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Petzl Bug Review

Price:   $70 List | $55.00 at Amazon
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Pros:  Durable, loaded with features, comfortable, climbing oriented
Cons:  Heavy, not versatile, no emergency whistle
Editors' Rating:   
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Manufacturer:   Petzl

Our Verdict

The Petzl Bug and REI Co-op Flash 18 are the only climbing daypacks that returned from our 2010 review unchanged. Back then the Bug won a Top Pick award for its climbing specific features. Today, we still appreciate its functional design and multitude of external carrying options. However, the competition has caught up. At 20.3 oz, the Bug remains the heaviest pack in this review and lighter bags now surpass it in durability. Its utilitarian styling has also grown more dated with each passing year. This is still our favorite pack for big carry-over objectives where the ability to store gear on the outside is a blessing on the approach and descent. You can read on to learn the finer points of our analysis or check out the Editors' Choice winning Patagonia Linked Pack 16L or Best Buy receiving REI Co-op Flash 18 at their respective individual product pages.


RELATED REVIEW: The Best Climbing Packs Review


Our Analysis and Hands-on Test Results

Review by:
Jack Cramer
Review Editor
OutdoorGearLab

Last Updated:
Friday
January 8, 2016

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Though this tried and true design has a lot of external carry options, we find this pack to be too heavy and a little dated in design.

Performance Comparison


Celebrating another summit with the Petzl Bug.
Celebrating another summit with the Petzl Bug.

Weight


The Bug's abundance of straps and buckles comes with a cost: weight. At 20.3 ounces it's the heaviest climbing backpack tested and 4.5 oz more than the Editors' Choice winning Patagonia Linked Pack 16L. Also neither the hip belt, back pad, or shoulder straps are easily removable so there's no way to trim the weight. Most users, though, are unlikely to suffer from an extra few ounces. We believe the utility gained from added features is often worth more than the potential weight savings.

Durability


The zippers on the BD Bullet (yellow)  Petzl Bug (middle) and MH Hueco (right). From left to right they were largest/strongest to smallest/weakest.
The zippers on the BD Bullet (yellow), Petzl Bug (middle) and MH Hueco (right). From left to right they were largest/strongest to smallest/weakest.
Petzl doesn't list the denier of the Bug's nylon, but the fabric on its body feels comparable to the 400d material on the Mountain Hardwear Hueco 20. The gray base is sewn of sturdier stuff, but still inferior to the bases on the the Patagonia Linked or Black Diamond Bullet. The zipper is a beefy YKK variant. Our biggest concern is the eight plastic buckles that compose the compression straps and hip belt. These are prone to cracking when stepped on or crushed against a rock. Fortunately, the failure of any one buckle doesn't undermine the utility of the entire bag.

Packed Size


The 18 liter capacity of this pack is contained inside a simple rectangular shape. Geometrically this is an efficient design but the multitude of compression straps and a daisy chain increase its practical packed size. The potential exists to snag these things in the depths of chimney or on branches on the approach or descent. When empty, this pack takes up more space than the other packs, making it a less viable option as a summit bag on overnight trips. All these deficiencies caused this pack to receive the lowest score in this category.

Climbing Utility


The compression straps on the side of the Petzl Bug are great for securing big cams or other awkward to carry gear  but they increase its potential to snag on pointy obstacles.
The compression straps on the side of the Petzl Bug are great for securing big cams or other awkward to carry gear, but they increase its potential to snag on pointy obstacles.
The combination of features on the Bug make it useful for a range of rock climbing applications. Like the other bags we tested, it works fine on straightforward, half-day, multi-pitch routes. However, it also has enough capacity to accommodate longer days or carry-over objectives. The six compression straps and green daisy chain probably won't earn you style points on Main Street, but they function well at securing big cams, helmets, ropes, or anything else that won't fit inside the main compartment. Although this bag lacks dual haul loops, it's easy enough to backup the haul point by threading a biner through the top loop of the daisy chain. It's inconvenient, yet possible, to tuck the shoulder straps into the back panel pocket to streamline hauling as well.

For most casual users a lot these of features will be unnecessary but they are what makes the Bug our testers' favorite pack for Grade V or VI, in-a-day, challenges.

Versatility


The Petzl Bug was our favorite of the rock climbing daypacks for occasional skiing. Its compression straps made it the only bag capable of easily rigging skis in an A-frame configuration.
The Petzl Bug was our favorite of the rock climbing daypacks for occasional skiing. Its compression straps made it the only bag capable of easily rigging skis in an A-frame configuration.
Functionally this pack has a few deficiencies in versatility. It's heavier and bulkier than the other options for carrying inside an overnight bag for use as a summit-only pack. However, it can still get the job done. It's also more than capable of toting around a laptop, serving as a daypack for hiking, or any of the other things a small backpack might get used for. Some testers complained about its styling though. The abundance of compression straps and a conspicuous green daisy chain weren't thought of as cool by everyone. Judge its appearance for yourself and consider how often you plan to carry it down the runway.

Comfort


The hip belt is not removable on the Petzl Bug. However  it can be tucked inside a flap along the back panel to keep it out of the way.
The hip belt is not removable on the Petzl Bug. However, it can be tucked inside a flap along the back panel to keep it out of the way.
For its basic rectangular shape and slightly curved shoulder straps, the Bug is surprisingly comfortable. Part of its high weight is caused by extra padding in the back panel, which makes it more pleasant to wear. We appreciate the ventilated mesh shoulder straps that help keep your shoulders dry on humid days. One complaint was the hip belt, which is tuckable inside a flap in the back panel, but not removable. This location can rub and irritate your back on longer days with lots of repetitive movements. We hope Petzl will adopt the removable systems of the BD Bullet, Patagonia Linked, or REI Co-op Flash on updated versions. Overall this pack scored about average in comfort.

Best Applications


This pack really shines in multi-pitch situations. It's small and maneuverable enough for near-your-limit gymnastics yet versatile and expandable enough to stuff for committing, in-a-day big walls. If you're truly searching for a pack that works for any rock climbing objective, then give this one strong consideration.

Value


The Bug sells for $67.95 MSRP. This is about double the lowest-priced REI Co-op Flash, but in the neighborhood of the other packs we tested. Or if you like this bag, but you're on a budget, search for sales. The Bug has been around for a long time and on occasion we've seen it going for more than 30% off.

Conclusion


At the belay it's easy to hang the Bug off its single haul loop or green daisy chain. If you find a correctly shaped rock  the shoulder strap also works.
At the belay it's easy to hang the Bug off its single haul loop or green daisy chain. If you find a correctly shaped rock, the shoulder strap also works.
In our old 'Small Climbing Day Pack' review the Petzl Bug received the Top Pick Award for climbing specific features but finished towards the back of the field overall—5th out of 6. This time around OutdoorGearLab is larger. We now have separate reviews for best day backpack, laptop backpack, and hydration pack. In today's review we have the freedom to judge more strongly based on actual climbing utility but, unfortunately for the Bug, the competition has caught up in this respect. Despite a lot of great features, we can no longer get past its weight and bulk.
Jack Cramer

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Most recent review: January 8, 2016
Summary of All Ratings

OutdoorGearLab Editors' Rating:   
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 (3.0)
Average Customer Rating:     (0.0)
Rating Distribution
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