The perfect climbing backpack
From the approach to the rock to alpine climbing tours: A good climbing backpack is essential for conveniently transporting your gear. A backpack must strike a balance between extreme durability and high comfort whilst also keeping weight to a minimum. Below we provide some useful information to help you choose an appropriate backpack for climbing.
General information on material and climbing backpack features
Backpacks that are designed specifically for climbing have a number of features which are intended to make them easier to use when climbing. Climbing backpacks are typically made from a lightweight material with high abrasion resistance. Contact with jagged rocks is unavoidable so the material of choice is usually tear-resistant nylon. This sort of fabric is very light and when climbing, every gram counts! Another advantage is that the tight weave makes the outer material (partially) weatherproof. Light rain is not a problem. Full waterproofing is achieved by using silicone or PU-coated materials.
Despite minimalistic designs, climbing backpacks require reinforcements on exposed areas and sufficient attachment options for climbing accessories. A good climbing backpack should have a wear-resistant base (due to the weight of carabiners and friends), one or two attachment straps for (half) ropes, a daisy chain for quickdraws and possibly loops for ice tools.
Rock climbing backpacks - cut and back system
Backpacks tend to have a narrow cut to ensure range of motion. Smaller models sit tight to the back (often without padding), bigger climbing backpacks have a flexible, ventilated, slightly padded back system which adapts to the curvature of the spine when climbing. When buying a climbing backpack you need to bear in mind that it will be worn over the climbing harness (harness-backpack combinations being the exception). If the backpack's hip belt is likely to get in the way of the harness, a removable version is recommended. The fact climbing backpacks sit high on the back means that with larger models the lid compartment can get in the way of the helmet. Make sure you check this before buying!
The range of climbing backpack sizes
These products range from small all-rounders with a volume of 10 l to climbing backpacks for alpine use with a 50 liter volume. So you need to know what you'll be doing with the backpack and how long you'll be wearing it (approach, storing equipment, sport climbing, big wall). It is also important to plan how much equipment you will need to take with you in the backpack. When heading for your local rock face you will need standard equipment such as a wind jacket, water bottle and first aid kit, but for an icefall a complete set of down gear may be necessary. To maintain a good range of motion with your climbing backpack, as is so often the case, sharing the load is recommended. After all, climbing is best done in pairs!