The North Face Cragaconda Review

The North Face has stocked this full-sized gear hauler with every conceivable bell and whistle so you can finally keep your shit organized at the crag. This is a pack for the Marie Kondos of the climbing world. And, with 45 liters of volume, it’ll swallow your gear whole!

The Cragaconda ($160) is a clamshell-style pack that opens up like a book and lays flat on the ground, presenting a neat and tidy spread of all of your climbing gear.

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Zip it. Zip it Good.

Opening the pack is achieved via a beefy, indestructible zipper, that felt stiff and hard to pull at first, but has since hit its groove and now glides smoothly.

The zipper itself follows a unique, functional path around the vertical plane of the pack. It’s offset from the centerline at the top, which means you can throw the pack down and unzip just the top without having to open up the whole rig.

When the pack is fully open, the high walls create a nest that make it easy to situate everything in its place before flippin’ and zippin’ it up.

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O’ pockets, my pockets—the Cragaconda doth contain myriad pockets. There’s a pocket for everything. On the outside two zippered pockets store small stuff or crag food. Inside, an elastic mesh pouch is perfect for the day’s layers/clothing. Opposite to the clothing compartment is a large pouch fitted with gear loops, to which you may find yourself happily clipping a small rack of cams or draws. Myself, I stored two pairs of shoes and a chalk bag in this pouch, which fit in a strangely satisfying fashion. Meanwhile, I let my hardware jangle around in the main compartment alongside my water bottle, rope, and harness. There is also an external helmet pouch to house your turtle shell.

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Neat and Tidy

The North Face has also included a rope tarp with a drawstring to wrangle your cord. The tarp was a bit small, however, and demanded careful rope tending to keep my 70-meter line out of the dirt. Without tie-in loops to keep the rope ends secured and identified, it’s hard even to call this a “rope tarp.” Thus, I prefer to use a dedicated light-duty rope bag, and use this tarp to set my bag/gear down.

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Other smart amenities include two suitcase-style handles that allow you to fold the pack like taco, with all your gear loosely folded into the center, and shuttle it from pitch to pitch without needing to do a full re-pack.

Once fully packed, an additional handle on the front can be used to pick up the sack and toss into the car.

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Carrying the Snake

The Cragaconda is constructed from a thick durable waterproof fabric. The durability comes at the expense of weight, however, and at over 3 pounds, this is far from the lightest rucksack on the market. But if you’re truly cragging, you probably won’t be walking very far.

But if you do need to hike in, the well-padded shoulder straps and waist belt make the Cragaonda a comfy carry, and a low-profile metal waist buckle is easy to adjust and indestructible.

With a zippered closure system and no exterior straps, the Cragaconda is unforgiving of over-stuffing. Fortunately, 45 liters should be more than ample to carry what you need for a day of clutter-free cragging.

Where to Buy

Amazon Backcountry The North Face

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  • Matt M

    This pack is a sleeper hit. One of my favorites now. I have and use things like a Creek 50 but needed a travel pack for international climbing trips. I wanted something to use as a carry on for most of my gear. Of note is the Cragaonda fits in the overhead perfectly. Unlike a lot of 40l+ packs, it’s wider and not as tall so the overhead bin is no problem. I took a full double rack, 70m, helmet shoes etc in the pack to Squamish and a similar setup to the Dolomites (double 60s). Granted, you need to CRAM to get it all in but once at your destination the helmet mesh allows you to free up space to use the pack easily. I’m tempted to find a 2nd as “Back up” simply because most sleeper gear gets discontinued right after I discover it!