Gear Guy

What’s the best backpack for canyoneering?

What's the best backpack for scrambling? I have taken to canyoneering, usually carrying trekking poles for balance, two ropes, other climbing gear, and occasionally a wetsuit. I'd like to know if there's a slim, lightweight, 3,000- to 3,500-cubic-inch pack that will hold the poles, a water bladder, and my climbing equipment without making it look like I'm tackling Everest. Ray Chicago, Illinois


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There are quite a few packs in this category. Really, what you want is a climbing-oriented pack, as these are best suited to lug poles, ropes, and the like, and are cut to expedite agility. In this category, the longtime champ is the Dana Design Bomb Pack ($260;, which has 3,500 cubic inches of capacity in the “medium” size. It’s an amazing pack, with a suspension that can handle 40 pounds or so. Ropes can be stuffed into its “beavertail”-style back flap, and poles slip under side pockets and into sleeves. I’ve had a Bomb Pack for longer than I care to remember—it has been uniformly reliable and versatile.

There are, of course, others. Arc’Teryx makes some wonderful packs in this size, such as the Khamsin 52 ($240; It’s similar in size to the Bomb, with a good-fitting hydroformed waist belt and lots of places to attach gear. Osprey’s Ceres 50 ($180; has about 3,200 cubic inches of capacity, depending on size, with great suspension and a very close-to-the-back design. I’ve been using another new Osprey pack, their Aether 90, this year and like it very much (except for—note to Osprey—the stitching that blew out around the pole pockets). And, for a compact, tough pack that should be able to withstand the rigors of canyoneering, take a look at Granite Gear’s new Nimbus Ozone ($195;, which offers a bit more capacity than any of the above packs but still weighs less than three pounds.