5Zippered front pockets fit a guidebook but are spacious enough for extra gear or clothes.

TheAlpineStart_Arcteryx_Miura_45-6The front pockets are stacked on top of each other, so if you stuff one full, the other won’t fit much more stuff…

TheAlpineStart_Arcteryx_Miura_45-7There’s yet another pocket underneath the ‘top’ lid. Shown here is the most ‘traditional’ top-loading way to open up the Miura.

TheAlpineStart_Arcteryx_Miura_45-8It has a key-clip and enough room for a phone, wallet, etc.

TheAlpineStart_Arcteryx_Miura_45-9My favourite way to access the pack is on its side, like a suitcase.

TheAlpineStart_Arcteryx_Miura_45-10I 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.

TheAlpineStart_Arcteryx_Miura_45-11You can also fully open up the pack, at which point it’s long enough to function as a sleeping pad — perfect for those lazy summer days when you just need a nap in the sun (or shade).

TheAlpineStart_Arcteryx_Miura_45-12There’s a single gear loop inside, perfect for extra gear if you’re using the pack on a multi-pitch route.

TheAlpineStart_Arcteryx_Miura_45-13Opened up, the pack works great as a rope bucket on multi-pitch routes.

TheAlpineStart_Arcteryx_Miura_45-14You can also hang it sideways, though it’s a bit more awkward…

TheAlpineStart_Arcteryx_Miura_45-15And the weight of the rope can force the zipper open.

TheAlpineStart_Arcteryx_Miura_45-16Arc’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.

TheAlpineStart_Camp_Roxback-1The Roxback looks like a simple sack, but it’s actually a very well thought-out design.

TheAlpineStart_Camp_Roxback-2Two simple shoulder straps suspend the Roxback, and you can clearly see the central zipper and dual grab-handles.

TheAlpineStart_Camp_Roxback-3Dual rope-straps are secure, and prevent the rope from sliding to either side.

TheAlpineStart_Camp_Roxback-4A small, zippered pocket is great for snacks or small essentials.

TheAlpineStart_Camp_Roxback-5The stretch-mesh pockets easily fit a guidebook, water bottle or flip-flops.

TheAlpineStart_Camp_Roxback-6There’s a mesh pocket on either side, and another grab handle on the front of the pack.

TheAlpineStart_Camp_Roxback-7Zip it open and all your stuff is easily accessible. I should’ve thought through the blue-jacket, blue-rope and blue-pack thing…

TheAlpineStart_Camp_Roxback-8All this stuff easily fits into the Roxback, even the helmet!

TheAlpineStart_Camp_Roxback-9There are two small gear loops inside the pack.

TheAlpineStart_Camp_Roxback-10There’s another zippered pocket on the inside, perfect for keys and other small items.

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.

TheAlpineStart_Edelrid_CragBagII-1Though it doesn’t have rope-straps per se, the CG II’s compression straps easily hold a rope. Front-mounted daisy chain is beefy nylon.

TheAlpineStart_Edelrid_CragBagII-2Simple shoulder straps and a plain backpanel aren’t ideal for long approaches.

TheAlpineStart_Edelrid_CragBagII-3Two zippered pockets are accessible from both outside and inside the pack. The pockets are small, barely big enough to fit a mid-size guidebook.

TheAlpineStart_Edelrid_CragBagII-4The backpanel opens with a single zipper, revealing the folded-up rope tarp.

TheAlpineStart_Edelrid_CragBagII-5Opened up, the main compartment site in the middle of the tarp.

TheAlpineStart_Edelrid_CragBagII-6There are two gear loops inside the pack.

TheAlpineStart_Edelrid_CragBagII-7The same pocket as seen from the inside. You have to remember to close both zippers, otherwise stuff falls either into or out of the pack.

TheAlpineStart_Edelrid_CragBagII-8There is even a small carpet-like section in a corner of the rope tarp.

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.

TheAlpineStart_Patagonia_Cragsmith-1The Cragsmith is a simple-looking pack, but with some very well-thought out features.

TheAlpineStart_Patagonia_Cragsmith-2The robust waistbelt and well-padded shoulder straps make this the most comfortable of the four packs here.

TheAlpineStart_Patagonia_Cragsmith-3There’s a long, zippered pocket on one side of the pack, big enough for a guidebook and some extras.

TheAlpineStart_Patagonia_Cragsmith-4There’s a simple rope / compression strap on top.

TheAlpineStart_Patagonia_Cragsmith-5The top lid pocket has a key clip and is roomy enough for a days’ essentials.

TheAlpineStart_Patagonia_Cragsmith-6Top-access makes it easy to cram a lot of gear into the Cragsmith. Thanks to the wide-opening design, the pack can function as a rope-bucket, as well.

TheAlpineStart_Patagonia_Cragsmith-7The wide-opening backpanel is my favourite thing about this pack!

TheAlpineStart_Patagonia_Cragsmith-8There’s another – small – zippered pocket inside, as well as a hydration-bladder sleeve.

TheAlpineStart_Patagonia_Cragsmith-9Opened up, the Cragsmith is easy to rummage around in.

TheAlpineStart_Patagonia_Cragsmith-10There’s enough structure to the sides that even when empty the pack sits open.

TheAlpineStart_Patagonia_Cragsmith-11Four additional daisy-chain lash points can be used to create a bungee on the front panel.

Final Words

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.

7 thoughts on “Comparison Review: Cragging Packs

  1. Leigh says:

    Awesome review and nice pictures. I’m guessing that carpet on the Edelrid is a spot to clean off shoes? I know if the ground is mucky I’ll change my shoes on my rope tarp at the base of the climb.

    • Raf says:

      Yes, that’s the idea, though I haven’t used it much, I tend to wipe my shoes on the inside leg of my pants!

  2. Chris says:

    Hey Raf,

    As always, great reviews! I have to ask – I see that you have the Ultimate Norpfeiler Jacket in a few of your pictures. I’ve been dying to get my hands on one to use for ice. How do you like yours and would you recommend it for ice/alpine use???

    • Raf says:

      Keen eye! I’m actually working on the review, but in summary: it’s awesome. It’s become my go-to softshell for everything. Full review coming.

  3. JBR says:

    So I actually just bought the Cragsmith and found it wanting in gear loops, a tarp, and ties for the ends of the rope. I feel like that is a deal breaker for an all in one crag bag. What are your thoughts?

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