Buying Right: Technical Day-Packs for Neophyte Climbers

May 2, 2004
Outside Magazine
Outside magazine, March 1995

Buying Right: Technical Day-Packs for Neophyte Climbers
By Duane Raleigh

Well, it seems the climbing bug has bitten you, and now you've got a growing pile of equipment and a yearning to get out on the rock. The question is, how are you going to carry the former as you head off in pursuit of the latter? Sure, you could stuff it all in your old alma-mater-emblazoned book bag, but without a decent suspension system or any means of load-control, you're not likely to be very comfortable on that three-mile hike to the crag. On the other hand, there's no reason to lug an expedition pack to the base of a single-pitch climb -- or to shell out $300 for bells and whistles that you'll never use. What you want is a technical day-pack, a sleek, unobtrusive bag that holds plenty of gear and is comfortable on long, uphill approaches. Here are a few that fill the bill.

The Lowe Rock Pack 35 is a simple, utilitarian pack that functions exactly as it should: as an unassuming carrier of possessions. Nonetheless, it's still leagues above being a glorified book bag, with a hipbelt, padded shoulder straps, a foam back pad, and compression straps for load control. At $79 it's a lot for the money, though you are sacrificing some suspension sensitivity and carrying capacity. From Lowe Alpine Systems, 303-465-0522.

If you tend to travel less lightly, look toward Gregory's Rock Lobster ($145). It's similar in design to the Rock Pack, but it also has a high-density foam back panel, a supportive suspension system, and about 20 percent more cargo space. And it's certainly durable: I've used my Rock Lobster to schlepp gear to and from crags for four years and have no complaints -- it's been through the grinder and has held up well. From Gregory, 800-477-3420.

A5's Astropack ($125) is a step down from the Rock Lobster in terms of carrying comfort, with a decidedly more rudimentary suspension system, but it does turn the tech factor up a notch in a truly useful way. At first glance it appears to be a basic top-loading rucksack, but there's more here than meets the eye, because when it's time to move up to multipitch climbs, the Astropack can move up with you -- literally. Just tuck the shoulder straps behind their scuff guards, strip off the hipbelt and stow it inside the pack, and you've got a mini haul-bag that'll carry whatever you want to drag along. From A5, 602-779-5084.

If your ultimate alpine aspirations are more serious, you might consider Cold Cold World's Chernobyl. For $165 you get a pack with the svelte profile and comfortable suspension you need for the approach, as well as some technical touches, such as external carriers for crampons and ice axes, that'll come in handy when you're ready to spend a couple of days on the mountain. From Cold Cold World, 603-383-9021.

Finally, perhaps the quintessential climbing day-pack is the Arc'Teryx Bora 40 ($175). Not only is it exceedingly roomy, but it has one of the most responsive suspension systems around. When you cinch the hipbelt and loosen the shoulder straps, the weight bears down perfectly on your hips, setting your arms free. But with a tug of the compression straps, the sack clings to your back -- a perfect arrangement for talus-hopping. Best of all is the Bora's foam back panel: Its dense ridges make you feel as if you're enjoying a rejuvenating massage as you hump back down to your car at day's end. From Arc'Teryx, 800-985-6681.

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