The North Face Cragaconda is an extremely well thought out crag pack, with all required gear having dedicated locations, making days at the cliff efficient and reducing chances of leaving anything behind. Every gear centric need has been addressed, satisfying even the most organization obsessed climber. Our main gripe however was how poorly the thinly padded shoulder straps handled heavier loads.
Comfort/Fit The North Face Cragaconda is available in two sizes with the L/XL best for six-foot-tall users. The suspension is comprised of a HDPE frame sheet and two aluminum vertical stays, with variable thickness padding on the exterior of the back panel. This system proved comfortable carrying loads typical of one-day sport and single pitch trad climbing days, on typical length approaches. The frame sheet prevented hardware from poking through and the padding proved ergonomically correct, both in density and location. The shoulder straps (with load lifters) are lightly padded and could be uncomfortable with trad climbing loads over longer approaches.
Stability The North Face Cragaconda handled typical one day climbing loads with authority. The frame sheet, stays and padding, all appearing minimalist, worked well in concert with the hip belt (with load control straps) to keep the day’s supplies in check, even on Class 4 scrambles. The only nick would be the lack of compression straps, allowing partial volume loads to shift at times.
Storage The Cragaconda’s 45L capacity swallowed up a rope, all necessary sport climbing gear, food, water and extra layers and the organization prowess made accessing and repacking gear a snap. The suitcase style pack opens completely on three sides and the entire pack lays flat like an open book. There are four racking loops to hang hardware, a large volume, three-dimensional pocket for clothing, and a large webbing pocket for shoes and harness. There is large zippered exterior top pocket for with an interior mesh pocket for smaller items. A pair of external racking loops completes the storage options. The pack is hard pressed in trad climbing service, the volume incapable of holding both a full-length rope and full trad rack at the same time, and there is no built-in way of externally stowing a rope.
Durability The North Face Cragaconda’s material choices express toughness. The majority of the pack is comprised of PU coated 840d nylon, with most interior surfaces also having a nylon liner. The main YKK zipper is a #10 and the hip belt buckle is metal.
Extras Functional and convenient extras abound on The North Face Cragaconda. The front panel is lined with foam, providing a place to sit and shoe up and the included rope tarp keeps the rope clean. A helmet retention system deploys from a zippered pocket on the lid of the pack, keeping increasingly fragile helmets from getting dinged by hardware inside the pack. The hip belt is removable for on route use. Thick cord zipper pulls are easy on worn fingertips and there is haul loop, external grab handle, and a pair of handles on the interior. Grabbing these interior handles bundles the flattened pack and all gear laid on it, allowing quick and easy transport to neighboring routes.
Seiji Ishii works as a trainer to professional supercross/motocross riders, adventure riding test editor at Dirt Rider Magazine and an AMGA certified rock climbing guide/instructor for White Star Mountain Guides/Austin Rock Gym. He lives in Wimberley, TX with wife Shay, 3 year old daughter Sequoia, 3 dogs and a cat. His personal time is spent rock climbing, any form of dirt biking, cycling, and training for the next mountaineering adventure.