Gear Review- Montem Diadema 18L Backpack (and contest)

This simple yet well designed backpack easily crosses over from an everyday gym bag to a ultra-light multi-pitch rock climbing pack. I received a media sample to demo this past summer and ended up quite impressed with a pack in this easily affordable price range. Let’s take a close look at this model and see if it would be a good addition to your pack fleet!

Montem Diadema 18L Backpack Review
Hard to believe this pack only weighs 4 ounces! The author at the top of Whitehorse Ledge, White Mountains, New Hampshire

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Montem Diadema 18L Backpack Review
This was the gear stuffed into the Montem Diadema 18L backpack for a trip up a 9 pitch route on Whitehorse Ledge this Fall.

At 18 liter (1,100 cubic inches) this pack is 2 liters larger than the popular Black Diamond Bullet and the same volume of the Petzl Bug (my review). The Diadema is a few inches longer than all three of those models which allows internal packing of many styles of trekking poles like Montem’s own award winning line of ultra-light trekking poles. Where this model really stands out in the field of “bullet” packs is in its weight. The Montem Diadema 18L only weighs 4 ounces! This is 14 ounces less than both the Black Diamond Bullet and the Petzl Bug and 7 ounces less than the Mountain Tools Slipstream that I reviewed here.  This weight combined with being able to compress into the size of a grapefruit makes this a great choice for stuffing into a larger multi-day backpack during expeditions or in luggage for international travel.


Montem Diadema 18L Backpack Review
Lightweight but durable fabrics help this pack cross over from “gym bag” to multi-pitch trad pack!

Montem uses a high denier supple waterproof ripstop nylon in the Diadema’s construction. The material feels very soft in hand which helps the pack compress when storing inside a larger pack. Being made of a waterproof fabric is a nice boon with a pack so moderately priced however the seams are not taped or sealed in anyway so I would not consider the pack to be completely waterproof, but highly water-resistent. After a couple weeks of cragging, trips to the gym, and 20+ pitches of alpine climbing the pack has not incurred any noticeable wear or damage. I would assume that over a few years of hard use packs made with heavier fabrics might outlive the Diadema but some sacrifices could probably be made when choosing a pack that only weighs 4 ounces!


This is where we have a bit of a double edged sword. The contoured mesh shoulder straps are super breathable and distribute the weight well. A height adjustable sternum strap helps keep the load centered and thin waist belt secures the pack to the body for better balance while rock hopping and climbing. The actual “comfort” level of the pack varies with how, and what, is packed inside. There is no foam back panel or padding so if you pack your #2 Black Diamond Camalot right up against your back you are going to feel its edge digging into your pack on the approach. The solution here is to pack wisely. I stuff my extra layer, a light puffy jacket, in first and flatten it out along the back to serve as padding before stuffing my hard wear into the pack. With a little bit of thought you can certainly carry a full pack, first aid kit, puffy, headlamp, etc. and everything should carry well over a long approach. Once you’ve racked up and started climbing you will quickly forget that you are even wearing this pack!


Montem Diadema 18L Backpack Review
Features that are at home at the climbing gym, crag, or big wall!

Rounding out the features of this pack the author appreciated the single external zippered pocket that easily fit my snacks and lunch or my first aid kit, headlamp, and other “essentials”. The internal hydration sleeve can hold bladders from 1.5 – 3 liters in comfort and a hydration port allows the hydration tube to exit easily. The minimalist drawcord closing system obviously saves a lot of weight and bulk over zippered closing systems and the inclusion of a whistle on the sternum buckle always gets a “tip of the hat” from me!


This relatively new entry into the field of steam-lined “bullet” packs has a lot going for it. The most impressive features are its insane lightweight and packability. The inclusion of waterproof fabrics and adjustable carry system make it more than a simple gym/tote bag. With careful packing it is excellent for approaches and feels non-existent when technically climbing with your hard-wear out and on your harness. The style and design also lend it well to less extreme uses like travel and a gym/yoga pack. If it sound like a good addition to your gear room check it out at the link below!

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Montem Diadema 18L Review
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 a Rafflecopter giveaway

See you in the mountains!

Northeast Alpine Start

This product was provided for purpose of review. Affiliate links help support the content created on this blog at no additional cost to you.

Petzl Bug Pack Review (and Colonial Knife Giveaway)

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:

Petzl Bug Review- photo from


At 18 liters (1,100 cubic inches) this pack falls in to the same category of small tech packs like the Black Diamond Bullet16 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:

Black Diamond Alpine Start Hoody (my review here)

Patagonia Technical Sunshade Hoody (my review here)

AMK Ultralight First Aid Kit .9 (modified a bit)

Five Ten Rogue Lace-up Climbing Shoes (my comfy moderate trad shoe, review coming)

Nalgene Everyday Wide-Mouth Water Bottle, 1L

Lunch, Petzl Zipka Headlamp, Colonial Ameba Knife, Ben’s DEET

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.

Petzl Bug Review
Using every inch of 1,100 cubic inches

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.

Petzl Bug Review
Petzl Bug Review- photo from


Rope attachment

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.

Petzl Bug Review
Petzl Bug Review

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.

Petzl Bug Review
Petzl Bug Review- photo from

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.

Petzl Bug Review
Petzl Bug Review- the author testing the pack on Cathedral Ledge, photo by Sue B.


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!

Colonial Knife Company Tat Cutter Neck Knife

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.

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