Q:

Which pack can hold climbing gear along with all the other stuff?

I need a backpack that’s appropriately sized for moderate four-day trips. Easy enough, right? The catch is that I need a little extra room for rock-climbing gear such as a 200-foot climbing rope, 60 feet of static line, and various carabiners and stoppers. What pack do you recommend? Ryan Baltimore, Maryland

May 26, 2006
Outside
Outside Magazine
Gregory Whitney

Whitney

A: Nothing like heavy metal and heavy ropes stuffed into a pack to make you wish you’d taken up light-packing instead of rock climbing. Who gets to carry the 200-footer? Maybe it’s better to take two 160-foot eight-mils. Either way, that stuff really adds to the poundage.

You need a pack with a really good suspension, as my guess is the load will be in the 60- to 70-pound range. I’ll recommend three:

Arc’teryx Bora 80 ($375; www.arcteryx.com): It’s not a huge pack, but it’s big enough for your trip (just shy of 5,000 cubic inches in the medium size). The Bora 80’s first-rate suspension won’t sag under a big load, and it has plenty of adjustments for good comfort. It’s complete with a lower sleeping bag compartment, hydration-bladder pocket, and plenty of exterior tie-on points, so you’ll have lots of places to lash ropes and other climbing gear.

Gregory Whitney ($339; www.gregorypacks.com): The Whitney is a little larger than the Bora 80 at 5,400 cubic inches. It has more organizing options, with two large side pockets and a large back pocket, compared with the Bora 80’s single, large back pocket. But the design is also a bit more complicated, leaving some people to prefer the Bora’s cleaner approach. That said, the Whitney’s highly adjustable suspension, organizing options, and ample external lash points make it an excellent backpacking/mountaineering pack.

Lowe Alpine Contour 80+15 ($239; www.lowealpine.com): This is about the most pack for the money on the market. It’s sturdy and roomy (4,900 cubic inches, plus an extendable lid for overflow), with a comfortable harness system that can handle big loads. Plus the Contour boasts lots of packing-friendly features such as plenty of pockets and lash points. If you’re on a budget, this is the pack for you.

The votes are in: Check out the winners of Outside's 2006 Gear of the Year awards, including the year's hottest backpack.

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