One of the toughest decisions a climber has to make is what to take with them. Take too much stuff up with you and every muscle in your body will be screaming at you halfway up your climb, making you doubt you can get to the top. Take not enough and you might be stuck on a belay ledge wondering if you’ll ever feel your hands again. Over packing or under packing could put you at risk so picking the right bag is crucial.
The best thing about this pack is its durability for its weight. At 1lb 3oz it is a good middle ground between ultra-light ice climbing packs such as the Arc’teryx Cierzo and the heavier Osprey Mutant or Patagonia Ascensionist.
The key highlights of this bag are the ice tool “pick pockets” and the crampon straps. The pick pockets are the best system of carrying tools I’ve used on a technical bag. The combination of the stiff velcro for the handles and the cinchable webbing around the head of each feels way more secure that the thin cord found on some other bags (see links above). The crampon straps make this bag uniquely fitting for ice climbing, as none of its competitors have this feature. The material of the bag in this area is beefed up with some stiffer material to ensure it is not punctured. This is useful for when your approach calls for skis or snowshoes, you no longer have to find a place in your bag, taking up space and risking damage to the bag itself.
The shoulder straps are lightly padded which is enough for the weight you should be carrying with it. The frame is just a removable piece of foam padding, which is again just enough. The waist strap is two removable pieces of webbing and a buckle, exactly what is needed. The chest strap is not removable but it does have a whistle.
It has one internal lid pocket big enough for your phone, keys and wallet and an external lid pocket big enough for a sandwich or some heavy gloves. It’s nice to have a pocket that you can put some quick access stuff into, unlike some of the more “alpine” roll-up tops. There is also a hydration bladder pocket with a slit for the tube to come though.
There is a piece of webbing that can come out of the hydration slit and clip and synch around a rope coil. The rope sits far enough forward that the top can be opened with a rope strapped to the bag.
The zipper makes access into the bag way easier than the typical lid and drawstring tops of most other small climbing bags. In the cold, with gloves on, and tired arms, I prefer the zipper.
The one aspect about this bag that really bugs me is how it carries rope. It does have a piece of webbing to buckle around a rope coil, but it comes out of the hydration slit. Because of the angle it comes out on, it tended to push my head forward and down if the pack is filled to capacity. This is not the most comfortable place for your head to be when your walking uphill. Half of the time I am wearing this pack, it has rope on it. The lid on the top loading version, Speed 22, makes it easier to keep a rope in a more comfortable position.
If you are looking for a durable, lightweight, and functional climbing pack, this is a great choice. However, I’ve found that if you plan on carrying a rope on a long approach or alpine climbing, the Speed 22 could be an even better choice.