I bought a giant bulky Jansport backpacking pack over ten years ago off the discount rack at REI. It was huge, had extra pockets and straps attached all over the outside of the pack, and it was uncomfortable. I didn’t climb at the time, but figured it would give me good options for backpacking and traveling.
Flash forward a handful of years and I stubbornly used that pack as my primary bag for everything, including climbing. It sucked, but whenever I looked into a new pack specific to climbing, it was expensive with all sort of features I wasn’t sure I needed. I suffered on until the Trango Crag Pack came along.
(5 out of 5)
The first thing that struck me about the Trango Crag Pack was it’s price that came in right under $100. How could this be? Even day-packs that see more action at high schools than they do crags cost upwards of $100. It made me question if this was too good to be true.
To my surprise the pack delighted me from when I first used it up until today. The most obvious observation about the pack is its simple but utilitarian design. While it looks like a haul bag with straps, it remains comfortable-enough and has some nice simple features that make it a great crag pack option.
- The pack is a great size at 48L. It can hold a ton of stuff but is sturdy enough to be comfortable and isn’t so big that you can’t wrestle it around. We fit a 9.8 70-meter rope (in a rope bag), a full rack (draws, cams, nuts), harness, helmet, and chalk bag into the main vessel. Luckily, Trango added outside pockets to store a few additional items.
- The mesh pocket on the outside of the pack is great idea. My feet sweat worse than Patrick Ewing, so the extra ventilation for my shoes on the hike out or in the car doesn’t hurt. It also adds extra carrying space and easy access.
- Pockets on the bottom of each side of the pack help you pack in water and a guidebook. Given, if you are loading up this whole bag and all pockets, it’s going to heavy. Prepare for a nice leg workout.
- The shape of the pack lets you set it on the ground in an upright position, making it easy to get in and out of.
- The top pocket is a nice stash for car keys, phone, wallet, sunscreen, and a first-aid kit.
- Small but nice additions to the pack are the roll of garbage bags and small tarp that come stuffed in pockets. The garbage bags have been a god-send for trash and dog shit. The tarp isn’t used all that often but also isn’t adding much weight to keep on hand just in case.
- The durability of the material is a bit concerning. The outer rubbery material doesn’t feel as sturdy as a true haul bag and the fabric portion of the bag also doesn’t feel very rugged. Even so, the pack has held up nicely over the course of a season.
- The comfort of the bag is good but not great. I’ll make approaches in excess of an hour and it’s fine. I suppose it is what you would expect from a bag coming in at $100.
- The colors of the pack are bit much for my taste. I would rather have some toned down colors, which is a pretty minor complaint.
- The entry pocket from the front of the pack seems like a design perk but I never use it. I always pack the bag from the top and situate items based on comfort rather than access since the point of the pack is a day-cragpack. It seems to only add another point of potential failure rather than an access benefit.
This is a great pack (assuming it holds up for a handful of years). You really can’t beat the simplicity and ease of use of the pack all while spending less than $100. I’m sure there are more ergonomically friendly designs from other brands that fit better, but I’d be willing to guess the incremental utility and comfort isn’t proportional to the incremental price.
I’d recommend the Trango Crag Pack to anyone making the hike in for a day of climbing. It would not make a great multi-day backpacking or alpine pack. I’d get something more technical for that. But in terms of a simple outing to the crag, this is the pack. It’s no wonder I see more and more at Smith Rock with every visit.