Metolius Express Haul Pack
- Made from Durathane vinyl material
- Haul bag style clip-in points
- Two 3-pocket daisy chains
- Zip pocket inside lid
- Aluminum closure-buckle
- Padded waist belt and shoulder straps
- Capacity: 39 L (2380 cu. in.)
- Weight: 2 lb. 10 oz.
- Dimensions: 21.5″ x 15″ x 9″ plus 3″ collar
- Height: 5’11”
- Weight: 165 lbs
- Waist size: 29”
- Torso length: 18”
Locations Tested: Castleton Tower, Indian Creek, UT; Joshua Tree National Park, CA
Days Tested: 50
Many manufacturers in the climbing industry embrace one of two mottos: “light is right” and what I’m calling “burlier is better.” And for the vast majority of climbers out there, the latter MO is more appealing.
Most of us don’t need a 50 liter pack that only weighs 1 pound, but what we do need is simple, rugged gear that will last through trip after trip to the crag. The Metolius Express Haul Pack is such a piece of gear – it’s a simple, durable crag bag that gets the job done.
The Express Haul Pack is constructed similarly to a traditional haul bag. It’s made with vinyl fabric, tuck-away shoulder straps, and heavy-duty nylon webbing reinforcements. The pack is essentially a vinyl tube with shoulder straps, a waist belt and a drawstring closure on top. A small flap (which has a small zippered pocket on it) folds over the top closure and latches securely with an aluminum buckle at the front of the pack.
The Express Haul Pack has adjustable shoulder straps and a waist belt, but the pack only comes in one size, so it’s not guaranteed to fit everyone perfectly. However, the pack fit both me and Blister Reviewer Hannah Trim (who is 5’, 1.5” and weighs 107 lbs) comfortably with some adjustment of the straps.
Suspension and Ventilation
The Express Haul Pack’s design is quite simple – there is no fancy suspension or ventilation system on the back panel, and the vinyl sits directly against your back. The longest I carried the Express Haul Pack was on an hour-long hike to the base of Castleton Tower, and I did notice the shoulder straps digging into my shoulders a bit more than those on a standard backpack would, there was a little more sweat on my back, and a #5 Camalot was poking me through the vinyl. However, seeing as the Express Haul Pack is not designed for long backcountry approaches or carrying massive loads, I don’t consider this an issue at all. The pack is designed to carry climbing gear to the base of a crag day in and day out, and it does that well. Plus, after a month of dragging it around the desert, the Express Haul Pack has proven to be very durable, which I’ll say more about below.
The stated volume of the Express Haul Pack is 39 liters, which, based on other packs I’ve used in the 30-50 liter range, seems pretty accurate. The pack will easily fit a triple rack of cams or a rope in addition to personal gear for a day of cragging.
To and From the Crag
As I said above, the Express Haul Pack is designed for getting your gear to the base of a crag. The simple, top-loading design makes it easy to stuff gear into it without the hassle of zippers or straps. The bag easily carried a full triple rack of cams from 0.3 to 5 Camalots, layers, food and water for a day, a helmet, harness, and shoes. I’ve used the the zip pocket on the lid to hold smaller, miscellaneous items like tape, a first aid kit, a phone, a small camera, etc. The pack’s top drawstring closure also makes it possible to overstuff the pack slightly and still cinch down the collar to keep everything inside.
While the Express Haul Pack shines as a day-use pack for cragging, its roots as a haul bag also come in handy. I used it during a photo and video shoot on Castleton Tower as a haul bag to store camera equipment, as well as food, water, and layers for five people as we dragged it up the entire North Face.
It’s not a full-on haul bag with full strength webbing loops to stand up to big wall routes, though. The webbing loops on the top are not quite long enough to clip together (some trickery is required to bring them to one point), there is no bottom clip-in point for hauling bags in succession, and the pack’s drawstring and flap closure aren’t as reliable as the double drawstring collar on a bigger haul bag. Still, when it comes for done-in-a-day routes or when doing light rigging, the Express Haul Pack is a fine choice.
The Express Haul Pack is constructed from the same vinyl fabric as normal haul bags, and it withstood abuse admirably. After hauling the pack up Castleton Tower and carrying it to and from crags at Indian Creek, the fabric does not have any holes. Likewise, the straps and draw cord show no signs of damage and are still in perfect working condition. The absence of extraneous zippers also eliminates potential failure points as zippers are usually the first thing to get clogged and damaged by dirt. The single zipper on the Express Haul Pack’s top pocket is well shielded from dirt and I haven’t experienced any issues with it.
Most climbers don’t need the fanciest, lightest, swankiest gear on the market. Even the most hard core amongst us aren’t climbing alpine death routes every day. The Metolius Express Haul Pack is a simple, durable pack that shines at a place like Indian Creek where approaches are short, but the environment is harsh and gear gets a ton of wear.