The Petzl Kab showed up again this year in our updated rope bag review and took our Editors' Choice Award yet again. The Petzl Kab comes with tons of extra little features that are rarely seen in other rope bags, is built like a tank, and functions exactly how you would expect an excellent rope bag to perform: it packs and unpacks efficiently and easily without tangling your cord.
Petzl Kab Review
Cons: Most expensive, heavy, does not pack easily into larger pack
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Our Analysis and Test Results
The Petzl Kab has taken our Editors' Choice award for rope bags year after year, and 2017 is no different. Its huge, removable tarp is unparalleled in all of the other bags we tested this year, allowing you to use it with the bag, or without for those fast and light days. The unique design allows for it to be used as a traditional rope bag for long approaches and moves but then can shift into more of a rope bucket design when the need comes for shorter moves. This makes the Kab incredibly versatile. Finally, the Kab sports tons of features that most other rope bags wouldn't dream of, such as two sewn gear loops, interior mesh zippered pocket, and roll top closure. Although another bag may get the job done, the Kab gets it done exceptionally well with tons of usable features.
The Petzl Kab sports a monstrous 55"x 55" (140cm x 140cm) tarp that got first place in total surface. Only second to the Kab's tarp, the Petzl Bolsa featured a 55"x55" size tarp in the funnel style bag. The Metolius offerings that we tested (Dirt Bag II, Speedster, and Ropemaster HC) all came in third with tarp size at 52"x58". The Kab's tarp has a tapered end to help pack it into its bag, which is a different style than the traditional square/rectangle tarps on most bags to allow you to dump the rope into the bag to use it as a bucket design. We didn't feel that this hampered the ability of the tarp to catch falling cords or flaking ropes at all.
Ease of Packing the Rope
The Kab is one of the easier burrito style rope bags to pack. Its large opening swallowed 70m ropes with ease and we found the Kab noticeably easier to pack than our other top picks the Metolius Speedster and the Metolius Dirt Bag II. Additionally, the tapered nature of the tarp gives less fabric to fuss with when packing the bag. The only other Burrito style bag that was easier to pack was the Black Diamond Full Rope Burrito. The Kab wasn't as quick or as easy to pack a rope as the "funnel style" rope bags we tested; the Petzl Bolsa. The Kab, however, was much easier to unpack and almost always handed-out less tangled ropes than the funnel style bags. This is because when you roll up a "burrito style" rope bag, it essentially pins the rope against the tarp, keeping it in place when it's packed and as a result, unpacked. With the funnel style bags, you need to pour them out which causes a tendency for the ropes to get a little more clustered.
Ease of Packing the Bag
This is one of the few down falls of the Kab because it's so stiff and burly it takes a little more work to pack into a larger cragging pack for longer approaches.
It does have some decently effective compression straps that help some for sure, but its stiff nature makes it slightly harder to pack than some softer models like the Black Diamond Full Rope Burrito. However, this type of bag isn't really meant to be packed inside another bag. Still, it performed better than the Metolius Speedster or Petzl Bolsa as these bags are meant to be carried on their own and did not pack efficiently into other packs. Although it did not perform as well in this metric, it wasn't THAT much more difficult to pack than say the Metolius Dirt Bag II, as its compression straps helped to pack it down to a manageable size.
Ease of Transport
The Kab is incredibly comfortable to carry mid-distances (25-30 minutes) thanks to its padded shoulder strap and waist belt. Moving around the crag (especially routes right next to each other) was easy thanks to the Kab's rope bucket design and shorty carrying handles.
However, for shorter moves, the Black Diamond Full Rope Burrito still takes the cake for the easiest to move over short distances. This allowed our testers to stack the rope in easily and not worry about tangling from packing. For longer approaches (<30 minutes) our testers found it more comfortable to pack the Kab in another, larger cragging pack. The Kab has ample space to carry up to an 80m rope, 10-15 draws, climbing shoes, harness, and chalk bag making it ideal as a single, short approach craggin' pack if you only wanted to bring one bag. However, if you're looking for a true one bag system, the Metolius Speedster is definitely your bag as it is much more comfortable to carry over long distances thanks to its backpack style design.
Extra Features and Usability
What truly makes the Kab unique is its multitude of extra little features. In fact, we found it so good that in a pinch you could use it as a sport craggin' pack.
The Kab features two interior gear loops, an interior zippered mesh pocket, removable rope tarp, roll-top closure, shorty grab loops, rope bucket option, and outside zippered pocket to name a few. The Metolius Speedster comes in close second in this metric thanks to its large zippered pocket and comfortable backpack straps. The design of the bag itself is bombproof as well, with burly fabric and a polyurethane bottom making it
The Kab is one of the sweetest rope bags on the market. It has tons of pockets, gear loops and many other very useful features. This does come at a price, at $50 it's the most expensive rope bag in our review. It is the most expensive but is only $10 more than nearly all other models sold and you get a TON more features for that $10. Considering that you will likely still be using the same rope bag for the next 1-2 decades it could be worth it for those extra nice features to spend the additional $5-10 spread out over 20 years. We think so.
The Kab is by far the most feature-rich bag we've ever tested, and likely one of the very few of it' kind. All of the features are incredibly useful and didn't feel gimmicky at all (gear loops? multiple pockets?) making it feel more like a fully-featured crag bag than just a simple rope bag. At $50 it's by far the most expensive rope bag we've ever seen, but really only $10 more than the other contestants in our rope bag lineup. For $10 you get a load of great features that you'll actually use in the field.
Overall, the Kab earned our Editors' Choice award because of its burly design, huge, removable tarp, and tons of extra usable features. This bag was made for those climbers who love features and extras on their equipment. Additionally, it performs extremely well as a rope tarp/bag or as a standalone crag bag. With any luck, if you purchase the Petzl Kab and take great care of it (as burly as it is, all equipment needs some basic loving care), it's very likely the only rope bag you'll need in your climbing career.
— Ian Nicholson & Graham Williams