The Petzl Bug pack is a solid choice for a small climbing pack designed for short to moderate length multi-pitch rock climbs. While a little on the heavier side (1lb 2.5oz) when compared to other styles in this category it’s clear Petzl has used the extra weight to build in some durability and well thought out features. Let’s break it down:
At 18 liters (1,100 cubic inches) this pack falls in to the same category of small tech packs like the Black Diamond Bullet, 16 L (976 cu in), 1 lb 2 oz., and the super light Patagonia Linked Pack, 16 L (976 cu in), 16.5 oz. It is 2 liters larger than these comparable packs and I found this extra room enough to easily store this load out:
AMK Ultralight First Aid Kit .9 (modified a bit)
Five Ten Rogue Lace-up Climbing Shoes (my comfy moderate trad shoe, review coming)
My “Cathedral Rack” (Basically a set of nuts, smaller tri-cams, set of Black Diamond X4’s and C4’s from .3 to size 2). 8 alpine draws, 2 quick-draws, 2 cordelette’s, 2 double length slings, couple prussiks, 5 lockers, Gigi and belay device.
The pack does appear and pack noticeably bigger than the narrower profiled Black Diamond Bullet, mainly due to the extra 2 liters & slightly wider shape.
With closed cell foam padding in the back and the contoured shoulder straps this pack carries the light loads it is intended for quite comfortably. By design it rides very high on the back to not interfere with the harness. The waist-belt can fold away though I usually opt for just clipping it around of the outside front of the pack when it’s time to harness up.
Packs under 20L typically can not fit the climbing rope inside so an attachment system for carrying the rope on the outside is important. While some current reviewers and online retailers suggest attaching the rope to the bottom that is outdated info. The carrying system is designed to carry the rope more comfortably over the top of the pack with an adjustable top strap and two side compression straps to ensure a solid attachment. While different styles of coiling can work I’ve found the “single strand butterfly” coil sits best when attaching ropes to the top of packs.
There are some design choices here that while adding a couple ounces of weight have also added some nice convenience. The most noticeable (and questionable in my opinion), is the open wide external pocket on the back of the pack. This pack is intended to store a guidebook or route topo for quick access. It’s quite big, basically the full size of the padded back, and has no method to secure any contents in it. The thought of my guidebook slipping out on a steep Gunks route or a few pitches up Cannon has me questioning whether I would every find a use for this feature, and because the zippered pocket on the front of the pack is very generously sized I opted to keep my guidebook there.
There is an interior pocket that can accommodate my 100 ounce CamelBak Hydration Bladder with hydration port and a smaller mesh pocket with key clip.
Carrying a 70-100 oz. bladder costs quite a bit of storage space for my rack so if I was hitting up a bigger objective (Cannon) with this pack on a hot day I’d opt to rack up at the car and take the extra water. If my climb required a longer approach than Cannon (Huntington/Katahdin) I’d opt for a larger pack that could carry both 100oz. and my full rack with ease, like the Ortovox Trad 25 backpack that I reviewed last month here.
Rounding out the features (and another distinct difference between the other same-class packs I mentioned at the beginning of the review) is the addition of the daisy loops down the front of the pack giving the climber a convenient place to clip some gear that didn’t make it into the pack while “de-racking” after that epic send.
A sternum strap buckle whistle has become a standard for me on all of my climbing and back-country skiing packs. This “10 Essential” may not be needed often but when it is I like having it within arms reach at all times, and this would be an easy thing to add in the the next Bug’s development. I’d also like more info on the pack material as details are a bit vague “very durable: bottom and sides lined with high-tenacity fabric”. While I’m not concerned with the lack of brand name recognition here (and during my 2 month test period the pack handled abrasive situations quite well) it makes it hard to objectively compare when this denier/technology is omitted)
When it comes to backpacks Petzl’s line is mostly focused on packs designed for caving /canyoning (descending) rather than climbing (ascending) with this pack being the only pack they’ve designed with the climber in mind. Despite this being the only offering from Petzl in this niche the Bug holds up well against companies with a larger focus on producing climbing specific packs. With a competitive price point and unique features in this class of packs it is definitely worth your consideration!
If you’re thinking of picking one up you can order through Amazon here. Doing so helps support this blog!
Did you like this review? Have you tried this pack? What’s your favorite climbing pack? Interested in the coiling video mentioned above? Let me know in the comments below and you’ll be entered to win a “Tat Cutter Neck Knife” from Colonial Knives. Drawing 7/28/16 Winner notified 7/29/16 and announced here. CONGRATS TAYLOR FOR WINNING THE CONTEST!
See you in the mountains,
Disclaimer: This pack was provided to demo for the purpose of this review and has been returned to Petzl. This post contains affiliate links.