How did we get on with Petzl's latest contribution to multi-pitch climbers on a budget?
Petzl Bug Pack Tested
Weight: 570 grammes
Features: 18l capacity, 100% nylon, mesh back, shoulder straps and waist belt, adjustable chest strap, hydration system compatible, daisy chain for attaching extra gear, external guide book pocket with press-stud, side compression straps, internal headtorch loop, mesh pocket for valuables, straps for carrying rope on the base, zip-up main section with a short zip.
What's It For?
The Bug has a very specific purpose. It’s designed for multi-pitch, single-day climbs. That’s not to say that it can’t be used as a small day pack too but you wouldn’t choose it specifically for that purpose. All the features mark it out as a climber’s pack.
The other attraction is price. If you’re not particularly well-heeled, Petzl have kept you well in mind with this design, which is gentle on the wallet. So, impoverished, multi-pitch climbers, read on …
The Techy Bits
The first thing you notice on the Bug is its shape. Many day packs are wider at the base than at the top, but the Bug is a bog standard rectangle. This increases the amount of space available without the pack being too long in the back. A short back length is pretty crucial in this case as there needs to be enough room underneath to fasten your harness.
The other unusual feature is the back system which is double thickness and the two layers can be parted to form a long, flat pocket that extends right the way down your back. This fastens with a press stud, which is all that’s needed as you’d be unlikely to drop anything out of it unless you held the pack upside down. It gives you a place for a guidebook that you can access without having to rummage around in the rest of your gear.
When you do want to get hold of your packed lunch, your waterproof, or whatever else you’re carrying, the zip that gives access to the main body of the rucksack is much shorter than you normally find. It covers the top of the pack and then extends less than half way down the sides. This is so that your gear doesn’t all fall out from the ledge at the top of pitch three, leaving you chocolate-less for the rest of the climb.
How It Performs
A couple of the Bug’s features didn’t quite work quite perfectly for us but before we start being pedantic we should make it clear that all the basics on the pack seem absolutely right and everything you’re going to really need has been thought about.
First of all, the shape and back length are right; we don’t have the longest back in the world but we can still wear the Bug and fasten the waist strap without interfering with our harness.
The next key factor when you’re clinging to a minute handhold by your fingernails is the amount of weight pulling you downwards. Well, Petzl have given this plenty of thought and have stripped away anything that isn’t really necessary. The waist belt, for example, is padded at the very edges, where it joins the pack, but then narrows into a single layer at the front. The balance might be slightly wrong here – we could have done with the padding extending slightly further forwards so that it didn’t dig into us after a full day’s climbing – but the basic idea is right. The more vertical life gets, the less weight you can tolerate!
The items that you’d want on any day pack, whether for walkers or climbers, are all in place too. The chest strap is easily adjustable; the mouthpiece of the hydration system has a tiny elasticated pocket to sit in so it doesn’t waft around in front of you; the zips all have tags on them so they’re easy to open with one (encumbered) hand; and the shoulder straps look like a Swiss cheese so there are plenty of places for the sweat to escape and the air to enter.
There are plenty of climber-specific details too. The Bug has extra straps to hold your rope, which live at the base. The trouble here is that the pack is quite narrow (necessarily, if you want to avoid body wedging yourself!) but this means that the straps are quite close together and hence it’s easy to end up with loose ends of rope ended up trailing down irritatingly between your legs. We had this problem partly because we aren’t high in the league of the world’s neatest rope coilers, but we suspect that many other climbers join us in that category and might be similarly irritated.
It’s not a major issue: you can either buy a rope bag – there’s a decent chance you’ve already got one if you’re multi-pitch climbing – or you can carry the rope looped separately over your shoulders on a short walk-in. Or you can just improve your coiling. The choice is yours!
The guide book pocket is a great idea – you’re frequently going to need access to a route guide when you don’t need to open your pack for anything else, so it’s quite right that this is located on the outside. It may make for a slightly lumpy back system but, so long as the guidebook you’ve got is long and slim, it shouldn’t make life too uncomfortable as Petzl have padded the back well. If your guidebook is of the short and fat variety then you might be better off with one of the guidebook holders that you can clip to your harness, although it’s still possible for it to live in the Bug.
The downfall is that you can’t really access the pocket without taking the pack off, which is only an end of pitch prospect. If that’s a problem, you’ll need an extra pouch for your book in any case – or of course the good old ‘down the trousers’ system. (Or is that just us?)
We have slightly mixed feelings about the short zip as well. It’s true that it stops your gear plummeting down the pitches you’ve just climbed whenever you open the pack, but it also makes it difficult to find whatever lives in the depths of the pack. This means that you may end up taking things out to reach whatever lies underneath them, and hence dropping gear in any case. At least the ‘depths’ of the pack aren’t actually that deep in this case and you get the reassurance of knowing you won’t accidentally open your pack too far at a precarious moment.
Other items to note are the compression straps – no problems here – and the internal loop for a Petzl elite, which can also handle any other headtorch with a clip, although we tend to keep ours on our head anyway. That’s about it really, so what’s the verdict …?.
There’s still room for improvement in some of the climbing-specific features of the pack. For example, it’s great that there’s an external guide book pocket but it’s not that much easier to access than the rest of the pack. Also, the short zip is a good way of stopping your gear from spilling out but makes it difficult to access things at the bottom.
Those details aside, our overall impression of the Bug is definitely a good one. The pack is cheap and it’s nice to see something basic that anyone can afford but that’s still had plenty of thought put into it. It also gets the basics of weight and shape right, while still having all the features you need. We’re likely to carry on using it and, at the end of the day, that’s the acid test.
Price. It doesn’t interfere with your harness.
Accessing gear could be easier.
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