What Makes a Good Climbing Backpack?


From ruggedness to ventilation and easy access to gear, we give you the lowdown on finding the best climbing backpack for any adventure.

Whether you’re taking on new or well-known heights, having the right gear is essential. To keep everything safe and protected, you need a great climbing bag. Fit, features and handy extras are all covered in our complete rundown of what makes the best climbing backpack.

Good durability

Climbing means exposure to some of the most unforgiving environments, which is why durability is one of the most important aspects of any climbing backpack. Rugged terrains, abrasive surfaces and sharp objects will all cross your path as a climber. So you’ll need a backpack that stands up to it all, season after season.

For this reason, a good climbing backpack should be made from robust yet light materials that are highly resistant to tears, abrasions and punctures. Reinforced stitching and bar-tacked stress points also make the backpacks stronger and longer lasting. So look out for these details. 

A climbing backpack with an internal frame will make it easier to carry a heavy load and stay stable during challenging climbs. The frames are made from lightweight and sturdy materials such as aluminium or carbon fibre. These will help distribute weight evenly and maintain the backpack's shape.

Compression straps and load-lifting systems also help to keep a balanced and comfortable fit.

Lots of capacity 

When it comes to pack size, think about how long your adventure will be and how technical the climb is. 

For multi-day climbing trips larger backpacks ranging from 40 to 70 litres are the best. These provide enough space for gear, clothing and food, as well as your sleeping kit. For day trips or sport climbing, smaller backpacks with 20 to 40 litres of capacity should be enough for everything you’ll need.

Next is organisation. The best climbing backpacks have multiple compartments, pockets and gear loops. This makes it easy and quick to access your equipment. You might also want a bag with specialised features like rope-carry systems, helmet attachments and external tool loops. These come in very handy when you’re short on hands.

Complete comfort

Climbers are under high exertion for many hours. To keep your focus and comfort, choosing a backpack that fits well is key.  

Look for quality climbing backpacks with padded shoulder straps, adjustable sternum straps and hip belts. These features distribute weight effectively and alleviate any pressure points. This will help you stay comfortable as you climb. 

Choosing a pack with a ventilated back panel will keep you cool during summer climbs. 

Suspended mesh back panels or breathable foam padding will also stop you overheating. Plus, pro packs include ergonomic designs and anatomical shaping to boost ventilation and freedom of movement.

Specific features for rock climbers

Rock climbers don’t just need a pack that’s lightweight, tough and well ventilated, but keeps all their gear close at hand. If you’re on the lookout for your next rock climbing backpack, keep your eyes out for some of the following features:

Gear attachment points

Ice axe loops, tool keepers and external gear loops make it easy to secure equipment safely. 

Haul loops and daisy chains

Haul loops make taking your backpack with you easier during multi-pitch climbs. Daisy chains give numerous attachments for gear, helmets and other accessories.

Hydration compatibility

Staying hydrated is crucial during climbing. Hydration sleeves and tube-routing systems make it easy to get the fluids you need without slowing down.

What are the benefits of a climbing backpack vs a hiking backpack?

If you’re new to the sport, you may wonder whether a regular hiking backpack will work for climbing. Generally, the answer is no.

Climbing backpacks prioritise durability, freedom of movement and weight distribution. Plus, they offer climbing-specific features like easy tool access. They are also designed to withstand abrasions.

Hiking backpacks, on the other hand, focus on comfort during long treks and weight distribution for extended carrying on foot. Though you can access your hiking gear and essentials easily when you’re on the ground, this may get tricky as you start to climb.

So, even if you’re a beginner that’s planning on spending a couple of hours climbing, choosing a climbing backpack rather than a hiking bag will help keep you comfortable and your kit safe. 

Finding the best climbing backpack for you

Choosing the right climbing backpack can make a real difference to the enjoyment of any climb. If you’re on the lookout for a new climbing bag, keep in mind qualities like durability, ventilation, comfort and easy tool access.

At The North Face, we offer a range of quality climbing backpacks to see you through any adventure. From smaller daypacks to larger sizes for multi-day trips, we’ve got everything you need for your best climb yet.