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10 Best Mountaineering Packs for Every Budget 2022

by | Mar 17, 2022 | Backpacking / Backpacks, GEAR, Ice Climbing, Mountaineering | 0 comments

How to choose the best mountaineering backpack for your needs

Mountaineering is a physical and gear-intensive activity. First, is a long progressive workout program. But you’ll need a bulky bag for the latter, as it is the only way to transport them when hiking mountains. Next, you’ll choose from the 10 Best Mountaineering packs you can find on the market.

Some will have certain features that make them stand out from the rest.  Of course, your backpacking backpack won’t work to carry all the climbing gear you’ll need.

However, choosing the right pack takes time. Capacity, size, weight, external tie-downs, and the carrying system are some of the things that you must look at before making any purchase.

We’ve also added a Mountaineer Gear Essentials buyers guide where you will find in-depth information about today’s niche. This way, you can choose the climbing backpack that best suits your needs, boots, tents and carry gear like ice axes, sleeping pads, sleeping bags and more.

For convenience, we also made a comparison table and buying tips below the picks. So, with no further ado, let’s get started.

Hikers with their mountaineering gear
A mountaineering backpack is designed to carry all of your gear for scaling and climbing mountains. These backpacks can vary in shape, size and comfort depending on what you need them for – from carrying just ropes or ice tools up effectively

Our Adventurers Mountaineering Pack Picks


Best Durable Mountaineer Pack

Osprey Mutant 38 Climbing Backpack ($169.95)

Osprey Packs Mutant 38 Mountaineering Pack, Blue Fire, Small/Medium Osprey Packs Mutant 38 Mountaineering Pack, Blue Fire, Small/Medium Osprey Packs Mutant 38 Mountaineering Pack, Blue Fire, Small/Medium Osprey Packs Mutant 38 Mountaineering Pack, Blue Fire, Small/Medium
  • Volume (liters): 36 and 38
  • Weight (pounds):
  • 2.7  (36 L) and 2.8 (38 L)
  • Dimensions (HxWxD inches):
  • 26.8×12.6×11.8 (36 L) & 28.7×12.6×11.8 (38 L)
  • Nylon construction
  • Helmet carry
  • Removable lid
  • Plastic back support 
  • Bungee tie-offs, gear loops, and glove pockets
Osprey Mutant 38 Climbing Backpack| Amazon price $169.95

Osprey Mutant 38 price on REI, Osprey, Moosejaw

It might not be the most affordable, technical carry pack option of all. But the Osprey Mutant 38 will pay itself in time, as it is one of the best mountaineering backpacks you can find. The fabric exterior looks sturdy enough to handle the most treacherous mountains and conditions. Plus, it is packed with plenty of mountaineering-specific features. 

Let’s start with the plastic back panel. It helps with weight distribution when you are hauling lots of gear. But you can remove it whenever you want to travel light. You can also take the top lid off and trim the weight even further for less demanding hikes. 

Osprey mutant 38 hip belt has plenty of gear loops to keep your ice tools close. You can reverse wrap the belt if you are not using it. This way, you can take the backpack off quicker. There is a set of bungee tie-offs on the back. You can use it to keep your ice axes stashed while you don’t need them. The sides of the pack have a compression strap that you can use to keep your climbing rope close.

In terms of hydration, the Osprey Mutant 38 offers enough room to accommodate a 3L water reservoir. You must purchase it separately, as it doesn’t come with your purchase. 

Pros:

  • You can trim the weight down by removing some parts of the pack
  • Gear loops and tie-offs to keep your gear close 
  • It is compatible with hydration packs 
  • Padded back and hip belt 
  • Durable nylon exterior

Cons:

  • There is no room for crampons 
  • It is quite hard to reach the gear tied to the sides 

Lightest Mountaineering Backpacks:

Black Diamond Speed Mountaineering Pack ($189.95)

Black Diamond Equipment - Speed 40 Backpack - Sulfur - Small/Medium Black Diamond Equipment - Speed 40 Backpack - Sulfur - Small/Medium
  • Volume (liters): 40
  • Weight (pounds): 2.6
  • Dimensions (HxWxD inches): 14.7×4.72×9.45
  • Nylon construction
  • Removable crampon strap
  • Removable hip belt, framesheet, and lid
Black Diamond Speed Mountaineering Pack | Amazon price $189.95

Black Diamond Speed price on Black Diamond, REI, Moosejaw, Backcountry

Let’s start by saying that the Black Diamond Speed is available in several sizes ranging from 22 to 40 liters. Here, we will take some time to talk about the latter, as it hits the sweet spot between weight, capacity, and comfort. But the same description applies to the smaller versions of this alpine pack. 

The carry system and design is rather awkward. It is taller than and slimmer than other options. It almost looks like a cylinder. Thankfully, this doesn’t make it uncomfortable. Mainly because of the padded back. 

The shoulder, chest, and waist straps help with weight distribution. However, they could use some more padding. For instance, neither the chest nor the hip belt has any. 

Certainly, the thing that we loved the most about the Black Diamond mountaineering pack was its weight. Their largest pack is lightweight at 2.6 pounds. You can trim it down if you remove the waistbelt, lid, and frame sheet.

The Black Diamond Speed 40 comes with ice tools tie-downs, a 20 mm removable crampon strap, and a tuck-away rope strap. This way, your climbing gear will always be within reach, when you climb or on a rest break. However, the ice tool pockets are not independent. Both sides will open once you unbuckle one. 

Sadly, their packs are made of nylon exterior fabric, which is not waterproof.  Therefore, you need to apply a DWR coating or purchase a rain cover.

Pros:

  • Light despite the size 
  • It comes with a removable crampon strap
  • You can cut the weight by a pound if you remove some sections of the pack
  • Very versatile 
  • It is compatible with hydration packs

Cons:

  • The ice tools straps are not independent
  • It is not waterproof fabric
  • Lack of internal organizers 
  • Hip belt and chest strap lack padding

TETON Sports Explorer 4000 Mountaineering Backpack

TETON Sports Explorer 4000 Internal Frame Backpack; High-Performance... TETON Sports Explorer 4000 Internal Frame Backpack; High-Performance... TETON Sports Explorer 4000 Internal Frame Backpack; High-Performance... TETON Sports Explorer 4000 Internal Frame Backpack; High-Performance...
  • Volume (liters): 65
  • Carrying capacity (pounds): Up to 80
  • Weight (pounds): 5
  • Dimensions (HxWxD inches): 32x18x12
  • Canvas construction
  • Sleeping bag compartment
  • Aluminum frame
  • Integrated rainfly
  • Compatible with hydration packs
TETON Sports Explorer 4000 Mountaineering Backpack | Amazon price Price not available

We know that not everyone can pay over 100 bucks for a mountaineering pack, especially those merely starting. Naturally, you must be willing to make some compromises to get a budget-friendly backpack. 

The Explorer 4000 features a 600D ripstop canvas shell. It looks and feels rugged enough to handle the occasional rub against tree branches, rocks, and ice. The main problem here is that such a thick canvas is heavy. Plus, since it is not waterproof, the weight will increase substantially if it ever gets wet. Thankfully, Teton Sports thought ahead and added a rainfly cover.

The Explorer 4000 comes with fully adjustable straps. This way, you can customize the fit to your liking. The system has enough cushioning to keep the backpack comfortable even under load. 

Indeed, the mountaineering pack also has a set of aluminum stays. They keep the back rigid, thereby helping with weight distribution. You can adjust them as needed. 

The most notorious thing about the Explorer 4000 is the number of external pockets, gear ties, and compression straps. It even comes with a dedicated sleeping bag storage compartment. Also, the pass-through pockets on the sides are ideal for to carry long gear such as an ice tool or tent poles. 

You can get the Explorer 4000 in three sizes: 65, 75, and 85 L.

Pros:

  • Plenty of pockets and gear ties 
  • Sturdy exterior
  • Affordable
  • Integrated rain cover 
  • Fully adjustable carrying system

Cons:

  • Very heavy
  • You can’t trim the weight down.
  • Bulky
TETON Sports Explorer 4000 Internal Frame Backpack; High-Performance...TETON Sports Explorer 65 Backpack (Huckleberry)TETON Sports Explorer 85 Backpack (Buck Brown)TETON Sports Explorer 75 Backpack (Ocean)
TETON Sports Explorer Internal Frame Backpack

Arc’teryx Alpha AR 35L Alpine Pack

  • Volume (liters): 40
  • Weight (pounds): 2.6
  • Dimensions (HxWxD inches): 24.8x11x9.5
  • Water-resistant shell
  • Removable lid and framesheet
  • Hydration pack compatible
  • Ice tool tie-downs

Arc’teryx Alpha AR 35L Alpine Pack |$220.00

See Arc’teryx Alpha AR 35 price on REI

The Arc’teryx Alpha AR alpine pack is among the best all-around mountaineering backpacks you can find. It has a minimalistic design that only brings what’s necessary for climbing, hiking, and mountaineering. 

Arc’teryx used a proprietary fabric for the shell. The result is a durable, abrasion-resistant shell fabric. They also incorporated a ripstop lining to prevent tears.

But it also grants superior water resistance. This way, you don’t need to purchase an aftermarket rainfly to protect your climbing gear.

Arc’teryc designed the Alpha AR with technical alpine climbers in mind. First, it can accommodate an ice axe on either side. Plus, the front bungee cord is ideal for keeping gloves or a climbing rope within reach.

You have a dedicated area to accommodate a 3-liter hydration pack. Finally, the padded hip belt features a set of straps to tie small items. Sadly, neither the waist nor the shoulder straps are comfortable. 

The Arc’teryc Alpha 35L only weighs 2.6 pounds. You can further decrease weight by removing the frame sheet and top lid. 

Pros:

  • Lightweight 
  • Removable sections 
  • Compatible with hydrations packs
  • Waterproof shell

Cons:

  • Uncomfortable straps 
  • Minimal weight distribution
  • Cramped interior main compartment

Arc’teryx Alpha FL Light Pack

Arc'teryx Alpha FL 30 Backpack Men's | Fast and Light 30L Alpine Climbing... Arc'teryx Alpha FL 30 Backpack Men's | Fast and Light 30L Alpine Climbing... Arc'teryx Alpha FL 30 Backpack Men's | Fast and Light 30L Alpine Climbing...
  • Volume (liters): 30 and 40
  • Weight (pounds): 
  • 1.6 (40 L) and 1.4 (30 L)
  • Dimensions (HxWxD inches): 
  • 24.8×11.8×9.8 (40 L)
  • 22.8x11x7 (30 L)
  • Water-resistant shell
  • Watertight pocket
  • Bungee cord tie-down
Arc'teryx Alpha FL Light Pack | Amazon price Price not available

See price on Arc’teryx Alpha FL 30 price on Arc’teryx, REI

See price on Alpha FL 40 price on Arc’teryx

The Arc’teryx Alpha FL packs look a lot like its AR sister. Upon closer inspection, you will notice that there are some key differences.

Let’s start with the top of the pack and upper lid. Here you don’t have one, making for easy access. You only get a drawcord-operated open/close system. It also lacks side tie-downs, which means that you have to carry your ice tools yourself. 

The shoulder straps lack the padding of its system, while the waist belt has none, which can be harder to carry. So far, it sounds like a terrible option, right?

Well, keep in mind that the Arc’teryx Alpha FL is more suitable for ice and alpine climbs. Its slim profile won’t get in the way as you swing your ice axe. Besides weighing only 1.6 pounds, it is the lightest alpine backpack we’ve reviewed thus far. 

You can cut 0.2 pounds if you choose the 30-liter version instead of the 40 liters one. However, we feel that the latter is a better deal for the price. 

The Arc’teryx Alpha FL uses the same shell for durability as the AR model. Therefore, an abrasion and water resistance durable fabric are two things to expect from this climbing backpack. 

Pros:

  • Very lightweight and slim
  • Waterproof
  • External water-tight pocket with zipper

Cons:

  • It doesn’t have external gear loops 
  • Not compatible with hydration packs
  • Limited storage

Mountain Hardware AMG 55 Alpine Pack

Mountain Hardwear Unisex AMG 55 Backpack, Alpine Red, S/M Mountain Hardwear Unisex AMG 55 Backpack, Alpine Red, S/M Mountain Hardwear Unisex AMG 55 Backpack, Alpine Red, S/M Mountain Hardwear Unisex AMG 55 Backpack, Alpine Red, S/M
  • Volume (liters): 55
  • Weight (pounds): 4.6
  • Dimensions (HxWxD inches): 26x22x7
  • Water-resistant shell
  • Hydration bladder compatible
  • Crampon compatible
  • Rigid aluminum frame
  • Padded shoulder and hip straps
Mountain Hardware AMG 55 Alpine Pack | Amazon price $379.95

See Mountain Hardware AMG 55 price on REI, Moosejaw, Backcountry

With a hefty price tag, the Mountain Hardware AMG 55 is only suitable for those looking to exchange on technical climbing mountains. It has enough space to accommodate anything you can think of and more. Weight is a trade-off, naturally. Still, it doesn’t get better than this if you plan on bringing a lot of climbing gear. 

The AMG 55 mountaineering backpack carry system features a durable 200D Spectra nylon construction. Mountain Hardware added a thicker, 900D bottom so you can leave the pack upright and have heavy loads without worrying. 

The backpack exterior has several quick-access pockets where you can stash things like gloves. But keep in mind that quick-access is just the name. The reality is entirely different. It also offers a crampon compartment as well as space for an ice axe or two. The side pockets are so large that they can easily hold wands, tent poles, and similar items.

Inside the pack main compartment, you have enough room for your belongings. There is even a dedicated panel for a hydration bladder.

Before we move on, we need to talk about the carrying system. Both the shoulder strap and waist belt have enough padding to carry the mountaineering backpack load comfortably no matter what. In addition, the 7000 aluminum frame enhances weight distribution, easing the strain on your back.

Pros:

  • Superior support
  • Very comfortable straps
  • Plenty of storage room
  • The shell is fairly waterproof
  • Crampon compatible

Cons:

  • Bulky
  • You can’t remove items to make the pack smaller
  • The quick-access pockets are everything but quick

Best for Multi-day trips:

Gregory Mountain Products Baltoro 65 Backpack

Gregory Mountain Products Men's Baltoro 65, Dusk Blue, Medium Gregory Mountain Products Men's Baltoro 65, Dusk Blue, Medium Gregory Mountain Products Men's Baltoro 65, Dusk Blue, Medium Gregory Mountain Products Men's Baltoro 65, Dusk Blue, Medium
  • Volume (liters): 65
  • Weight (pounds): 4.5
  • Dimensions (HxWxD inches): 30x13x13
  • Rain cover
  • Removable hydration sleeve 
  • Rigid aluminum frame
  • Padded shoulder and hip belt
Gregory Mountain Products Baltoro 65 Backpack | Amazon price$241.79

Gregory Mountain Products Baltoro 65 price on REI, Eastern Mountain Sports, Backcountry

Gregory Mountain Products knocked it out of the park with this one. The Baltoro 65 backpack carry system boasts a lot of features that will be useful for those looking to stay several days away from the beaten path. Sadly, this also means that you need to be willing to let go of a couple of Benjamins. 

The 65-liter pack capacity mountaineering backpack features a thick nylon shell. Although it is not waterproof, it comes with a removable rain cover. You can quickly stash it under the top lip once you don’t need it anymore. 

The exterior lacks tie-downs for ice tools and similar large items. You only get a couple of compression straps that you can use to keep light gear close, a bottle holster, and a single trekking pole attachment. There is also a dedicated pocket for a single sleeping bag. 

Where the Gregory Baltoro 65 really shines is on the carrying system department. The shoulder and hip belts offer enough cushioning so that you won’t even feel the weight of the pack load. There is a pocket on either side of the hip belt. Both are waterproof.

The Gregory Baltoro 65 liter pack comes with an aluminum frame that keeps the center of gravity closer to your lower back and hips. Thus, decreasing the strain on your upper body. This way, you can walk and move easier and more efficiently. You can cut the weight down by using the hydration sleeve as a pack.

Pros:

  • Off the charts suspension system
  • Comfortable straps 
  • It already comes with a rain cover
  • The removable hydration bladder act as a sidekick pack

Cons:

  • There is no way to attach an ice axe or crampons to the exterior
  • Heavy
  • Not suitable for small people

ALPS Mountaineering Nomad RT 75L Backpack

ALPS Mountaineering Clay/Chili, 65-85L ALPS Mountaineering Clay/Chili, 65-85L ALPS Mountaineering Clay/Chili, 65-85L
  • Volume (liters): 75
  • Weight (pounds): 5.4
  • Dimensions (HxWxD inches): 30x18x13 
  • Rain cover
  • Hydration compatible
  • Aluminum stays 
  • Padded shoulder and waist straps 
  • Removable hip belt
ALPS Mountaineering Nomad RT 75L Backpack | Amazon price Price not available

ALPS Mountaineering Nomad RT 75L price on REI, Outland USA, Moosejaw

Sturdy, well-made, and with plenty of space, the Nomad RT mountaineering pack makes its way into this review. And, by all means, as you will see in just a moment.

The nylon exterior is not entirely waterproof. But don’t worry. ALPS added a removable rain cover. You can quickly deploy it after opening the bottom pocket.

The pack offers plenty of room inside to stash anything you might need. But it also offers a bungee cord tie-down, several compression straps, and three stretch pockets. But if that is not enough, the Nomad RT mountaineering backpack also comes with a pocket on either side of the waist belt. 

Because not all mountains and hiking adventures require the same gear, the Nomad RT comes with a roll top. You can collapse or extend it as you please to keep the pack as tight as possible. 

You can adjust both the waist and shoulder straps as you please. The system offers just enough padding, so carrying a heavy pack load will still be comfortable. Still,  you will feel the strain during fully-loaded adventures.

Pros:

  • Plenty of internal space
  • It comes with a rain cover
  • It is compatible with hydration packs 
  • You can access the whole pack with the front U-zip

Cons:

  • Heavy
  • You can’t make this light
  • Confort decreases as you haul more gear

Best Multipurpose Climbing Backpack:

Deuter Aircontact Lite 65+10 Backpack for Mountaineering

Deuter Aircontact Lite 65+10 Backpack for Hiking and Mountaineering -... Deuter Aircontact Lite 65+10 Backpack for Hiking and Mountaineering -... Deuter Aircontact Lite 65+10 Backpack for Hiking and Mountaineering -...
  • Volume (liters): 75
  • Weight (pounds): 4.4
  • Dimensions (HxWxD inches):84x32x26  
  • Waterproof
  • Hydration compatible
  • Padded shoulder and waist straps 
  • Removable top lid and bottom
Deuter Aircontact Lite 65+10 Backpack for Mountaineering| Amazon price $299.97

Men’s Deuter Aircontact Lite price on Backcountry Moosejaw, REI

Women’s Deuter Aircontact Lite price on REI, Backcountry, Moosejaw

Available in six different colors, the Deuter Aircontact Lite is ideal for those who like both mountaineering and hiking. We don’t know why. But the Graphite Black and Turmeric-Teal models are cheaper than the rest. 

As the name suggests, the pack has a 65-liter capacity. The top lid adds another 10. You can strip it to cut the weight down or use it as a daypack for lightweight trekking.

The Deuter Aircontact Lite mountaineering backpack also comes with a removable base. The whole backpack weighs around 4.4 pounds. It might not be the lightest option. But it has one of the highest capacity-to-weight ratios here. 

The Deuter Aircontact features a polyamide and polyester construction. The resulting pack is both light and tear-resistant fabric. It also has a durable water-repellent coating that keeps your gear dry even if it is pouring outside. 

The carrying system is very comfortable. The padded back, shoulder, and waist straps ease the strain on your upper body. The built-in channels improve airflow. Thus, keeping you dry even after a long hike. 

You can adjust the height of the shoulder straps. The rest of the system is fully adjustable as well. Nevertheless, we missed a rigid frame to help with weight distribution. 

The Aircontact Lite offers ice axe and helmet attachments. Plus, the stretch side pouches are ideal for keeping large items such as trekking poles.

Deuter Aircontact Lite 65+10 Backpack for Hiking and Mountaineering -...
Deuter Unisex's Aircontact Lite Backpack, Black/Graphite, 84 x 32 x 26 cm,...
Deuter Aircontact Lite 65 + 10

Pros:

  • High capacity-to-weight ratio
  • Waterproof right out of the box
  • Helmet and ice tool attachments 
  • Dedicated sleeping bag compartment
  • Compatible with hydration packs

Cons:

  • No rigid frame
  • The waist straps are prone to lose the stitches
  • You can’t remove the hip belt
  • Zippers are likely to get stuck
Deuter Aircontact Lite 65 + 10Deuter Aircontact Lite 65+10 Backpack for Hiking and Mountaineering -...Deuter Aircontact Lite 65 + 10 Backpack - Navy-Arctic, 84 x 32 x 26 cm,...

Gregory Mountain Products Denali 100 Liter Alpine Backpack

Gregory Mountain Products Denali 100 Liter Alpine Backpack Basalt Black,... Gregory Mountain Products Denali 100 Liter Alpine Backpack Basalt Black,... Gregory Mountain Products Denali 100 Liter Alpine Backpack Basalt Black,... Gregory Mountain Products Denali 100 Liter Alpine Backpack Basalt Black,...
  • Volume (liters): 100
  • Weight (pounds): 6.7
  • Dimensions (HxWxD inches): 36.5×13.25×11.75
  • Waterproof
  • Hydration compatible
  • Padded shoulder and waist straps 
  • Removable top lid
  • 7075 Aluminum stays
  • Ice tool tie-downs
Gregory Mountain Products Denali 100 Liter Alpine Backpack| Amazon price $419.95

See price on Moosejaw, Eastern Mountain Sports

Made for hauling heavy loads under the toughest of mountains conditions, the Denali 100 is the sturdiest pack you can ask for. It has a huge, 100-liter capacity that promises to accommodate every piece of gear you bring. 

Naturally, with such a size, weight has to be a problem. Sadly, it is. The Denali 100 weighs well over 6 pounds. Nevertheless, this isn’t the pack you bring to a short hike. It is the one you bring to climb huge ice mountains. So, this shouldn’t be an issue as long you use it correctly. 

The Denali comes with a thick nylon shell fabric, translating to durability, tear and water-resistant,   Also, the front panel comes with twin daisy chains and a sleeve on either side for an ice ax.

The exterior is packed with tie-downs, loops, quick-access pockets, and rope straps. It even has a dedicated pocket for your avalanche safety kit! 

The Denali 100 comes with several strippable features such as a removable top lid, top pocket, bivy pad, hip belt, and aluminum stays. This way, you can cut some weight if you wish. 

The 7075 aluminum stays increased rigidity. Because it keeps the center of gravity closer to the hip, it is easier to transport heavy loads.  

Pros:

  • Rigid aluminum stays 
  • Impressive capacity
  • Plenty of quick access pockets 
  • Custom and easy fit
  • Rugged aluminum hardware

Cons:

  • Very heavy
  • The shoulder straps are very thin

Mountaineering Packs Comparison Guide

ProductFabricsDimensionsLoad RangePockets
Osprey Packs Mutant 38 Mountaineering Backpack, Blue Fire, Medium/Large
Osprey Mutant 38 Climbing Backpack
$169.95
Nylon26.8x12.6x11.8 and 28.7x12.6x11.836L1 + main compartment
Black Diamond Equipment - Speed 40 Backpack - Sulfur - Small/Medium
Black Diamond Speed Mountaineering Pack
$189.95
Nylon/Closed-Cell Foam‎25 x 12 x 3.5in40L2 + main compartment
TETON Sports Explorer 4000 Internal Frame Backpack; High-Performance...
TETON Sports Explorer 4000 Mountaineering Backpack
Price not available
600D Diamond Ripstop / 600D PU27 x 16.5 x 4in65L7

Arc’teryx Alpha AR

$599.00

N315r HT nylon 6,6 LCP24.8x11x9.4in1 + main compartment
Arc'teryx Alpha FL 30 Backpack Men's | Fast and Light 30L Alpine Climbing...
Arc’teryx Alpha FL Light Pack
Price not available
N70r nylon 6 ripstop
N400r-AC² nylon 6 ripstop is durable and lightweight - pack body
‎26.2 x 15.1 x 1 inches30L2
Mountain Hardwear Unisex AMG 55 Backpack, Alpine Red, S/M
My product name
$379.95
200D Spectra Ripstop Nylon TPU
90 % nylon, 10 % polyethylene
33 x 13 x 12 inches55L3 + main compartment
Gregory Mountain Products Men's Baltoro 65, Dusk Blue, Medium
Gregory Mountain Products Baltoro 65 Backpack
$241.79
210D Honeycomb Cryptorip HD / 210D High Tenacity Nylon
630D High Density Nylon
135D High Density Embossed Polyester
28" x 13" x 13" in68L9
ALPS Mountaineering Clay/Chili, 65-85L
ALPS Mountaineering Nomad RT 75L Backpack
Price not available
200-denier double-ripstop nylon16-22 in75L5 + main compartment
Deuter Aircontact Lite 65+10 Backpack for Hiking and Mountaineering -...
Deuter Aircontact Lite 65+10 Backpack for Mountaineering
$299.97
100D PA High Tenacity
600D PES
34 x 14 x 13 in75L4 + main compartment
Gregory Mountain Products Denali 100 Liter Alpine Backpack Basalt Black,...
Gregory Mountain Products Denali 100 Liter Alpine Backpack
$419.95
200-denier double-ripstop nylon32.5" x 13.25" x 15"in97L6

Buying Tips & Advice

Mountaineering Backpacks: Features, Size, Price, Construction, and Much More

There are a few things that you must consider while browsing the market for your next mountaineering backpack. Naturally, it all comes down to what are your plans and needs. For example, let’s say that you’re hiking mountains for several days at a time, and not just day trips. It will require lots of climbing gear, food, sleeping pad and layers. So, capacity should be your top priority. 

Now, imagine that you want to engage in some alpine climbing. The climbing activity takes both time and specific gear. Here the mountaineering backpack should have enough capacity load for everything. But it also has to have alpine-specific gear slots for a helmet, gloves, and ice tools. It should also be waterproof or come with a rain cover, if possible. 

See? There is a lot to consider. Thankfully, you’ve come to the right place. Here you will learn everything there is to know about best mountaineering backpacks, starting with how to get the right size for you.

Winter hikers
The perfect mountaineering backpack should have the features you want, without any extras that are unnecessary and be as lightweight but durable enough for rigorous mountain environments.

Mountaineering Backpack Size: Don’t Choose The Wrong One!

You look at the pant’s size before you purchase them, right? Well, it is the same with mountaineering backpacks. Choosing the wrong size not only means that it won’t fit you. It also means that any frame or straps won’t distribute the weight as they should, rendering them useless. That’s why it pays to learn how to choose the right mountaineering pack size. 

You don’t need to worry about shoulder or waist straps. The thing that you do have to measure is the length of your torso. The process is as follows: 

  • Find the top of your hip bone, which is known as the Iliac Crest 
  • Find the C7 vertebra, which is the largest bump at the base of the neck 
  • Measure the distance between both points. Do it along the spine 

Keep in mind that most mountaineering backpacks might protrude over the head. However, by sticking to your true size, you are less likely to end up buying something too large for you. 

Some packs allow you to adjust the height. They are more expensive, of course. But, at least, you can change the configuration if you don’t feel comfortable. 

Mountaineer Pack with Helmet
Looking for a pack that can handle your adventures? Alpine packs range in size considerably. If you’re looking to take on multi-pitch rock routes and no ice axes to carry, then we recommend checking out those with 15 – 25 liters of capacity!

Pack Weight

Not only does the weight of your equipment matter. The mountaineering pack’s own weight is important too. The bad news here is that the decision is not as simple as going light or going heavy. It is more complex than that.

For instance, the fabric thickness influences both weight and durability. That’s why brands often combine different fabrics and add reinforcements only where it is absolutely needed. This way, they can cut weight without risking durability. 

Capacity is another example. Think about two backpacks from the same company featuring the same construction. But one of them is bigger than the other. As a result, the one with more inside volume will be heavier. 

Additionally, a heavy pack always restricts movement regardless of how comfortable and supportive it is. Therefore, if you plan on doing some technical ice climbing, then the weight is something that you must consider thoroughly. 

See? It isn’t a simple decision. But then again. What you will be doing is of the most importance. For example, if you plan on staying several days outside, you are most likely hauling lots of gear. Here, the weight of the pack matters little compared with capacity and durability. 

Alternatively, if you plan on doing some technical ice climbing, weight and comfort are the two things that matter the most.  

Stripping Weight

There are times during a trip when your 90-liter mountaineering pack is not the best tool. Let’s say, for example, that you want to climb a frozen waterfall or attempt to reach the summit. Speed and lightweight are the keywords in such scenarios. So, does this means that you must bring two packs? 

The short answer is no. Thankfully, there are some packs like the Deuter Aircontact Lite that come with a removable top lid that you can use as a daypack. 

Others like Black Diamond Speed come with a removable waist belt, lid, and back panel. Thus, allowing you to cut the weight down. Beware that you will be trading capacity for something lightweight. 

That’s why we highly suggest getting a trimmable backpack. They will give you the flexibility you need to adapt to most situations. 

You can’t bring your whole camp with you on a backpacking trip. You need to be smart about how much weight is necessary for the task at hand and make sure that everything fits into what’s available.

Volume Capacity

If this is your first time buying a backpack, you’ll be surprised to find out that capacity gets measured in liters. Not in units of weight, as one would think. 

Why? Well, capacity refers to the internal, main compartment volume of the pack. Not the weight of the gear you will place inside.

So, in a nutshell, a 35-liter pack has less internal volume than one with a 100-liter capacity. As a result, the first has more room for gear. 

One would think that the larger the pack, the better. But this is not always true. Let’s say that you get an 80-liter capacity bag, and you only fill the half. There is no way of fastening what’s inside. As a result, they will move around, making it harder to balance. Besides, you will be blowing your money away. 

So, it all comes down to what you are doing and how many days it will take. Long ice climbing trips typically require many things. Thus, going large is the smart move. Conversely, a short ski mountaineering trip requires little gear. Here a smaller model is more suitable.

Minimized frames are a great way to cut down on weight without sacrificing stability and comfort. We often talk about how you can get more out of your pack with these slimmer, lighter designs in hopes that it will dispel the myth for those who want something less hefty but still safe during their adventure!

Weight to Volume Ratio

Now that you know two features that you can’t overlook. It is time to talk about the weight-to-volume ratio. Although it is not something that any brand would list on the spec sheet, it will only take a couple of seconds to calculate. But why is it relevant? 

Well, let’s say that you can’t decide between two packs. One has a few extra liters compared with the other. Weights are slightly different as well. In our case, we would go for the backpack with the lowest weight-to-volume ratio. As you can see, the relation between weight and volume is useful to decide between several equal options. Plus, we think that it is far better than flipping a coin. 

Carrying System and Comfort

How comfortable a backpack largely depends on the carrying systems. That’s why we couldn’t separate them. Let’s see why.

Shoulder and hip belts are two things that you can find on any pack. Both help to keep the weight closer to your back and hips. This way, the pack won’t pull you down. It also means that you will be carrying most of the load with your legs rather than your back. 

However, your body might get tired of the straps, especially during long hikes. That’s why most brands add some padding to ease the strain of the points of contact. Some others even offer a cushioned back panel. 

Fit and adjustability also affect comfort. Like we said before, if the backpack sits tightly on your back, weight distribution will be better. As a result, it will feel more comfortable in the long run. Therefore, it is crucial to get a pack with adjustable shoulder, chest, and waist straps.

Fit is crucial to comfort. The less padding in a pack’s suspension and hip belt, the more important it becomes that you find your perfect fit before hiking with this durable equipment on uneven terrain like trails or mountain slopes where every ounce counts!

Aluminum Stays: To Have It or Not To Have It

Sadly, a decent set of straps only help that much. There are situations where you need more support, literally. 

Large mountaineering packs usually come with a set of aluminum stays that are stuffed inside the back panel. It might look counter-productive as they increase the pack’s weight. But it also enhances weight distribution. Plus, it helps to move the center of gravity closer to your hips and, combined with the straps, makes things easier when transporting heavy loads. 

But you might be wondering. What happens when I don’t need a set of aluminum stays? Do I still need to carry them? No, you don’t! All packs that have such a feature come with means to remove them. You can remove and adjust them at any time you want. 

Keep in mind that getting a pack with aluminum stays greatly increases the price. So, it is only logical to purchase it if you really need such a bag. 


Materials of Construction and Durability

Nylon vs Polyester Mountaineering Pack Material

Mountaineering packs are made with nylon or polyester, but what’s the difference?

Mountaineering packs are not anything like the backpacks you took to school.  In order to handle the toughest of conditions, water, rocks, hits, UV abrasion, and more, they must be durable and light. But that said, they also require thicker, heavier fabrics. 

Most mountaineering backpacks either have a nylon or polyester construction. Both fabrics have their advantages and disadvantages, as you will see in a moment. Nevertheless, the same concepts apply to both of them.

Nylon

Nylon is lighter than polyester. It’s a type of synthetic polymer made from petroleum and first used as an alternative to silk.

Nylon forms through a reaction during a process referred to as a Ring-opening Polymerization. This means that all the molecules of the raw materials from which nylon forms exist in a ring-like shape. When hexamethylene diamine and adipoyl chloride mix together, the rings flatten into curly strings. Once nylon is stretched, the fibers become thin but still keep their strength.

Disadvantages:

Polyester

Polyester is a type of fabric that is made from synthetic materials. The most common type of polyester is made from a chemical reaction between two different substances- mono glycol and purified terephthalic acid. When this mixture is heated, it forms PET which can be molded into long, thin fibers.

Disadvantages:

Denier Rating

You might notice that brands show that their backs have a 600D or 400D shell. But what does denier (D) mean? 

The term denier refers to the weight of a single thread of fabric. The higher the denier, the thicker the shard is. Therefore, the strongest it gets. Naturally, this only applies if you are comparing apples with apples. 

Keep in mind that a higher denier also means a heavier pack. So, durability has its trade-offs. 

Reinforcements

Not all the parts of the backpack are under the same stress. The bottom, for instance, is the place where most of the weight and pressure concentrates. Plus, it is the point of contact between the ground and your pack. That's why most bags use thicker shards in this section. 

But the bottom is not the only place where tension builds. The shoulder straps, hip belts, compression straps, and zippers are other key areas that usually need reinforcements. 

So, it is a good practice to check those areas, especially along the joints. Pay close attention to the seams. Do they look even? Try to stretch the bag and see how it handles the strain. 

Some alpine backpacks come with sheaths for an ice axe, trekking poles, and similar pointy items. Inspect those points to determine if they can cope with the sharp edges of such tools. 

Waterproofing

Although neither nylon nor polyester is fully waterproof, polyester repels water better than the first. 

Still, both fabrics require a durable water repellent (DWR) coating to be fully waterproof. Beware that such coatings tend to wear out with time to the point that you must re-apply a new one. Thankfully, there are plenty of products that will do the trick. The process is simple as well. You can check it by yourself here.

Some brands prefer to rely upon an external covering to keep the pack's interior and main compartment dry. This way, there is no need to check the waterproofing treatment integrity. But there is a catch, though. 

You need to deploy it for the rainfly to work. Sadly, to do this, you have to take the pack off. Open the pocket, and proceed to deploy the rainfly cover over the backpack. 

Therefore, your gear might get a little wet if it starts raining heavily out of the blue. The same goes with snow. This, of course, is a disadvantage. But at least you have some means to defend yourself, right? 

snows kicked up during trek up mountains
If you want your pack to last long, consider what material it's made out of. Nylon fabrics are not waterproof by themselves so they usually come with a polyurethane (PU) coating on the inside which can degrade over time and make them less weather-resistant. In contrast to other types such as ripstop material, these have been historically used for military applications because these materials offer more protection against tearing under pressure.

Closure System and Access

After reviewing all these packs, you might notice two predominant closure systems: Drawstring and Zippers. Some even have both. So, which one is better? 

Well, drawstrings allow quicker and easy access to what's inside the pack. However, you can only get the things that are on the top. Therefore, you will need to turn the back inside out. That's why such a closure system is used for smaller packs. 

In contrast, a U-shaped zip panel grants access to the whole pack. This way, you can organize your gear better and access it at any time. Naturally, a U-zip is not as quick as a drawstring. That's why it is mostly used on packs with a huge capacity. 

Extras: Hydration, Pockets, and Gear Loops

The extras are the one last thing that you have to look at. That's anything ranging from hydration packs and external pockets to gear loops. 

External gear attachments are, by far, the more useful of all the extras. This way, you can fasten anything from helmets to crampons to the exterior of the pack. As a result, you will increase the capacity of the bag. Naturally, this also increases weight. That's why you should be conscious of how much gear you leave on the exterior. 

Pockets always come in handy. They will serve you well for hydration purposes. Plus, you can keep small items there. 

Internal organization is a problem on most alpine packs, though. They only offer a single compartment where you place your gear. That's why having pockets, even if they are small, is an advantage. There you can keep essential items such as a headlamp. 

Ice tools are secured down by T-bars, buckles, loops or compression straps. Some people like using the pack's sleeve, which holds them in place and provides protection for when you're hauling up ice from deep crevices on Mount Everest! Others opt to secure each tool separately, for quick draws without having to reach into their packs!

Do I Need a Hydration Bladder?

Almost all mountaineering packs are compatible with a 3 or 5-liter hydration bladder. While it is a nice feature to have, remember that water is heavy, a constant water supply might be counterproductive even. 

Let's say, for example, that water is widely available. In such a scenario, it is not wise to top a bladder. You can drink from a nearby water source. Just remember to purify it. The same goes for those who need to travel light.

Nevertheless, if water is scarce, it might be wise to bring a hydration bladder along. In the end, it is better to have it and not need it than need it and not have it. 


Still In Doubt? Check Our Top Pick

After several tests and discussions, we've decided that the Osprey Mutant 38 is the best backpack for mountaineering that you can purchase. First of all, it is one of the lightest and most durable packs here; while still offering enough capacity to accommodate all your gear. 

The suspension system could use some work, yes. But we feel that the pack was comfortable in the long run, mainly because of the plastic back panel. 

The Mutant 38 is one of the few packs here that offer tie-downs for ice tools and helmets. Thus, making it a suitable choice for alpine climbers, hikers, and mountaineers alike. Click here and order yours today!

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Last update on 2022-02-27 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Home » BACKPACK / CAMP — General » GEAR » 10 Best Mountaineering Packs for Every Budget 2022

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