This rolling-and-unrolling style of the pack, as much as I’ve come to love it, requires that the bottom of the pack be “open.”
This is necessary for obvious reasons—if the bottom of the pack is sewn closed, it would be impossible for the pack to fully unroll. The downside here is that it is possible—especially if you overstuff the pack—for something to slip out the bottom. But since there are three large mesh pockets inside the pack, plus a row of gear loops, there should be plenty of storage space to keep your gear secure.
There’s also a zippered mesh pocket for storing smaller items. This is an important addition, I think. Typically I put things such as my wallet, car keys, etc. in the lid of my packs. Since the Boulder5 lid houses my helmet and chalk bag, it’s important to have a separate home for my keys so that they don’t disappear on me.
As the founder of a boutique climbing company, George is constantly working to improve the pack’s design and his ability to objectively scrutinize his own work. I met with him recently to discuss the pack and give him my feedback. After going over both the pack I reviewed and a few other prototypes, it was clear that his approach to design is one of constant refinement.
He was aware of the conundrum arising from wanting both a closed bottom and a pack that can be completely zipped open and unrolled. While the pockets and gear loops are effective at securing gear, he’s still actively tweaking the design to find a way to have both features.
When I noted that the front zipper tab is a bit small—making it hard to zip the pack shut when I overfill it—he replied that he’d already addressed the issue in the next generation of packs by using a larger zipper.
Finally, Boulder5, like other small batch companies, lets you communicate directly with the people making your gear. This way you can customize a pack (something that Boulder5 welcomes, though certain adjustments will cost extra), or simply suggest improvements.
This thing is super burly. The pack that I tested, like its predecessors, is made of 1680 denier ballistics nylon. For reference, denier is a unit of measure that refers to linear mass density of fibers within a given fabric. More specifically, it’s the weight in grams of 9000m of fiber. So generally speaking, the higher the number, the burlier the fabric.
George thinks, and I have to agree, that while this fabric is extremely durable, it’s excessive considering the pack’s intended application. Using the most indestructible materials modern science has to offer is a noble goal, but having a pack made with 1680d ballistics nylon is a bit like having 200 SPF sunscreen.
Future generations of the pack are slated to be made of 1000 denier cordura nylon—which, while it’s less robust than 1680d nylon, weighs less. As a point of comparison, Cold Cold World makes their packs with 500d cordura and my well-loved CCW Chernobyl still looks new.
Ultimately, I think the Boulder5 crag bag is a great success. The internal pockets and gear loops, along with the fact that the rope can easily be separated from the rest of the gear, have made me much more organized.
This pack is bomb-proof, carries easily, and has no unnecessary or less-than-functional bells and whistles. The only real improvement I can think of would be to secure the bottom of the pack, but this certainly isn’t a deal breaker.
After asking George dozens of questions, I’ve come to appreciate his design process. If you’ve ever complained about a rope or crag bag, you should get in touch with Boulder5.