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Day Packs for Rock Climbing

How to Buy a Small Climbing Pack


Mike and Allie wade across the South Platte River in Elevenmile Canyon, Colorado.

You need a small- to medium-sized pack to haul all your climbing stuff the crag.

Photograph © Stewart M. Green

If you’re climbing for an afternoon at your local crag and you’re not hiking too far, you don’t need a big cumbersome pack that’s large enough to carry all your equipment plus the kitchen sink. What you need is a climbing day pack that’s big enough to carry all your essential climbing equipment—rope, rack, quickdraws, harness, rock shoes, and basic Ten Essentials—but is also light, compact, and durable.

Which Day Pack Do You Need?

It’s tough to decide what size and type of day pack you need to stay organized, efficient, and able to carry all your essential climbing equipment. Climbing requires more gear than hiking, so you need a larger pack than most day packs. A great size is 1,800 cubic inches or 30 liters of capacity—that’s big enough to fit enough rock gear for a short cragging session along with extras.

Buy a Day Pack Made for Climbing

When buying a day pack, get one specifically designed for rock climbing rather than one used for hiking or a cheap general-purpose day pack that is used for every task, like toting books to your anthropology class or carrying a lunch to work. They don’t have the room or support to carry all your essential climbing equipment and they don’t last as long or put up with climbing abuse and use. Climbing-specific packs cost more but you’ll be happier if you spend the extra cash.

What the Pack Should Have

Look at all the pack sizes and try them on before deciding which climbing day pack to buy. For climbing, you need a pack that is made of a heavy-duty fabric like cordura; that is resistant to abrasions, scrapes, and pokes; and is also well-constructed with sturdy seams and zippers. Also consider if the pack has enough side pockets; has a lid with a zipped pocket; whether it’s top-loading or side-loading; and if it has outside straps for attaching climbing gear and your rope. Compression straps can be an important feature too, since they allow you to tighten down the load so it doesn’t shift or take up as much room. Also consider whether you want a bladder pocket to carry water.

Top Loading or Side Loading?

A top-loading pack is ideal, although a side panel opening allows you to easily search the pack without disrupting all the contents. It’s best to get a climbing day pack with side pockets for water bottles, a front pocket for extras like energy bars and guidebook, and a top lid with space for keys, small first-aid kit, and other stuff. Carry your rope in a rope bag or cinched on the top of your pack with straps.

Buy a Guide-Approved Climbing Pack:

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