Mike Kimmel works as the Department Head for English Language at the Vail Ski and Snowboard Academy, a public high school that works exclusively with competitive skiers and snowboarders (ranging from Alpine skiing, freeride, all forms of snowboarding competition, and nordic). He is also a climbing coach and primary routesetter for the Vail Athletic Club, and a guide for Adventure Travel Guides. He’s worked as a setter and coach for 10+ years, and has sent many young climbers to USA Nationals, and a few kids to Continental Championships.
I have a tendency to use some types of equipment until they are well-worn and no longer usable. Case in point: I’ve been able to use the same crag pack for the last 10 years, but an unfortunate incident with some buckles getting caught in a car door rendered me without working straps. As much as I would have liked to just tie the loose ends together, it wasn’t the sturdiest or most comfortable solution, and I started researching new pack options.
One pack I looked at kept popping up on different climbing sites, each time with really positive reviews – the Trango Crag Pack. Since it sounded like the material was very durable and the shape looked like it would accommodate a significant amount of gear, I ordered one online and when I picked up the box, I was a little concerned I had ordered a bag that would be too small. Luckily, this was not the case when I opened it, the lack of a heavy internal frame allows this bag to get compressed down rather small.
So how much gear can actually go inside the Crag Pack? I’ve filled this up a few different ways, and can fit an overwhelming amount of gear in this haulbag-inspired climbing pack. At the heavy end of sport climbing days, I will be carrying an 80 meter rope in a rope bag, 30 draws, sometimes a small rack of cams, gri-gri, gloves, belay glasses, tape, one-liter water bottle, 1-2 pairs of climbing shoes, a harness, a helmet, a headlamp, a dog leash, and some snacks. In the Crag Pack, this looks like the rope at the base, and everything else stacked on top. The rope bag/pack combo keeps everything standing up tall as you remove gear, and fits all that gear without deforming any of the contents. The extra pouch on the outside works well for a pair of climbing shoes, a rain jacket, and the wallet my climbing partner tends to drop somewhere along the approach trail.
A simple waist and chest buckle system help spread the weight evenly across your shoulders and back while hiking, making this a relatively comfortable pack to carry for moderate to long approaches.
Alternatively, I’ve also used this as a pack for carrying climbing gear for international travel. Because the body is lightweight, durable, and relatively waterproof, it seemed like a wise choice to take to Central America, where I expected some variable conditions with the weather. For this trip, I carried (what felt like) a ton of hardware to develop routes and help the local climbing community – drills bits, bolts, hangars, anchor chains, indoor gym holds, shoes, and quickdraws. After emptying it all out when we arrived, I was pleased to see absolutely zero signs of wear on a pack that had been filled with metal and tossed around on and off planes and buses for 12 hours, at times strapped to the roof of the vehicle.
There were only two drawbacks with this pack that I found–first, the side zipper, designed to give you internal access without opening the top zipper, is too short to be very useful. Unless what you want is directly in the middle of the pack, it’s really impractical to try and use the side zipper, and I overwhelmingly pull everything out at the start of the day to access the rope. Second, there is a very small tarp attached via a button in one of the side pockets. While I like the concept, the tarp is just too small to be used to really provide a good space for a rope – though it can be placed as a bit of protection against abrasive rocks, and is better than nothing if you forget a tarp. (Trango would like to add that the mini tarp was designed more for gear organization (i.e. keeping your shoes and rack out of the dirt during shoe transitions and racking) than a rope tarp.)
I don’t think you can find a better crag pack for the price. The Trango Crag Pack has the storage capacity required for a full day of cragging, whether your style is sport or traditional. The tubular body stands up well on it’s own making it easy to load, and the attention to detail in the accessory aspects and construction have me expecting this pack to last me a long, long time.