Posted on December 16 2013
Backpacks are never at the top of a climbers list. They are rarely used for the climb and with how expensive the rest of the gear is it normally is the one that takes a backseat. Shoes to push your grade, a cooler chalk bag and more protection for those trad routes are all bought first and with good reason. I agree because I got all those things first too. Then all that gear was shoved into an old pack. Whenever I got to the crag it was so hard to find anything. My rope bag was separate and slung awkwardly across my shoulders and it was always in the way.
The Aerial was my solution. Made by a climbing legend. British made. Sturdy and with all those ‘climbers features’ it seemed like i couldn’t go wrong.
The Aeriel bag is definitely tough and made of a more durable fabric. It has water resistant zips and a sturdy carry handle. The zip all the way down the front is really useful as for once you don’t have to take everything out to get to that finger tape at the bottom of the bag. You just unzip the whole thing and you can see everything. It feels great on the back too. I am a fan of the thinner denser foam. It takes up less room, is lighter and is cooler than the thicker squiggly foam that seems to be there purely to absorb sweat and weigh you down. The moon letters moulded in it is a very cool touch too. It has a zip which takes you to a back panel with great attachments for a water bladder and a valuables pocket.
The valuables pocket is useful because the rest of the bag is just one big open space. It is the kind of bag you just shove stuff into and go on your way. Super quick, super easy but depends on your style. The space inside is cavernous and that great zip entry means you can really fill it with the most awkward of items. The roll top is good but I found i didn’t use it. It is so easy to just zip open the front and take stuff in and out why roll the top? I only use it if I am really filling up the bag and squeezing stuff in. Zipping up a full bag is asking for the zip to break, no matter how great the zip. Rolling compresses the insides from the top maybe even better than your normal lid. It is just not as quick.
The moon bag comes with a rope tarp which is basically just a piece of fabric. it does the job but dedicated rope bags are better. It is not the point though. The idea is once your rope is inside you just grab the corners of the tarp and shove it in the pack. This takes up a lot of the pack but fits well. However i found rolling the tarp and strapping it to the amazing straps on the outside to be easier and more convenient, while leaving you with more space in the bag.
38 litres is almost always enough and if not - you really need to learn to pack light. When empty though it feels a little big and my old 30 litre bag seems so much smaller as this has a very long back. Great for spreading the load but you have no chance of squashing it into that gym locker because the foam is so structured too. Very specific I know but we all climb indoors too and it would be great to use the same pack.
The removable waist belt is a great feature more bags should have but I found as it is quite a nice minimalist waist belt if you strap it around the back of the bag it is out of the way for when you are climbing with a harness on but you can still use it on the approach. This is an excellent pack to climb in as the weight is spread down your back and kept close to you not putting you off.
I like Moon’s sales line for this pack - ‘There is nothing on this pack that a climber doesn’t need and everything he/she does’. What is great is it is almost true. But it depends on the type of climbing you do. The big thing it misses out is any helmet attachments. Helmets are becoming more and more commonplace these days and it is an annoying omission. A helmet will fit fine on the top and you can roll the lid on it but it takes up valuable space inside. Clipped to the straps on your back it will just bounce around on your approach. A helmet attachment on the top of the bag would have made this true climbing bag. The only other small omission is a few gear loops on the bottom. These are always useful to attach ice axes in winter or attach a sleeping mat etc.
Overall it is a minimalist pack with all the features you need as a climber. Some packs have better organisation and you will probably find your guide book and food a bit squashed in this one but it is quick to pack and unpack and will last as long as you need it to. Packs like the Millet Cliff Org have gear loops inside, guide book pockets and places for your rock shoes which make for neater storage but hold a lot less. And to be honest most peoples gear is on a piece of webbing they just pull out in one go anyway. You still have to carefully organise it on your harness no matter how it is in your pack.
Packs tend to over do features and I am glad Moon have put only what they deem necessary. In doing this the pack is more pleasant to use than those do everything packs and will be used more day to day.
However, this is only a summer cragging pack. Come winter or summer climbing/camping you will find yourself needing just a little bit more. It is a shame because it will hold more than your average day pack and with carful packing could be a great pack for mini epics (adventures) rather than the cumbersome bulky expedition packs.