Climbing is a gear-intensive sport. Between ropes, quickdraws, carabiners, slings, and shoes, it’s virtually impossible to head out for a day at the cliff without carrying at least a dozen pounds of metal, nylon, and rubber. And with myriad packs purpose-built for keeping all that gear organized and loads evenly distributed, the options can seem overwhelming. Here are some of our favorite new models we’ve been testing this fall.
Mammut Neon Gear ($160)
The organization freak in me loves this pack’s two big internal gear loops (plenty for a rack of draws) and the back panel that unzips for easy access, with two mesh pockets on the inside for stashing shoes, snacks, and guidebooks. The regular top zipper opening offers up your gear on the go as well. Despite its feature-rich insides, this pack has a clean exterior, with just a top brain pocket, a stowaway rope-carry strap, and loops for attaching your helmet. The tapered silhouette keeps your load centered on your back and away from your arms, for optimal range of motion when approaches turn into scrambles. —Ariella Gintzler, assistant gear editor
Black Diamond Crag 40 ($100)
No matter how long I wear this pack, it sits comfortably on my shoulders and hips, even filled with a 70-meter rope, draws, shoes, and a couple liters of water. This is largely thanks to the wide, padded shoulder straps and hipbelt. The inside can be reached via a top-loading cinch or a vertical zipper on the front. Two smaller pockets accommodate a water bottle or energy bar. With a rope-carry strap on top, this pack is just big enough to fit everything you need for a day out without leaving space to overpack. —Abigail Wise, online managing editor
The North Face Cinder Pack 40 ($150)
This 40-liter pack is light on frills—just a single main compartment and small top pocket—but all-in on the qualities that matter for long days with big hikes in rough terrain. This includes 1,000-denier fabric, burly metal buckles, and a comfortable suspension system that holds the pack tight to your back and shoulders so it doesn’t move around. The pack body stands up on its own even when empty, thanks to a flat bottom reinforced with strips of webbing, to make racking up and packing easy. —A.G.
Patagonia Cragsmith 32 ($170)
Two things impressed me most with this pack: the zip back panel that opens for easy access to all the contents, and how well the Cragsmith keeps its shape even when loaded up with as much as its 32-liter capacity can handle. It never frumped on my back as I hauled a sport rack, two pairs of shoes, a harness, a helmet, a chalk bag, a shell, and a rope on steep approaches. Credit the thin and long body made of rigid 630-denier nylon. The minimal hipbelt does bite into my waist a bit, but load lifters on the shoulder straps keep the Cragsmith close to my back for a comfortable carry. —Will Egensteiner, senior gear editor
Trango Crag Pack 2.0 ($120)
For the 2019 update to its popular Crag Pack, Trango kept everything I loved from the original: the cavernous 48-liter main compartment that’s big enough for your entire kit, the outer mesh shoe pouch, and two elasticized side pockets that are perfect for stashing guidebooks or water bottles on the move. Updates come in the form of 1,000-denier fabric on the pack body (as opposed to 450-denier), a lighter 210-denier on the brain and side pockets, additional foam back padding, and a small microfiber-lined compartment for stashing a phone or sunglasses. —A.G.
Available in January