Reviews You Can Rely On

How We Tested Climbing Packs

By Ian McEleney ⋅ Review Editor
Monday April 26, 2021

We conducted the field testing for our climbing pack review all over North America. From El Capitan to Devil's Tower, the Canadian Rockies to Cochamo, anytime we got more than a pitch off the ground, a pack came along.

Exploring South America's granite wonderland, Cochamo, with the...
Exploring South America's granite wonderland, Cochamo, with the Creek 20
Photo: Katy Pfannenstein

Comfort


To test climbing comfort, we were forced to bring OutdoorGearLab indoors. The local climbing gym gave us a controlled environment to assess comfort and other attributes fairly. We loaded each pack with 12 pounds of gear and let our testers take each pack for a spin. Opinions occasionally varied between different body types, but by and large, we could settle on similar scores.

Comfort on the climb is important, but so is comfort on the approach.
Comfort on the climb is important, but so is comfort on the approach.
Photo: Ian McEleney

Climbing Utility


We started examining climbing utility by taking an inventory of each pack's feature set, noting what was present and what was missing. We also made a point of giving each pack to climbers who had never used it before to see which features they would use and how intuitive those features were.

Some climbers discovered the hydration tube shoulder sleeve on their...
Some climbers discovered the hydration tube shoulder sleeve on their own and some didn't.
Photo: Ian McEleney

Durability


When evaluating durability, we don't go out of our way to destroy the packs, but we definitely don't baby them. We took a thorough look at every part of each pack at the end of our testing to see what was damaged. Any unusually burly treatment on-route is noted.

Scuffing and minor damage from only 40 feet of haul testing.
Scuffing and minor damage from only 40 feet of haul testing.
Photo: Ian McEleney

Versatility


Versatility testing was easy. As active outdoors folk, our testers use small packs all the time, and our fleet of products went everywhere. We examined their cross-over usefulness from lift-served skiing to mountain biking to grad school to a trip to Mexico City for La Dia De Los Muertos.

Style is a factor in urban activities.
Style is a factor in urban activities.
Photo: Ian McEleney

Weight


Testing each pack for weight was simple: we weighed them with a freshly calibrated scale. All removable parts were included when weighing.

Our trusty Weighmax 2822 hard at work.
Our trusty Weighmax 2822 hard at work.
Photo: Ian McEleney

The final published review is an amalgamation of our outdoor trips, indoor testing, and conversations with climbing friends and acquaintances. As always, to assure complete independence and objectivity, the gear tested was purchased at full price by OutdoorGearLab in the retail marketplace.