This burly, haul bag-style pack is ideal for trad climbing.
Crag packs vary widely in design. Some are heavy on the organizational side, with a place for every bit of kit. Others, meanwhile, stress simplicity and a more cavernous volume.
Mountain Hardwear elects for a simple haul-bag style as the basis for the $200 Crag Wagon 45. But the California brand adds smart features that set it apart from other similarly designed packs.
I’ve been testing this unique-looking pack for 3 months to provide this review.
In short: Mountain Hardwear’s Crag Wagon 45 has the large and clean internal volume of a haul-bag pack but adds a U-shaped zipper on the front panel to ease access to gear.
The Crag Wagon 45 also touts a unique laminated cotton fabric, reinforced with a diamond pattern of polyester yarn. This not only helped the pack stand out visually, but it also proved extremely durable.
These characteristics make it a great trad climbing pack.
Mountain Hardwear Cotton Crag Wagon 45
The most visually striking feature of the Crag Wagon 45 is the fabric. It looks like cotton — and it is! That alone sets it apart from other packs, giving it an almost nostalgic look and feel, like an antiquated army rucksack.
But this fabric is far from old school. The official name is X-Pac Dimension-Polyant. Basically, polyester threads add reinforcement that’s both visible and palpable along the backside of the fabric. So, too, is the pack’s sealing and waterproof polyester film.
Plus, the cotton canvas also includes a polyester resin to provide water repellency and additional abrasion resistance. A 200-denier nylon and Kevlar dobby lines the padded base. Meanwhile, the back panel, hip belt, and shoulder straps revert to conventional nylon fabrics. And a 70-denier ripstop nylon lines the interior.
Crag Wagon 45: Haul Bag With a U-Zip
Mountain Hardwear graces the Crag Wagon 45 with a U-shaped zipper on the front panel that extends halfway across the right-side panel. This feature made the Crag Wagon much more pleasant to use compared to other haul bag packs in my arsenal. Still, even during testing, I preferred loading gear from the top.
The Crag Wagon 45 also has a triangular internal compression flap that runs vertically and two gear loops at the top. And a pair of internal side-carry handles facilitate moving the pack from route to route without repacking.
A simple skirt shields the top, but it’s smartly patterned to wrap around the pack and stay out of the way during loading. A compression flap atop the pack can hold a rope or helmet. Lastly, double opposing pull loops on the skirt’s drawcord make for an intelligent way to open the top quickly and fiddle-free.
Rounding out the build, the Crag Wagon 45’s remaining features are similar to other haul bag-style crag packs.
An aluminum perimeter frame and Mountain Hardwear’s Hardwave sheet can separate and are removable. This will allow a climber to choose the amount of suspension they desire. And the fully padded hip belt can be removed for hauling.
A large zipped front panel pocket houses two zipped internal pockets. A key clip sits at the very top of the panel pocket.
Meanwhile, two haul handles reside at the top of the pack and six small lash points go down each side. Mountain Hardwear also includes a 3 x 4-foot rope tarp with a compression strap.
The Crag Wagon has a verified weight of 3 pounds 12 ounces in the M/L size.
Mountain Hardwear Crag Wagon 45 Review
As with all haul bag-style packs, the Crag Wagon 45 was a joy to load, especially with trad gear. The skirt stayed out of the way, and the pack stood up on its own. I stuffed a 70m sub-9mm rope, a double set of cams to size 4, a dozen alpine draws, a harness, shoes, a chalk bag, and a 2L soft bottle in the main body — all without the need to extend the skirt.
I hung my belay device and carabiner, personal anchor, prusik, crack and belay gloves, and some lockers on the internal gear loops. Then I had to put my helmet under the top compression flap. Overall, the pack had more than enough room to pack everything inside for sport climbing.
The suspension system felt great for the roughly 35-pound loads I used during the testing period. All the weight effectively transferred to my hips, and the pack felt stable when scrambling. I never felt any of the climbing hardware poking me in the back.
And, thanks to the internal compression flap, my gear didn’t shift during transport. This also reduced the strain on the panel zipper.
The front pocket and the two internal pockets held a first-aid kit, guide book, skincare kit, tape, and a few energy bars. Because the profile of the front pocket is on the flat side, it’s limited to less-bulky items.
Once at the cliff, gearing up was quick and easy due to the access afforded by the panel zipper; there was no digging, and everything was visible. The pair of internal carry handles made it super convenient to move pack and gear between routes in the same area, so there was no need to repack, rezip, etc.
Nitpicks: Although I found the included rope tarp to be plenty big for my 70m cord, I still prefer to use a rope bag that has a more effective compression system. Also, the hip belt has no gear loops, which I felt would be a useful feature. And the cotton fabric, though stylish, picked up dirt stains quickly.
Crag Wagon 45 Climbing Pack: Conclusions
Mountain Hardwear created a unique and extremely functional crag pack with the Crag Wagon 45. It proved durable against all the would-be the abrasion and tears my trad gear threatened. The haul bag-style design made loading and compressing efficient, and the zipped panel access made gearing up a breeze.
The volume, haul-bag style, and capable suspension made the Crag Wagon 45 ideal for me to handle the larger and heavier loads associated with trad climbing. As expected, the cotton canvas drew curious and positive comments. I guess even dirtbags have a sense of style.