Just about any backpack can hold gear, but the advent of crag packs has significantly improved the comfort and convenience of single-pitch rock climbing.
Osprey’s Zealot is the brand’s first genuine crag pack. Following the lead of popular models like the Mountain Hardwear Crag Wagon and the Black Diamond Creek, the Zealot is a bucket-shaped top loader with thoughtful features and rugged materials.
I’ve been testing the Zealot on weekly outings for over 6 months, and I have encountered zero major issues or fatal design flaws.
In short: From the gear-protected roofs of the Gunks to the sunny slabs of Shelf Road, the Zealot was a first-rate kit hauler. Trad masters that require triple racks may need more capacity. But for sport and single-pitch trad climbing, this pack is a winner.
- Material 840-denier recycled ballistic nylon with reinforced bottom
- Dimensions S/M: 22 x 14 x 11", M/L: 24 x 14 x 11"
- Volume S/M: 43L, M/L: 45L
- Weight S/M: 3 lbs., 12.8 oz., M/L: 3 lbs., 15.7 oz.
- Durable exterior
- Supportive internal frame
- Bucket shape and front zip allow easy access to all contents
- Not ideal for carrying a coiled rope
A handful of key characteristics define a quality crag pack — and the Osprey Zealot 45 has them all. The expanding, cinchable main compartment was large enough to carry cams, quickdraws, a harness, two pairs of shoes, a chalk bag, a helmet, snacks, and other standard climbing accessories.
To reach into the depths of the Zealot without emptying it completely, the front panel zips open duffel-style. This welcome feature provided access to the entire main compartment without excessive rummaging.
The Zealot’s bucket shape and flat bottom allowed it to stand upright and hands-free, ideal for loading and unloading climbing gear. Because the flat bottom spent a lot of time in direct contact with rocky and muddy surfaces, I appreciated the extra layer of thick, abrasion-resistant nylon.
I do most of my climbing on the dolomite cliffs around Lander, Wyo., where the rock is exceptionally spiky and rough. The Osprey Zealot 45 didn’t show a single scuff after 50+ days out.
A large flat pocket at the front of the Zealot was ideal for guidebooks, snacks, tape, and other odds and ends that I wanted to keep separate from the black hole of the main compartment. Dual grab handles eliminated the need to pack up fully between routes, reducing transition time and boosting efficiency. The included rope tarp is a generous freebie.
Osprey Zealot 45: Comfort and Sizing
The exterior of the Zealot is lined with foam. This innovative design protected the expensive gear on the inside and shielded the wearer’s back from the pressure from cam lobes and carabiners.
For extra support along the spine, an EVA-molded back panel and HDPE frame sheet maintained the pack’s semi-rigid shape while carrying heavy loads. Brave souls trekking through Vedauwoo with a soul-crushing load of off-width cams will appreciate the Zealot’s robust internal frame.
Osprey has been making backpacks since the ’70s — harnesses and straps are its bread and butter. In the case of the Zealot, the shoulder and hip areas have ample padding. Crag packs aren’t known for their comfort, but thankfully, the Osprey Zealot 45 is an anomaly.
It was designed by folks who know how to make a well-balanced pack that won’t crumble under heavy load. The addition of a roomy zippered pocket on the left hip strap was a useful feature that Osprey clearly borrowed from its backpacking roots.
The Osprey Zealot 45 is available in two sizes. I’m 6’2″ and roughly 170 pounds, and the M/L fit perfectly. My climbing partner is about 7 inches shorter. The hip and sternum straps were adjustable enough for her to wear the M/L comfortably. The S/M version has a slightly reduced capacity at 43 L.
Osprey Zealot 45: Flaws
The Zealot was almost perfect, but it could have been improved with a few slight tweaks. At 45L, it was just a little small for trad climbing — especially when the crag du jour required a plus-size rack. If you are heading to Indian Creek and plan to cram your Zealot with triples or quadruples in multiple cam sizes, it will be a tight fit.
When sport climbing, I could store my 70m rope inside the Zealot alongside the rest of my kit. Naturally, cams take up more space than quickdraws, so trad climbing with the Zealot necessitated external rope storage.
A large flap at the top of the bag can hold a coiled rope. This flap served its purpose adequately but left unsecured loops of rope dangling on either side. Additional straps along the sides of the pack would have created a more confidence-inspiring and streamlined system for hauling a coiled cord.
At the front of the Osprey Zealot 45, an elaborate system of compression straps could cinch up the load and reduce negative space. While the compression straps had value, they’re slightly overbuilt on the Zealot. They add significant weight and bulk, and most of the time, I didn’t use them.
As of 2023, only about a dozen purpose-built rock climbing crag packs are on the market. The Osprey Zealot 45 is the latest to join this blossoming category and is undoubtedly among the best. Its practical layout, hard-wearing exterior, and stable frame made the Zealot my go-to choice for all-day bolt-clipping sessions at the cliff.
The Zealot could be slightly on the small side for the trad climbers. That wouldn’t be an issue if it had a perfect exterior rope-carrying system. But the single rope-securing flap left room for improvement.
Overall, the Osprey Zealot 45 is a top-quality climbing pack that I expect to last through many years of regular use. For an MSRP of $200, it’s slightly cheaper than other leading crag packs and is a solid value.
Climbers seeking a gym-climbing pack should check out the city-minded 30L version of the Zealot. A matching chalk bag and bouldering bucket complete the set.