You may have noticed on my last articles and photos that I’m always climbing with a fancy yellow backpack. Well, that’s the Mountain Hardwear Hueco 20 pack and during the last six weeks I’ve been putting it to test.
First of all, this is a rock climbing backpack for multi pitch climbing.
On a multi pitch climb you should always have a backpack where you are going to carry your approach shoes, an insulating layer and/or shell, water, snacks and sometimes auxiliary gear that can range from another set of nuts, some slings, first aid kit, secondary rappel device and so on.
There are three main things that we have to consider for a wall backpack: WEIGHT; RESISTANCE TO ABRASION and that it SHOULD NOT GET ON THE WAY.
–LIGHTWEIGHT: we are already carrying a lot of gear in our harness and climbing is already intense as to carry unnecessary weight. This backpack in particular weighs 480g. It feels lights but not paper light. You have a proper backpack with comfortable cushioned shoulder straps and a nice cushioned back structure ensuring a certain air flow.
-RESISTANT TO ABRASION: We want something functional that will do the trick in the long run. You know that you are going to scratch it big times against granite, sharp rock, chimneys and will place sharp metal gear inside.
For sure the fabric has succeeded the abrasion test in the sharp norwegian granite. On the last month i’ve completely peeled both my climbing shoes, but the backpack doesn’t have yet any scratch, damage or worn off mark. Just some stains of blood from my jammed fingers.
One thing I can say about the fabric is that it’s not waterproof. It’s not a big deal for climbing; you’re not supposed to climb on heavy rain. However, I’ve taken it several times for my hiking guide job on the fjord region, that happens to be among the rainiest places in Europe. On heavy rain days, things gets moist inside. keep in mind that if you are gonna turn it into a light hiking or trail running backpack it will do the job surprisingly well, but for long days under the rain, you probably should consider a rain cover.
–Most important, IT SHOULD NOT GET ON THE WAY. Everything should be inside. The less slings, pockets and bulks standing out the better. Could it get any worst that been in the crux mid pitch, on just “ok” protection, and noticing that the shoes that you tied outside your backpack with a carabineer are getting trapped against a spiky bush or somehow they achieve to jam inside the dihedral?
Yeap. Everything inside. Moreover, everything should be inside and TIGHT. You don’t want to feel the weight inside, like your water bottle, shaking violently every time you lean your body in the other direction. The backpack should have space for the essentials but buying larger volume “just in case” may not be the smart move here.
The backpack should not get on the way of the route, but neither in your way. If you notice the Hueco 20 backpack just have a chest strap instead of the classic chest+lumbar strap that we find in trekking backpacks. Again, this is a smart calculated move. While climbing, the lumbar strap gets on the way of the harness so it doesn’t let you see properly your gear neither take it out of the harness comfortably. Moreover a strap at that height will limit your ability to pivot on your hips and raise your legs properly and that’s really annoying, especially on a slab.
Let’s check now how we can fill the Hueco 20.
-2 water bottles + food
-Hardshell + insulating mid layer
-First aid kit
-4m sling; 3 carabineers; set of nuts
-Wallet, keys, phone, pocket knife
-2 integrated side pockets perfect for wallet, keys, phone or pocket knife.
-1 similar size pocket on the upper inside part.
-This is how it looks with everything inside. Side note. probably it’s smarter and more efficient to carry your water on a camelback bag than with two water bottles, however I broke mine several months ago and i’ve been too lazy as to buy a new one.
-Full? Now let’s see if we could an extra thick layer and how it would look like for carrying the rope and helmet during the approach.
As you can see it is very spacious and it comes handy if you are planning a technical route with spicy leads. You can fit everything for both rope parties inside, in that case the leader can move freely without a backpack and the follower will bring everything up.
-A smart feature is the velcro behind the zipper that allows us to reach the inside of the backpack without removing the rope or the items strapped on the outside.
The velcro allows as well to hide the rope strap when you are not using it, so it doesn’t get on the way.
On the wall, from the velcro it’s easy to reach the guide book if you keep it on the camelback pocket.
I really appreciate the simplicity and functionality of the design. When it comes to gear, simple is best. Even when fully loaded on days of 7-10h of activity it still feels comfortable and does not overcharge your shoulders. For been such a specific piece of gear, it does a great job as a light hiking backpack, or even the small pack where you will carry your laptop and stuff for hitting the climbing gym after work.