Realistically you could take a suitcase to the crag. Or a giant re enforced garbage bag (I have seen it done). Both would get your gear to the bottom of the climb, but there is a reason we don’t often see such rudimentary travel vessels being used for sport climbing.
You are more likely to see people toting thier gear around the cliffs in a big hiking style pack. Or maybe even one of those cool brightly coloured and highly branded duffel bags. Both these make viable options to keep all your sport climbing gear organized and in one place. However this season it was time to trade in that hiking pack and give the Metolius Crag Station a try.
The Crag Station pack is designed for exactly what the name implies. Getting your gear to the Crag and having a common area to keep all your snacks and layers when you aren’t using them. At 41 Litres it has plenty of space to fit all the summer cragging essentials.
The pack is made from super durable Nylon and Durathane wich is used in Metolius haul bags. It has two external pockets located on each side and two compression style straps that have aluminum buckles. Two fully adjustable shoulder straps a waist belt and two front handles take care of the carrying duties.
By far the best feature of the pack is it’s duffel style opening. My biggest problem with using hiking style packs for sport climbing is that if you want something from the bottom you have to take everything on top out. This inevitably leads to gear being strewn all over the ground and a higher likelihood of leaving something behind. With the Crag Station I was able to remove gear from anywhere in the pack without having to worry about misplacing something else in the bushes or under a rock.
The two robust handles on the front make it easy to pick up while open without losing the contents. I ended up using these handles more that I would have thought. Especially when moving to another close by route, I didn’t have to pack everything up, I could simply throw it all in the middle grab the handles and go.
The carrying system is not as elaborate as many of the hiking style packs, but for the short (30min) approaches I used it for I was impressed with the bags comfort. Once adjusted to my size the shoulder straps were comfortable and the hip belt felt secure and comfortable.
There is some sort of plastic barrier that is integrated into the back panel which is a feature I wish more packs would include. Sure it adds weight and makes the bag less compressible, but nothing ever pokes your back no matter how you load the pack. For me this is a huge feature since at the end of the day and in fleeting light, sometimes I don’t have time to ensure the grgri isn’t located in a kidney poking location.
If you are looking at a lengthy approach or you need to bring a lot of gear to your climb a top loading hiking style pack might still be your best bet. However The Metolius Crag station and it’s duffel style opening, protected back panel and robust build have made it a favorite for me this summer.
-Protected back panel
-2 compression straps
-Duffel style opening with handles
-Heavy compared to lightweight hiking packs
-Not easily compressed into another bag
-Less comfortable compared to hiking packs