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The GO Outdoors Guide To Climbing And Bouldering Bags

No matter what kind of climbing you intend to do, you need a suitable keep all your essentials for climbing.

Designed in a rucksack or ‘holdall’ style, a climbing bag can safely transport your ropes, extra equipment and essentials for your climb. If you’re going to be climbing all day, you’ll want to be prepared with enough food, clothing, chalk and tools without being overloaded.

Climbing Bag Capacities and Shapes

Climbing bags are sold in ‘litre’ sizes, literally refereeing to their capacity for holding this amount of fluid. The following litre recommendations are based on general advice, however the more gear you need to take, or the longer your ropes, the more space you will need. Avoid over packing a small pack if possible.

  • Bags For UK based climbs with no stop over and bouldering routes (1 day) - 14-18litres
  • Bags For UK based climbs with more than 1 day away- includes ropes, gear and clothes- 30-40 litres
  • Bags For Mountain routes, expeditions and overseas climbs- 60 plus litres

Reaching and Carrying Your Gear

Openings can be paneled, with a main zip opening, or a duffle style bag with a drawstring, known as top loading. Paneled day bags can be opened with ease and make packing easy, whereas duffle style top loader bags are harder to gain access too, but can take extra items due to their extended height.

Grab handles allow you to pick up your climbing bags with ease. Ventilated back panels suspend the load away from your back via a frame so you can allow moisture to evaporate and cool air can circulate. Included bivvy pads are a feature found in more expensive models, but these can also add in extra protection to your gear, as well as offering you a makeshift seat or cushion for the mountain top.

Climbing Bag Straps and Support

Climbing bags come with a multitude of straps that allow the bag to fit perfectly as you climb. They usually have plenty of padding sit on your shoulders without digging in, ideal for all day wearing. However, climbing bags avoid the use of unnecessary extra straps on the outside of the bag, as well as storage areas seen in typical rucksacks, as these can snag on rocks.

Adjustable Straps:

Adjustable straps are used so you can achieve an ergonomic fit. They also help aid weight distribution.

Haul Loops:

Haul loops are used to allow you to pull up your bag and are very common on most climbing bags.

Waist Straps

Waist straps make sure the bag sits locked on your stomach, distributing the pack weight so the burden is not all on your shoulders, particularly important on big wall climbs.

A waist strap also provides torsional support.

To get the maximum benefit it should fit below the breast bone, resting in alignment with your arm pits. See our Fitting Information below for more advice on how to get the appropriate fit.

Hip Belts:

A hip belt helps secure the bag and stops it from overburdening your spine. Hipbelts fit as they suggest, on the hips and add in extra torsional control, however extra padding adds in weight, so if you need less bulk then a webbed hipbelt may be more suitable.

Fitting Your Climbing Bag

The order in which you fit your climbing bag is important, and at GO Outdoors, we recommend doing it the following way to ensure the climbing rucksack is the right one for you.

If you are in-store, then please ask one of our trained staff to help fit your climbing bag with the correct weights and knowhow.

  • The bag should sit comfortably on your back and feel snug.
  • The waist belt should be tight (and still comfortable), bearing in mind the positioning of the belt in reference to the crest of the hip.
  • You should then fit the shoulder straps and tighten them.
  • Following this, the waist belt stabilizers should be adjusted for maximum comfort on your hips and until firm.
  • After the waist, the shoulder strap stabilizers should be adjusted. This will bring the whole pack into balance. Do not over tighten the shoulder stabilizers as this may create a gap between the shoulder and the shoulder strap which will cause rubbing and overbalancing of the rucksack once you start walking.
  • The final process to undertake is to clip and adjust chest strap. This can be uncomfortable if placed in the wrong place, especially for women. The strap should fit level with the front of the shoulder joint and tightened until it takes the pull off the front of the shoulder.
  • Ensure that your pack is not overloaded and can zip with ease.

Climbing Bag Fabrics

Ripstop construction is preferable for climbing as it offers abrasion resistance.

Nylon and polyester are often used separately or are blended in a diagonal weave to create a ‘ripstop’ fabric that is sturdy enough for climbing against jagged rockfaces. Nylon is measured in a denier, which is it’s thickness against abrasion. The higher the level of denier in the Nylon, the heavier the fabric, yet the more resistant it is to abrasion.

The key is to strike a balance between excess weights and not enough fabric strength. An alternative to nylon is polyester which has the advantages of not stretching when wet and being more UV-resistant.

Polyester is also water-resistant, and any water that is absorbed can easily be wrung out, allowing it to dry quickly.

Protecting Your Gear

Water Repellency is built into most climbing bags via a water repelling coating.

However, bags with fully taped seams are rare as well as expensive. To protect your gear, consider a dry sack or stuff sack rather than looking for a waterproof bag.

Storage In Climbing Bags

As well as having a main storage compartment, choose a bag that incorporates side areas, as well as internal gear racking loops.

Side, top or bottom compartments are ideal if you need to pack or unpack your load.

Although climbing bags avoid having extra pockets and compartments which can snag on a rockface, a daisy chain system is usually included as a place for you to clip your karabiners to as you climb.

Separate pockets can also segregate damp and clean clothing.

Compression straps or cinch cords allow you to decrease and increase the pack’s size as needed.

Wand pockets are long pencil shaped pockets designed for holding mountain climbing equipment, such as snow shovels and similar gear.

Climbing bags can also be hydration system compatible, so you can add in your own system, or come with an inbuilt hydration pack (reservoir and hoses). Generally, bags with inbuilt hydration packs will cost more than a hydration compatible style, where you add in your own system.