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By Dane
Dec 31, 2010
Cham '11

Thought a view might be interested in the subject here or at least get a good laugh.

coldthistle.blogspot.com/2010/12/climbing-packs.html

A custom CCW Ozone...out doing what it was intended for.
A custom CCW Ozone...out doing what it was intended for.


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By Woodchuck ATC
Dec 31, 2010
Rock Wars, RRG, 2008

Anything comfy, with space for a good sized load, lots of pockets with fat 2-way zippers, is cheap, durable and waterproof has my vote.


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By Scott O
From California
Jan 2, 2011
Batman Pinnacle

Colin Haley said it well, "it's 2000 year old technology...amazing how pack manufactures can still screw it up".

I will say, nothing terrifies me more than the words "innovative ice axe attachment system."


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By Scott O
From California
Jan 2, 2011
Batman Pinnacle

That said, I love my Marmot Matterhorn 30


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By bearbreeder
Jan 2, 2011

osprey mutant 38 ...everything from daytrips to weekenders, weeklong backpacking trips, cragging, ice, etc ... with a DIY frame ive overloaded it to 40+ lbs ... $120



marmot alpha 25 ... big enough to carry all the needed gear for a day, tough enough to chimney in, weekend backpacking trips ... cost me $60



mec blitz crag daypack ... 1000D cordura, 380g ... chimneys, do yr worst !!! ... $20


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By Auto-X Fil
From NEPA and Upper Jay, NY
Jan 2, 2011

For cragging, anything will do. For hiking and dog routes, it just needs to be comfy. But for climbing...

It must expand and allow many things strapped to it for the approach. It must carry well despite this abusive overload.

It must also carry heavy loads for its size: climber's loads of rope and rack are very dense, so alpine packs need correspondingly better suspensions in smaller sizes.

Yet, it must be light weight in full configuration, and strip down to be very light with easy removal of lid, hipbelt, framesheet, and more. Cilogear and Cold Cold World are consistently ahead here.

It must allow crampons, rope, and tools to attach and detach easily. When you're single-tooling up a steep slope and decide it's gotten out of hand and you want to rope up and get a second tool out is no time to fight with a buckle. But, the attachments must be secure, since a tool, crampon, or rope falling off the pack could well be fatal. The Osprey Variant is the best I've seen, although BD, CCW, WT, Cilogear, and a few others all have similar, acceptable systems.

At some point the rope, rack, and ice gear comes out of and off the pack. It much cinch down tightly to carry well at this point! This is where many packs fall short: having your stove and water bottle flopping around loose on your back when trying to lead 5.10 or M6 is no good. Cilogear is the best I've seen here, collapsing quickly and easily.

Most companies are quite hit-or-miss with pack quality. I've used terrible and good packs from Mountain Hardwear, Kelty, Gregory, Black Diamond, etc. Most have too many features and heavy fabric where it's not needed, resulting in high weights.

The packs that really rise above come almost exclusively from specialty companies:

Cold Cold World
Wild Things
Cilogear

All these companies make really excellent climbing packs, and all with different twists. One of them will have the perfect pack for you. I like Cilogear, but all are excellent and one of the others may suit your needs better.

Although, I'm not sold on McHale or DD/Mystery Ranch as many are. Their specialties seem to be carrying massive loads on easier terrain, not alpine climbing.

Honorable Mention goes to Osprey. I have yet to find a truly crappy pack from them, despite having such a diverse line. My Variant 52 is a very big-mountain good pack and while I'd swap it for a 40L worksack in a heartbeat, it's good enough I'll use it gladly until it's completely blown out. The smaller Variants are much too heavy and for some reason LESS configurable, which makes no sense. I see those sizes as acceptable cragging packs; nothing more.



Please don't give me an angry tirade because I ripped on your pack - you can climb just fine with X-15s, footfangs, snargs, hexes, and oval 'biners. And you can climb anything you want with a Kelty Redwing. But please don't ask me to, or suggest it's superior!


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By Craig Quincy
Jan 2, 2011

Anyone catch which commercial pack he is referring to that was worth keeping? Just curious.


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By Chris90
From Unity, Maine
Jan 2, 2011

+1 for the Cold Cold World. Anything thats made in somebodys garage is great! Unfortunatly I cant afford Cilo Gear or Wild things...


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By Chris90
From Unity, Maine
Jan 2, 2011

I guess I didnt do my research for that one. I am in the Northeast, so I never really heard of Cilogear till recently, long after I got my CCW pack. Glad to hear that their prices arent too bad. Thanks


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By Auto-X Fil
From NEPA and Upper Jay, NY
Jan 2, 2011

Cilogear is famous for their Dyneema and NWD packs, which run $400-$1200. I too was under the impression that Cilogear meant unobtainum. But if you get one in nylon (actually nylon with Dyneems ripstop now), prices aren't out of line.


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By Dane
Jan 2, 2011
Cham '11

My was Chaos $245 and $10 shipping. You can order one just like it or use a different material.

  • Postal scale says 3# even*, nothing removed from my pack, in a custom cut large size, 21" back panel. 60+ liters

I don't work for any manufacture nor am I given packs. My bias is all my own. Seems full disclosure here by those more intimately involved would be appropriate.


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By coldfinger
Jan 2, 2011

Here's what I have used:

Mountain Hardwear Trad:

Trad
Trad


Mountain Hardwear Direttissima:
Diret
Diret


Picked up the Trad for $80, thanks REI, & the Direttissima for $150.

Love the little guy, it carries less and the lid is a bit harder to remove, but it is much better to climb with, the Direttissima tends to make it tough to look up when wearing a helmet and a harness.

What is not obvious is the strap system, which wraps all around the pack and is fully adjustable with lots of slack. This makes the Diret usable for big mountains and long trips as it carries a Ton on the outside. Ditto for longer hauls with the Trad.

Great tool attachment system, just pop the aluminum pieces through a hole in a tool head and tighten, a bit weird but one doesn't have to worry about losing hammerless tools (or with small hammers like the Grivel Matrix head), can carry two tools on each slot and will take other stuff like fishing poles without getting in the way.


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By Auto-X Fil
From NEPA and Upper Jay, NY
Jan 2, 2011

This is my latest creation:

20L or so, only 8.0oz. 4.7oz Waterproof Nylon with Dyneema ripstop for
excellent durability. Padded, ventilated backpad and straps so it
carries 10lb or a little more with comfort. Takes a framesheet or pad
if I desire. Lid has a Velcro pocket. Very strong haul-loop on top.

This ought to be perfect as a leader's pack: water bottle, puffy,
gloves, energy bar, headlamp. It fits very high and snug, staying out of the way while climbing.

It'll probably see use for ultralight backpacking in the summer, on short trips when my Virga is overkill.

Leader's Pack 1
Leader's Pack 1


Leader's Pack 1
Leader's Pack 1


Leader's Pack 3
Leader's Pack 3


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By Wyatt H
From Casper, Wy
Jan 2, 2011

Anyone ever used this?:

Granite Gear Alpine Vapor
Granite Gear Alpine Vapor



Granite gear makes very comfortable and well though out packs, and that one is pretty stripped down. I've just never heard of anyone using it, probably becuase granite gear only markets to backpackers, even though they've made some top notch climbing and skiing packs in the past.


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By Auto-X Fil
From NEPA and Upper Jay, NY
Jan 2, 2011

I bought an Alpine Vapor and promptly returned it.

First, it was 7oz heavier than advertised. Mine was 3lb 1oz. That's a lot, and bumps it right into "real" climbing pack territory.


My Osprey Variant 52 without lid or frame is: significantly lighter, carries load better, has better tool and crampon attachments, has a better waistbelt (with gear loops!), compresses tighter, carries wands and pickets better, and is more durable. Plus, I can put the frame and/or lid back on if I want to.

The same goes for Cilogear, CCW, or WT packs. Worlds better than the Alpine Vapor, which is one of the worst packs I've put my hands on.

That's not to say I dislike Granite Gear - I use my Virga a lot and love it, pushing it into climbing roles at times. Their AirBloc Solid compression sacks are also great - a very useful compression sack at the weight of a lightweight OR stuff sack! But the Alpine Vapor - pass, big time. No wonder I got the pack for $78 on Sierra Trading Post.


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By Wyatt H
From Casper, Wy
Jan 2, 2011

Hah, good to know. Thats too bad. I love my GG Arete, just need to hack it a little bit for weight put some way to hold ice tools better.

A couple questions just to see what people are doing:

What size packs do you use?

What's the preference for carrying rope and crampons? Outside the pack, or in?


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By Chris Plesko
From Westminster, CO
Jan 2, 2011
OMG, I winz!!!

I'm surprised none of the weight weenies are using a GoLite Jam/Jam2. Golite keeps making them heavier but they're fairly strip-able and the old ones are even lighter.

I picked up a sample at the sale last year for $25. I've beat it up pretty bad and it is still in darn good shape. Uses the 210d fabric w/ dyneema web (not full dyneema) all over and weighs just over a pound. Compresses down when not full as good as anything out there and adequately hauls most alpine loads. I made gorilla tape pick protectors for the ice axe loops and the rear pocket where the picks go. It has some cosmetic holes where I filled it with rocks and used it as a counter weight once and a few pinholes in the bottom but it's still going strong. Lightweight foam back panel (removeable), hydro compatible, compressor straps and it's easy to attach snowshoes to when needed. You can even strap a rope on the top no problem. No lid but most alpine guys are going to strip that off on a big route anyway. I was even wearing my wife's golite pack in an avalanche and it survived with no damage.

I keep trying to talk myself into a Cilo 30L but I'll probably find another cheap Golite pack at this rate. If I needed a real load hauler I wouldn't pick Golite and I like my BD magnum better than any other small pack I own for climbing (including a Cilo 20L). But for a ~40L alpine pack it seems to do the trick.

Pictured here on West Gully. Black patches on the pocket are gorilla tape.

Climbing West Gully. Photo by Kevin Landolt.
Climbing West Gully. Photo by Kevin Landolt.


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By Kevin Landolt
From Fort Collins, Wyoming
Jan 2, 2011

I sure do love my Wild Things Guide Pack - It's seen a lot of abuse, from cragging to ski-touring to full on grovelling in the mountains. Year after year, it just keeps on surviving. What's the deal with Wild Things? Anyone know if they're going to continue making packs? Dane? You made refferences to Wild Things Gear often in your excellent article, any insight into the future of that company?







Year after year it just keeps on truck'n.

"Why won't you die?"


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By Chris Plesko
From Westminster, CO
Jan 2, 2011
OMG, I winz!!!

Haha I was going to say I always look at your pack Kevin. It's just the right size and looks good!


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By NC Rock Climber
From The Oven, AKA Phoenix
Jan 2, 2011
tanuki

Like many folks here, I am a huge fan of CCW. The more I use my Chernobyl, the more I love it. It is totally bombproof and caries great. Also like CiloGear, but not a fan of the way all their lids fit. It is a small problem with an otherwise GREAT design.

Recently came across these guys - www.podsacs.com/

Looks like good stuff and the reviews online are very positive. I was curious if anyone has actually laid hands on one of these and could give me feedback on if they are any good.


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By Auto-X Fil
From NEPA and Upper Jay, NY
Jan 2, 2011

Wyatt H wrote:
A couple questions just to see what people are doing: What size packs do you use? What's the preference for carrying rope and crampons? Outside the pack, or in?


I usually put the rope on top. It's got to go on and off a lot some days, so I make it easy.

I like a crampon pocket like the Variant the best. So easy - just slap them together and drop 'em in. On packs without one I strap them on the outside - again, they come on and off a lot.

I have a 52L for multi-day trips on big mountains. Anytime it's cold and I'm out overnight I need at least 40L. If you think you need more than 60L - pack less.

For long day trips I use the 30L worksack. It'll carry stove, food, water, rack, harness, bivy gear, etc, and compresses down once the climbing gear comes out.

For trips near the car I carry a super-light pack (this year it'll be the one posted above) if leader, and my 30L if following.


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By Graham Johnson
Jan 2, 2011

Podsacks are beloved by the UK climbing crowd. I'm not really sure why. I've played with them in the store and there's no way I'd ever buy one. Maybe they were the shit in the 80's/ealry 90's when all the UK hardmen climbed with them. They seem, to me, overbuilt - burly to the point of losing function. Not terribly lightweight, and outdated designs (for their classic packs - the Black ice, Xpod etc...) Their newer designs (the Alpine series) are better, but still way behind what CCW and cilogear are producing.

I've got a 45L worksack that I like, a 60L worksack that I'm not so keen on, and the new MEC genie (30L) that I like (though it's not as good as the old genie, I don't think). I like to carry my crampons on the front, my rope either in the pack or under the lid, and I really like a top strap that goes over the mouth of the pack to secure the rope.

When my 45L worksack dies, I'll be looking at CCW, and possibly BD's predator. It's got all that I want in a reasonably priced package.


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By Kevin Landolt
From Fort Collins, Wyoming
Jan 2, 2011

That Granite Gear Alpine Vapor Pack would be the shit if they ditched that frame/padding for a removable slide in/out foam pad, and ditched the burly waist-belt for a slimmed down version.

MEC was making some affordable / simple alpine packs - but now they all (above 30 liter) have a big zipper splitting the side of the pack! Lame!


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By Graham Johnson
Jan 2, 2011

Check again Kevin - the genie doesn't have a zipper. It's basically the same as the old genie, with some straps, a removable pad and the zippered pocket is on top of the lid rather than underneath.
www.mec.ca/Products/product_detail.jsp?FOLDER%3C%3Efolder_id>>>

The alpinelite 30 also does not have a zipper.


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By Kevin Landolt
From Fort Collins, Wyoming
Jan 2, 2011

I don't see a Genie above 30 liters without a zipper - The only decent looking alpine packs without zippers are the alpenlite 30 and Genie 30. I believe the zipper thing is relatively new - right?


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By Auto-X Fil
From NEPA and Upper Jay, NY
Jan 3, 2011

I took the basic volume for the pack from the 2.4oz Sea to Summit pack I was using. I like that pack, but with no padding on the straps it didn't carry more than 3-4lb with any comfort.

The basic design is a pared-down Cilogear 20L or CCW Ozone.

The haul loop is beefy enough for my purposes - it's attached to 3-4" of the back fabric, instead of running all around the pack, so that will tear first. But,this dyneema ripstop is very tough and will take way more force than I could apply hand-over-hand hauling it.

The pattern is very simple - it's a tubular stuff sack with square bottom, with rectangular straps. No fancy curves or anything. I made a prototype with cheap ripstop and duct tape seams to work out dimensions and assembly process.


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