Best Climbing Backpack in 2021 (Guide & Reviews)

by Gaby Pilson
Last Updated: August 26, 2021
Close-up on intermediate climber tying her shoelace

If you’re heading out on a climbing trip, you’ll need a quality climbing backpack to hold all your gear. However, finding the right pack for your adventures isn’t as easy as it might seem because there are so many great options to choose from.

To help you find the best climbing backpack for your needs, we’ve reviewed the top 5 options on the market today. Coming right up, we’ll introduce you to our top choices and we’ll even offer some guidance to help you make your selection.

The top 5 climbing backpack we recommend for 2021:

Buying guide: What you should look for when buying a climbing backpack

The 5 Top Climbing Backpacks Reviewed

Editor’s Choice: Mammut Neon Gear 45L 

Mammut Neon Gear 45L on white background
Mammut Neon Gear 45L 
Editor’s Choice
Key Features:
  • 3D-laminated EVA foam back panel
  • Padded hipbelt
  • Removable rope tarp
  • Integrated back panel zipper
Pros
  • Comfortable to carry
  • Rope tarp helps keep gear clean
  • Extra durable fabrics
  • Well ventilated for hot weather
  • Socially-responsible manufacturing process
Cons
  • Fairly heavy

Crafted with cragging and vertical adventures in mind, the Mammut Neon Gear 45L is your go-to choice for all-around rock climbing. 

Featuring a burly 840D Triton ripstop nylon base and a 420D Triton ripstop nylon shell fabric, the Neon Gear 45L is designed for the harshest of conditions. It boasts a massive back panel zipper, which allows for easier access to your gear in the main compartment, as well as a single large top zipper for quick gear storage.

Meanwhile, the interior of the Neon Gear 45 features a removable rope tarp, which works seamlessly with the integrated rope attachment strap so you can quickly stash your gear on the fly. At the same time, the abundance of pockets and daisy chain loops make it easier to stow smaller bits of gear.

As far as comfort goes, Mammut built this pack with a padded hip belt for extra stability when scrambling over tricky terrain. Moreover, it has a 3D-laminated EVA foam back panel to provide ample ventilation on warm summer days.

Finally, the Neon Gear 45L is manufactured to Fairwear Foundation standards, to help ensure quality working conditions for everyone involved in the creation of each pack.

Technical Specs: 

  • Best Use: Cragging
  • Capacity: 45L
  • Weight: 3.1lbs (1.4kg)
  • Materials: 420D & 840D Triton Ripstop Nylon
Mammut Neon Gear 45L on white background
Mammut Neon Gear 45L
Editor’s Choice

Upgrade Pick: Arc’teryx Alpha FL 30

Arc’teryx Alpha FL 30 on white background
Arc’teryx Alpha FL 30
Upgrade Pick
Key Features:
  • N400r-AC2 6 ripstop nylon fabric
  • Seam-taped and weather-resistant
  • Internal and external pockets
  • Ice tool and crampon storage
Pros
  • Very lightweight
  • Many different gear storage options
  • Designed to keep your gear dry
  • Compact enough to stay in place as you climb
Cons
  • Pricey
  • No floating lid

Durable to the core, the Arc’teryx Alpha FL 30 is an alpinist’s best friend in the mountains.

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Engineered to be as light as possible this pack has a streamlined construction which helps it stay comfortable and out of the way as you climb. Meanwhile, the pack’s N400r-AC2 6 ripstop nylon body is both water-resistant and durable enough to withstand frequent use.

For gear storage, Arc’teryx built the Alpha FL 30 so that it has a large central compartment, as well as both an internal pocket and an expandable front pocket. At the same time, it offers gear storage options for ice tools, crampons, ropes, and the like so you can carry everything you need on your climb.

When it comes to comfort, this pack features a formed back panel construction, which helps to evenly distribute the load across your back for improved climbing comfort. While the pack doesn’t come with a hip-belt, it does have newly redesigned shoulder straps that are curved for increased range of motion.

Moreover, even though this backpack is a bit on the pricier end of the spectrum, it’s one of the lightest options on the market. As a result, it’s a solid choice for those light and fast missions into the mountains.

Technical Specs: 

  • Best Use: Alpinism & Multi-Pitch
  • Capacity: 30L
  • Weight: 1.4lbs (640g)
  • Materials: N400r-AC2 Nylon 6 Ripstop
Arc’teryx Alpha FL 30 on white background
Arc’teryx Alpha FL 30
Upgrade Pick

Best Value: Black Diamond Rock Blitz 15

Black Diamond Rock Blitz 15 on white background
Black Diamond Rock Blitz 15
Best Value
Key Features:
  • Durable 840D nylon fabric
  • Weight-saving design
  • Side-zip access system
  • Integrated rope carry strap
Pros
  • Highly affordable
  • Hydration-system compatible
  • Can be stripped down to cut weight
  • Small side-zip pocket for storing essential gear
Cons
  • Relatively small carrying capacity
  • No external gear storage pockets

Whether you’re looking to enjoy a day of cragging or tackle a multi-pitch ascent, the Black Diamond Rock Blitz 15 is a highly affordable option for life in the vertical world.

Designed for durability, the Rock Blitz 15 is made out of 840D nylon, which is rugged enough to handle shimmying up off-widths and heinous off-trail approaches. Additionally, the pack’s hydration-system compatibility makes it easier for you to stay fueled and energized while on the go.

When crafting this pack, Black Diamond also put versatility on the forefront of their design. As a result, the Rock Blitz 15 can be stripped down to the basics and you can remove the waist belt and sternum strap when weight savings are a priority.

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To transport all your gear, this pack comes with a 15L central storage compartment that has enough space for a full rack, spare layers, and your snacks for the day. Meanwhile, the top strap closure system can double as a rope carry when you’re making your way to and from the crag.

If that wasn’t enough, the pack also comes with a side zip system and a small pocket, allowing you quick access to your most essential gear while you’re mid-climb.

Technical Specs: 

  • Best Use: Cragging & Multi-Pitch
  • Capacity: 15L
  • Weight: 0.88lbs (403g)
  • Materials: 840D Nylon
Black Diamond Rock Blitz 15 on white background
Black Diamond Rock Blitz 15
Best Value

Best For Multi-Pitch Rock: Petzl Bug 18

Petzl Bug 18 on white background
Petzl Bug 18
Best For Multi-Pitch Rock
Key Features:
  • Rugged nylon fabric
  • Weight-saving strippable construction
  • Hydration-system compatible
  • Internal and external pockets
Pros
  • Very lightweight and portable
  • Comfortable, weight-saving design
  • Fairly affordable
  • Includes a waist belt and sternum strap
Cons
  • Slightly heavier than other similar packs

If carrying small amounts of essential gear on multi-pitch climbs is your chief priority, then the Petzl Bug 18 just might be the performance-centric pack of your dreams.

Built to have a low profile and a contoured back that sits snugly against your body, the Bug 18 is among the most comfortable climbing-focused packs on the market. Since the pack doesn’t have an integrated back panel, it’s able to cut weight and bulk without sacrificing comfort on your climb.

Moreover, this backpack comes with a stowaway waist belt, which you can use to enhance your gear’s weight distribution on longer approaches. When you arrive at your climb, you can stash away the waist belt and use the adjustable sternum strap for added stability on route.

For gear storage, the Bug 18 gives you plenty of options. In addition to its central storage compartment, it offers a large exterior pocket and an interior compartment for a hydration system. 

Adding on to the pack’s other excellent features, Petzl also crafted this backpack to have a topo pocket that gives you quick access to your maps and route finding information, as well as an external daisy chain for connecting smaller bits of gear.

Technical Specs: 

Hammock Gear: Seek Adventure Find Yourself.
  • Best Use: Multi-Pitch
  • Capacity: 18L
  • Weight: 1.2lbs (525g)
  • Materials: Nylon
Petzl Bug 18 on white background
Petzl Bug 18
Best For Multi-Pitch Rock

Best For Cragging: Black Diamond Creek 50

Black Diamond Creek 50 on white background
Black Diamond Creek 50
Best For Cragging
Key Features:
  • Full-length side zipper
  • Rope/helmet carry stem
  • 1200D TPU-coated weather-resistant fabric
  • 50L carrying capacity
Pros
  • External zippered pocket for gear organization
  • Easy access to all of your gear
  • More than enough gear storage for a day of cragging
  • Extra-durable fabric construction
Cons
  • Heavy for a climbing backpack

Long days at the crag require plenty of gear, so a heavy-duty, yet functional pack like the Black Diamond Creek 50 is always a solid choice. 

With enough carrying capacity to handle an entire trad rack, a rope, and plenty of supplementary gear, the Creek 50 is your best friend for all things climbing. In particular, this pack boasts a 50L capacity as well as a top-loading design with a drawcord closure and a top strap that can double as a rope or helmet carry system.

For quick access to your gear on the trail, this backpack even has a full-length side zipper. If that wasn’t enough, the Creek 50 also comes with a zippered front flap with its own integrated organization pockets to help you keep track of all your smaller bits of gear when you’re out and about for a day of climbing.

Oh, and this backpack is made with some of the most durable fabrics on the market, thanks to its 1200D TPU coated polyester construction. This TPU coating even makes the pack weather-resistant, allowing your gear to stay dry and secure if the weather decides not to cooperate on your climbing trip.

Technical Specs: 

  • Best Use: Cragging
  • Capacity: 50L
  • Weight: 4.4lb (2kg)
  • Materials: 1200D TPU Coated Polyester
Black Diamond Creek 50 on white background
Black Diamond Creek 50
Best For Cragging

How To Choose A Climbing Backpack

Buying a climbing pack is a major investment, so it’s critical that you know what to look for before you make your decision. Here are some of the most important things to keep in mind as you shop:

Intended Use

If you’ve done a quick internet search for climbing packs, you’ll know all too well that there are a lot of different options to choose from. 

The very first thing any prospective pack buyer ought to consider as they shop is what they plan to use the backpack for. While some models are designed for rock climbing day trips, others are meant for longer mountaineering or alpine adventures.

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Therefore, knowing what you intend to use your pack for is of the utmost importance. This is what you need to know:

  • Cragging Packs. Designed for days at the crag, cragging packs are meant to be large enough to hold all of the gear you need to send your project. They’re usually 25 to 50L in size and feature plenty of storage space for racks, ropes, and other necessities. However, they’re often heavier than their alpine and multi-pitch counterparts because they’re meant to prioritize gear storage over functionality mid-climb.
  • Multi-pitch/Follower Packs. If you’re planning on spending most of your time on multi-pitch routes, a multi-pitch or follower pack might be what you need. These small packs are usually 15 to 25L in size and they are designed to hold only an extra layer or two, a guidebook, some water, and some snacks. Therefore, they’re best for when weight savings and portability are key.
  • Alpinism & Mountaineering Packs. Finally, alpinism and mountaineering packs are meant for lightweight trips into remote, technical terrain. Generally speaking, these packs are usually between 30L and 55L in size and they have special features, like crampon pouches and ice tool slots to help you carry more specialized gear. They tend to be very lightweight, though you can usually expect a hefty price tag, too.

Carrying Capacity

Once you decide what type of backpack you need, your next job is to determine how much carrying capacity is appropriate for your preferred style of climbing. To some degree, this will be decided for you when you pick out a specific type of pack, but you usually have some leeway when it comes to determining precisely how big you want your backpack to be.

Smaller packs (15L to 25L) are ideal from a climbability standpoint because they have a lower profile and they tend to weigh less. But, the clear downside to a smaller pack is that it can’t hold as much gear.

Meanwhile, larger packs (25L to 55L) provide much more in terms of gear storage, and many of them are able to carry an entire rack and rope while you’re outside. Of course, larger packs are usually heavier and bulkier, so they’re less ideal for use while you’re actually climbing. 

But, if you’re willing to pay a bit more for an alpine-specific pack, you can often get a fairly large (35L to 55L) model that’s surprisingly lightweight.

Pockets & Gear Storage Options

Although all backpacks are, by definition, designed to carry gear, climbing packs each come with their own unique gear storage options.

In addition to their central storage compartment, many modern packs now include a whole slew of different pockets and gear organization features. Some popular features that you might see as you shop include:

  • External Pockets. Useful for stashing small bits of gear that you want to keep as accessible as possible.
  • Daisy Chains. Bar-tacked daisy chains located on the outside of your pack that serve as great attachment points for clipping carabiners and other pieces of gear.
  • Exterior Bungee Cords. Makes it easier to transport crampons and belay jackets on the outside of your pack.
  • Ice Tool Attachments. Small straps that allow you to attach your ice tools to the exterior of your pack.
  • Rope/Helmet Strap. Generally found on the top of a pack and used to tie down a climbing rope or a helmet.
  • Floating Lid. The “lid” or “brain” of a backpack is a (usually) removable external pocket that’s perfect for stashing smaller pieces of equipment as you climb.

That being said, while all of these gear storage features are useful, they do add weight to your pack. So, you’ll often need to make some compromises on features to ensure that you get a model that’s functional enough for your climbing needs. 

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Weight & Bulk

As with any piece of climbing gear, weight and bulk are a concern. That being said, weight and bulk are more of a sticking point for alpinists and multi-pitch climbers who expect to hike long distances and climb with their new packs.

In general, packs that weigh less than about 1.5lbs (680g) can be considered reasonably lightweight while some options (especially those for multi-pitch climbing) weigh less than 1lbs (450g). 

Meanwhile, packs that you’ll find for cragging tend to be the heaviest due to their thicker materials and larger carrying capacity, with some models weighing in at over 4lbs (1.8kg).

Comfort

Comfort is key with any backpack, and climbing-specific models are no exception. When shopping for a climbing pack, your chief comfort-related concerns generally involve the construction of the back panel and hip belt.

As far as the back panel goes, models that are crafted for cragging and some larger alpine packs tend to have integrated back panels which help to better distribute load throughout your body. 

While these back panels do add a small amount of weight to your pack, they’re often removable. Plus, the added comfort that comes with them is usually worth it for folks that expect to carry heavy loads.

Alternatively, hip belts can also be used to improve the weight distribution of your pack. However, padded hip belts do add quite a bit of weight and bulk to your gear and they’re not always comfortable while you climb. So, having a pack with removable or stowable hip belts is ideal for alpine and multi-pitch climbers.

The Verdict

These days, there are dozens of excellent climbing backpacks available. However, choosing just one option for your needs isn’t always as straightforward as it might seem.

After reviewing the best climbing and alpinism packs on the market, one of the models on our list stood out above the rest: the Mammut Neon Gear 45L.

With the Neon Gear 45L, we particularly like how comfortable the pack is to carry and how durable it is in the mountains. Although it’s a bit heavier than some might like for alpinism, its gear-storage abilities and climbing-focused features make it a solid choice for cragging and multi-pitch pursuits.

Ultimately, the most important thing is that you get the right climbing pack for your needs, but, at this point, you have all the information you need to make your decision. See you in the mountains!

Gaby Pilson
I am a mountaineering and climbing guide, as well as a professional outdoor educator. I split my time between working in the polar regions as an expedition guide, working as a climbing instructor, and pursuing my other passions of traveling, writing, and drinking copious amounts of coffee.
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