Ok, so I’m getting a bit sick of lugging around a back pack full of climbing gear, a mat and my refreshments. All I want to do is boulder, and with time constraints that modern life puts on us I just want to grab the minimal kit and launch up to that rock. Ideally I’m looking for a separate kit for my bouldering gear, one that holds my shoes, chalk and a few bits n bobs. I’ve been checking out some of the bouldering bags available.
One of the most common styles of bouldering bag have a shape similar to a suit carrier. This is a long flat sheet of material with various pockets and compartments along one side. The pocket arrangement tends to be a little different depending on the manufacturer, but they tend to hold shoes, carabiners, towels, chalk, etc, etc. The bag is designed to fit within a bouldering mat when it is folded. Usually these bags are fitted with a shoulder strap, the bag then folds in half and becomes what for all intents and purposes looks like a messenger bag. These bags are generally pretty good for storage but depending on the thickness/stiffness of your pad or the way it closes, it could deform your pad or squash your gear.
The Dolomite Deluxe bag is one of the more eye catching of this style. I say eye catching as all Dolomite’s bags can come manufactured from recycled vinyl signs. An excellent idea, the deluxe range has extra internal and external pockets for maps, keys, bottles, chalk the works. There’s also loops for carabiners and being made of vinyl signs its tough and water resistant. The only downside to the Dolomite range of bags is that they are expensive, up to 3 times the price of the nearest equivalent bag.
The equivalent would be the Metolius boulder bag is almost identical to the Dolomite bag in design. The back is made from new materials and opts for two large zippered pockets and a small zipper pockets instead. Again the bag can be laid flat within a closed mat or folded in the middle and carried by the padded carry strap.
Messenger bags are great. I’ve used this style of bag for all sorts of stuff, being able to get access to bits and bobs while carrying it off your shoulder is handy as hell.
Moon have taken this design a bit further by making their messenger bag double up as a backpack. But wait! There’s more, The Moon bag offers nice little features such as separate compartments, keeping your shoes, clothes and food away from your chalk. This bag also provides a tidy zip pocket on the front. The durability and hardwearing properties of these bags have been upgraded giving you even more bang for your buck.
Perhaps you’re looking for something a little prettier, something dual purpose so you can take to work or out on the town. I have for you the Flashed HT Natural bag. Again a shoulder bag though a little more, trendy or “Stylin” as Flashed describe. The bag is two-tone effort, constructed of hemp, hypalon and polyester. The interior pocket is big enough for a laptop or shoes, thin layers of clothing and your chalk bag, but not much else. There are pockets on the outside large enough for a water bottle. It’s not as roomy as the Moon bag, but it is a rugged alternative that won’t make you look like a trekker in the local bars. This one is a bit more for the scenester in you.
Backpacks are another way to go. I’m not a big fan of them these days due to not being able to easily access it while it’s on your back and my crash mat is also back mounted. Other than these personal points I can’t fault them. Backpacks or rucksacks whatever you want to call them. They offer maximum load capacity while at the same time allowing you to carry that load for longer. Back mounted bags are definitely better for your spine than messenger style bags.
Asana team bags are particularly massive for something that isn’t meant to be a hiking bag. The Team bag has been reviewed in 2011, an increase in size means that its about the size of a large hold all with handles to carry it like one, a handle on the top for generally lugging it around plus back pack handles to, well carry it like a back pack. The Team bag keeps it simple with a side pocket for your odds and ends and a massive full length zip pocket for the main compartment. This bag will hold loads of gear such as your ropes, shoes, rack bits and bobs. It is a nicely curved shape so it doesn’t seem bulky on your back. Oh yeah, it only comes in orange and black so you’re not going to lose it.
Moon again covering all the bases also do a nice backpack The Ariel backpack is a simplistic affair offering a nice top to bottom zip meaning you can cram all your gear in without the opening causing you problems. If you have maxed out the bags capacity then you have the same strap and alloy hook combo they use on the crash pads, so you’re safe in the knowledge the bag isn’t going to spill it’s guts mid approach. The top of the bag has a hood which works similar to the waterproof covers you can get to cover walking backpacks. In addition to this thoughtful feature the Ariel backpack also has a pocket on the back panel which takes a water bladder for those long treks or climbs.
Of course there are many, many types of bag on the market but these are the few that stand out the most. Everyday backpacks from sports shops are fine, however in my experience they just don’t last. I often find the inner lining falling to bits between compartments or zips and straps failing. The bags listed are designed by people who climb so you know that it is at least designed specifically with your requirements in mind.