The Petzl KAB stands out as an impressively functional rope bag for climbing indoors. It has some of the most unique features of any model we tested and if going to the gym is a part of your daily routine, you'll likely appreciate its design. It earns our Top Pick Award for indoor climbing because of its excellent performance as a gym climbing bag. The KAB is indistinguishable from a messenger bag and even has a padded laptop sleeve in addition to several smaller organizational compartments. These unique features combined with a large removable tarp make it a great option for those who want a top-notch bag for indoor climbing.
Petzl Kab Review
Cons: Expensive, not great outdoors, single carrying strap
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Our Analysis and Test Results
For indoor climbing, the KAB is a thoughtfully-designed rope bag with many attributes that make it ideal for the gym. Despite lacking versatility, it fills its niche incredibly well and is useful for both gym climbing and day-to-day use as a laptop bag. There are better options if you climb outdoors, but the KAB is worth considering if you only climb indoors.
The KAB performed decently in our packability testing but felt fairly average amongst the other models that we tested. Because it is virtually a laptop bag, longer ropes feel awkward to carry, and we found it to be best for shorter gym-specific ropes, especially 35-meter ones. The main pack has a zippered bottom that can create extra volume if you want to carry additional gear. Shorter gym-specific ropes are ideal for the KAB because they leave plenty of room for gear that you'll want for an average training session.
In addition to having space for a rope, the KAB has a padded laptop sleeve and is the only model that we would consider for carrying around a computer. We found this compartment to be a useful one and packing a full-size 15" laptop didn't compromise the bag's ability to carry a rope. This extra storage feature doesn't have any performance advantages when it comes to climbing outdoors.
The KAB's single strap is comfortable for short distances but doesn't work well for long days. It has decent padding and feels like a messenger bag, making it a good option for day-to-day use when you're heading to the climbing gym. Our testers liked the KAB for days where they went to the climbing gym after work.
The main disadvantage of the KAB when it comes to carrying comfort is that it doesn't have two backpack straps for longer periods of use. This isn't a big deal if you're toting it around town on your way to the gym, but it makes it difficult to use for extended outdoor approaches. We liked carrying it around town and appreciated the flexibility (and style?) that it offered as a daily driver, whether we were commuting to work or making a stop at the climbing gym.
When it comes to rope protection, the KAB has one of the larger tarps that we saw in testing. The tarp is shaped like a trapezoid and has plenty of space for a 70-meter rope. The main pack material is thick and feels durable for frequent use. We liked the KAB's color-coded tie loops, which are built into the corners of the tarp.
Whether it's going in your trunk or on the floor of a subway car, this bag will keep your rope safe from external elements and is durable enough to withstand extensive use. In addition to protecting your rope, the padded laptop sleeve of the KAB will keep your computer safe while you're carrying it around town.
Ease of Use
The KAB is one of the most unique models that we tested concerning ease of use. It is very specifically designed for climbing indoors and has many features that make it excel in this application. The most interesting feature is its padded laptop sleeve, which makes it functional for daily use. It has a funnel-style design, which greatly simplifies packing up a rope. You can pull the tarp up by both corners and slide the rope into the main bag. Because the tarp is removable, the bag also functions as a messenger bag, and without the tarp there is plenty of space for books.
The main disadvantage of the KAB is its poor performance as an outdoor cragging pack. For daily life, its sleek styling, convenient compartments, and metal buckles help it blend in, but the KAB looks very out of place at the crag. This isn't much of an issue if you only plan to use it indoors, but it is worth considering that the KAB doesn't function well for climbing outside.
The KAB is one of the most expensive rope bags that we tested, and it can be difficult to justify this high price if its features aren't a great fit for your needs. For those who climb at a gym on their commute to work or school, the KAB has a lot to offer, making its price worth it. Most messenger bags cost more. If you're looking for a simple model or one that can be used for outdoor climbing, there are many better options available than the KAB.
If you're looking for a rope bag to use at the gym, the Petzl KAB is unparalleled. It isn't the most versatile model but works very well for its intended purpose. The padded laptop sleeve makes it great for day-to-day use if the climbing gym is a part of your routine heading to or from school, work, or a coffee shop.
— Steven Tata