What size climbing backpack do I need?

Climbing packs differ from hiking backpacks in a number of subtle but important ways.

Climbing backpacks are typically tall and thin with a sturdy structure and very secure harnessing system to keep them snugly against your back during activity.

Climbing Packs: Tall, thin, lots of compression

You should look for a pack which has straps that fit you well at waist, sternum and shoulder. You should also be able to freely move your arms above your head, so make sure that straps don’t dig-in as you do this.


Gear loops on the waist

Many climbing packs will feature specific attachments for ice axes, and rope coils, and usually have webbing loops on the waistband or shoulderstraps for carrying climbing hardware. You should compare your kit list with the features that a climbing pack offers to make sure that it works for you.

A climbing pack will typically be bigger than a hiking daypack because you will be carrying more gear. For example, as well as climbing gear, as you increase your elevation you will need more cold-weather clothing. A summer rock climbing pack may be between 30-40 litres, and a winter climbing backpack between 40-60 litres.



Compression straps to stabilize loads


Any size of climbing pack should be able to compress down when half-full, to keep the load stable. This is usually achieved by compression straps on the side of the bag.

A good climbing pack will have an adjustable (or stated) Torso Length to ensure that you fit the backpack correctly. This Torso Length is the measurement from the prominent spinal bone at the base of your neck (Where your shoulders meet your neck) to the Iliac Crest, which is the bone in your spine that is level with the top of your pelvis.



Fixed Torso Length on this pack


Most good backpack retailers will have a Torso Length measuring device, and be able to show you how to adjust a backpack to fit you. All good climbing pack manufacturers state what Torso Lengths each pack is suitable for.



This guide has been sponsored by Osprey. For more information on Osprey’s range of Climbing Backpacks, take a look at their site, here.