Haul Bag Review - The Best Bags for Big Wall Climbing

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I've used the Pro Traxion for hauling way to much stuff. Here is Graham Zimmerman on one of those occasions with way to much stuff in front of Sunrise Spire. rnPhoto:Ian NicholsoI
Credit: Ian Nicholson
What is the best haul bag for big wall climbing? While it would hard to climb with all eight of these bags head-to-head, I did use them all over 110-plus big wall ascents from Yosemite to Norway. Each bag was evaluated on five variables: durability, capacity, waterproof-ness, ease of access, and suspension.

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Review by: ⋅ Founder and Editor-in-Chief, OutdoorGearLab

Top Ranked Haul Bags Displaying 1 - 5 of 9 << Previous | View All | Next >>
Our Ranking #9 #1 #3 #4 #2
Product Name
Metolius Waste Case
Metolius Waste Case
Read the Review
Metolius Half Dome Haul Bag
Metolius Half Dome Haul Bag
Read the Review
Metolius Quarter Dome Haul Bag
Metolius Quarter Dome Haul Bag
Read the Review
Video video review
Metolius Sentinel
Metolius Sentinel
Read the Review
Metolius El Cap Haul Bag
Metolius El Cap Haul Bag
Read the Review
Editors' Awards  Top Pick Award  Editors' Choice Award  Top Pick Award    Top Pick Award 
Street Price Varies $55 - $60
Compare at 2 sellers
Varies $197 - $219
Compare at 3 sellers
Varies $175 - $179
Compare at 3 sellers
Varies $149 - $155
Compare at 2 sellers
Varies $197 - $229
Compare at 2 sellers
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50% recommend it (1/2)
Pros Lightweight, can haul outside of haulbag, no assembly required.Bomber, great size, comfy, one of the most waterproof.Great closure, bomber, great as a crag pack.Great closure, bomber, great as a crag pack.Durable, comfortable, water-tight closure, lots of volume.
Cons Expensive, not completely air-tight.Takes some time to get in and out of top.Expensive.Expensive, not the most useful size for most walls.Hard to access the bottom, takes some time to get in and out of the top of the bag.
Best Uses Big wall climbingBig wall climbing, aid climbing.Small walls and crag pack.Cragging pack, side car to your bigger haul bags.Big wall climbing, aid climbing.
Date Reviewed Jan 18, 2010Jan 18, 2010Oct 18, 2010Mar 25, 2011Jan 19, 2010
Weighted Scores Metolius Waste Case Metolius Half Dome Haul Bag Metolius Quarter Dome Haul Bag Metolius Sentinel Metolius El Cap Haul Bag
Durability - 40%
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Capacity - 10%
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Waterproofness - 10%  
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Ease Of Access - 20%
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Suspension - 20%
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Product Specs Metolius Waste Case Metolius Half Dome Haul Bag Metolius Quarter Dome Haul Bag Metolius Sentinel Metolius El Cap Haul Bag
volumne (cu inches) 500 7600 4200 2800 9600
weight 10.6 oz 7lb 7oz 5lb 1oz 4 lb 11oz 8lb
Main container material Durathane Durathane Durathane Durathane Durathane
Closure material Ballistic nylon Ballistic nylon Ballistic nylon Ballistic nylon Ballistic nylon
Sewn or welded seam welded welded welded welded welded

OutdoorGearLab Editors' Hands-on Review


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Durability
The urethane (Metolius calls it Durathane) bags were the most bomber. This is the burly material used on river rafts. All of the Metolius and Yates bags use this material. They also used welded seams, which is the most bomber way to join a seam – it is actually stronger than the urethane itself. I have never blown out a seam on a Fish or BD bag, but it is mostly because I have not used them on 20-plus walls. I did use old A5 haul bags on 20-plus walls and a blown out sewn seam was always the first thing to make the bag inoperable.

The vinyl bags are still bomber enough, you just have to take better care of them. I have seen a Fish vinyl bag last 20-plus walls. I have also seen a Black Diamond bag pretty haggard after 15. It all comes down to how well you pad the bag when hauling low angle slabs. With the Metolius and Yates bags, you don't have to be as careful.

Capacity
Capacity of a bag is mostly the cubic inch number you see listed in the specs. However, that is not the full story. The skirt or river closure adds more capacity. If you have a big river closure with accompanying compression straps, you can get a lot more in. If you have a regular drawstring closure with no compression straps, you can't cram in as much. The Metolius and Yates bags both have big river bag closures and beefy compression straps. They let you cram in the most stuff above and beyond the listed cubic inch numbers.

The urethane bags also have a bit more structure; they stand up better on their own for packing or at the crags when you are trying to get in the bag at a hanging belay.

Waterproof-ness
Both vinyl and urethane, the material used for the body of the haul bags, are waterproof. So it comes down the closure system. Here the clear winner is the river bag made of ballistic nylon. Denier nylon is not as water resistant. And you just can't beat a river bag closure for keeping out the elements. Both the Yates and Metolius medium and large bags are great at keeping out the elements as long as they are full, closed properly, and not in a waterfall. Even then, it is hard to keep any bag watertight so you should use dry bags for the crucial stuff (sleeping bags and extra clothing).

Ease of Access
Here two factors came into play: closure system and proportions. A bag that is too deep and not wide enough is hard to get to. A bag with a large river bag closure also takes a while to access. Here the Metolius and Yates bags did not do as well, especially the Metolius El Cap that is hard to get to the bottom of when you add in the closure system. The Metolius and Yates bags were easy to clip stuff to the bottom of. This is one gripe with the BD bags: not easy enough to clip stuff to the bottom.

Suspension
We didn't find a massive difference in the suspension systems. The BD bags are the most comfy to carry but not by a massive amount. They also have the easiest to detach backpack straps. All the Metolius bags were also quite comfy to carry.

The Bottom Line
The Editors' Choice goes to the Metolius Half Dome. It is a great size, super burly, and has a great closure system. The only way to improve on it would be to make it a little wider. But otherwise it is darn near perfect.

The Best Buy award goes to the Fish Deluxe… and all the Fish bags for that matter. Although they are not the highest rated in our tests, they are the least expensive and have gotten the job done on big wall ascents for decades. For the absolute best value, you can make your own haul bag. See the great Do it yourself big wall thread and some SuperTopo Forum Pig recommendations

The Recommended awards go to the Metolius bags in all their sizes. They are all super bomber, durable, and storm resistant. If you want the best 9000 cubic inch bag, get the Metolius El Cap. If you want the best haul pack or small haul bag, get the Sentinel and Quarter dome, respectively.

Check out our Haul Bag Buying Advice where we explain what is important to look for when buying a haul bag.

Chris McNamara
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