Big Wall Episode #3 - Packing
Big Wall Bible
Packing Haul Bags
The lightest but most useful thing you can take up a big wall is knowledge. Welcome to a resource that will help you be successful in getting up big rocks. Big walling is a big topic so we broke it into bite-size "pitches" with a video to START each one. The aim is to have lots of videos, photos, and written content in each section, not just of our stuff but your stuff as well. See HowNOT2 contribute your beta below.
Our courses are A-Z content in blog format, glued together with an overarching blog we call a textbook. A blog format is easy to read, easy to update, and easy to translate. Be sure to begin at the TEXTBOOK and at the end of each episode we'll point you to the next.
You have 1 bag with 1 compartment, how are you going to pack it? We will cover several ways you can skin this cat, or fill this pig (haul bag nickname). Haul bags are not like other backpacks so it's worth spending a chapter showing you how to connect it, get into it, put the straps away, and put everything into it. This section covers everything at the bottom of a haul rope starting on the ground. Chapter 10 shows how to actually haul it all up, dock it and lower it off for its next scrape up.
Packing for Hiking
If you are going to hike the bag, put the heavy stuff on the bottom and the light stuff on top. It doesn't matter what order you need it in later. And keep in mind, even really light stuff that is piled on top of your bag makes it very awkward to hike since it gets so tall.
It is highly recommended to put a liner in it. Some just use cardboard in a circle but a cheap foam mattress like THIS can be cut to 1 inside diameter of your bag and protect your content inside or your sharp content from poking a hole. It is the FIRST thing to go in the bag. The padding can help with hiking too, but even with that, if you have a heavy load, it can be nice to add a chunk of foam against your lower back before even putting it on. A trick to getting it on is to go down to the bag, don't bring the bag to you. Sit and put all the straps on until you are one with the pig, then roll up on your knees and then, staying balanced, stand up. If you need to take breaks, find a way to set it on a rock to get the weight off your back, don't take it off each time. Betcha can't guess what you should do... practice walking a mile at home with 80+ lbs in your bag before doing it your first time up a mountain. You might find pokey spots in your hips or back that you need to figure something out for, which is way way more convenient at home. Yes, you will look like a homeless person walking down the street, but a very motivated one at that!
Stow away your bag straps, not squirrels. No joke, someone got 2/3rds up Lurking Fear before a squirrel jumped out of their bag. Rumor has it that the squirrel is still falling to this day. BEFORE you put all your stuff back inside after getting to the base, tuck the straps in the pouch. Sometimes it's nice to take a gallon zip lock bag for the little loose pieces to put in the inside pouch of the haul bag. A tip from Pass the Piton Pete is to reattach those loose straps to the permanently attached shoulder straps before tucking them in the kangaroo pouch. You don't want to lose those, it's not fun to carry your haul bag on your head because you can't use your straps because you lost the little pieces; just hypothetically speaking of course.
Packing for Hauling
BEFORE packing, stuff your straps. Did we already cover that above? I bet you still forget! You have 1 compartment, put the stuff you need at the top. The flip side to that is to put things you don't need until that evening at the very bottom when you plan on yard selling or pulling all of it out. So, yes, your water goes at the bottom, and pack that bottom layer tight for a firm base. Just make sure you have enough water for just that day at the top too. Sleeping stuff generally goes on top of the water, and dinner/breakfast bags next. The top is just the food, water and jackets you might need in between pitches. One nifty trick is to girth hitch a loop style daisy to an inside gear loop and attach everything except for the water to it so you can just lift it out and it has everything on it.
You can clip a biner to each item and keep everything free. OR you can clip everything to a daisy that you pull out with it all pre attached. Either way, don't keep loose items in there but keep everything in a stuff sack with a biner already attached to it.
Multi-bag-plan: if you have more than 1 bag you can pack according to priority or pack by groups. If you don't need something until day 3 or 4, leave it in the bottom hanging bag and never touch it. If you plan on climbing an even more gear intense route, you can have a bag just for the rack the leader doesn't take.
Leash Your Pigs
Connection points for the bag
Just clipping your bag to an anchor can make it very difficult to remove later when the next leader is hauling, whether that is lifting the super heavy bag(s) because the next pitch is way off to the side and not pulling it off the anchor straight up or the leader too enthusiastically started hauling and made it tight before you could unclip it. In that case, a Rocky Talkie (10% off clicking the link) is pretty damn nice to communicate the cluster. A releasable leash avoids most problems.
Attach a 7mm cordelettes to the bag as a leash . You have a two options: 2 meters long which is just enough to tie a munter-mule-overhand, which is releasable under load, but doesn't give you any extra to work with to lower it, or a longer one. If you zig zag a lot, it can be nice to have a 20m long leash to lower your bag but then you have a 20m cluster to constantly manage. If you attach it to the master carabiner, make sure it's on the spine side and doesn't get pinched when transferring the weight. If you connect it to the lower handle, then you can get the haul bag as high as possible to the anchor, giving you easier access to the stuff inside. If you are going to use a backup sling, make sure that is also on the bag ready to go. Have an individual leash solution for every bag, even if you have multiple bags and plan on docking the entire chain of bags as a unit. If you spread out later at an anchor at each pitch, it's nice to have them independent.
Bringing Closure To Your Baggage
Closing the haul bag
Black Diamond has a quick and easy a cinch cord to sphincter up the top but is less secure. Metolius has more manual fold over clip and double strap the top down which is pretty nice before sending your pig flying sideways because you didn't want to lower it out. Some bags have offset handles so the side without the straps is scraped up more, but if you put both handles in the same carabiner and it's heavy, you might not be getting it off later. Each handle gets its own carabiner and the shorter handles is the one that gets attached the haul point and the longer handle gets attached to the other handle's carabiner. This does put all the force on one strap, don't worry, it's still redundant and plenty strong enough. However, you can get your bag open without lifting anything. If you want your bag more level and both straps holding the load you can do what you can learn at VDIFF. Tie an overhand in the shorter strap making it ultra short, girth hitch a Yates Personal Anchor and clip that to the other carabiner. This way you can undo it anytime but it stays level. This requires more gear so pick your poison. Practice at home and not with an empty bag! See if everything fits and is something you can carry before you park your car to do you ANY wall. Every trip is different and every trip needs a pre-pack test done. Get all these details dialed before showing up.
Hogtie the Pigs
Connecting the bag to the rope
You'd be shocked. how many ways you can connect your haul rope to whatever cluster you plan on pulling up. It's pretty standard to tie a knot and clip things to it (see how below) and therefore you need a bottle to protect your knot. It's just a water bottle with the bottom cut off but prepare the bottle BEFORE you get to the base. If you are in the swivel camp, a taller skinny bottle like smart water has covers everything. This bottle will slide up if there is slack in the rope and if you don't want a loose bottle moving around your rope, use a string to keep in in place. This is the only place a key chain carabiner can be justified on your system to keep this in place.
To swivel or not to swivel. If the rope gets twists in it by the haul bag gets lowered on a low angle climb spinning the bag or from anything else, it can be pretty obnoxious to manage. Tying the rope directly to the swivel is the most direct method but if you plan on tying in short with a butterfly (to use the rest of the rope as a lower out) you'll need a carabiner anyways so you might as well put one on right away. Swivels are optional.
To progress capture or "knot". You can put a micro traxion on your swivel or master carabiner and loosely clip the knot at the end of the haul line to the bag. This doesn't require a bottle because there is no tensioned knot to grind on the cliff and allows the follower to lift the bag(s) when pulling it out of a roof instead of trying to coordinate perfectly when follower pulls and the leader hauls.
A poor man's rigging plate is an HMS (Pear-shaped) carabiner. If you place your docking tether on the bag's primary carabiner, or are trying to clip multiple bags to the haul rope, clip these items independently to an HMS carabiner on the end of the rope. You can clip up to two bags on on the same carabiner but iron out all this on the ground before you show up. Use a catch line, or a 2-3 meter long piece of spare rope, to extended down any third bag you have or sometimes its easier to create a haul train and have each bag hang below the other. Clipping one haul bag under another haul bag isn't ideal. If the top one isn't full enough it can get sausaged and deform by the lower bag pulling on it. If you haul two pigs, it can be nice to have the lower one just extended with a rope and not connected to the bottom of your other haul bag. Even if light, never unclip a haul bag that isn't tethered to something.
This is a tip from Alpine Savvy's article on "Haul Bag Rigging 101" modified into a lighter version. The idea is to not have both bags smashed up against each other and you can extend the master carabiner or swivel with something, in this case, 2 lightweight 20cm dyneema slings. This photo is simplified and doesn't include any tethers.
WARNING: The lower your bags are hanging at an anchor, the more of a PITA it is to get something out of them. A bottle + knot + swivel + carabiner + 20cm sling + straps = the bag is hanging at your feet if you hauled it all the way up to the teeth of your protraxion.
Don't Grade Yourself "Lightly"
Practice, Practice, Practice
For the love of bacon, go throw a rope over a tree branch and fill your pigs with tons of anything heavy and do every variety of method we talk about here to see what you like the best for your speed, load, and preference. A Yates Adjustable Daisy would be nice on every bag, but if you have 3 that weight adds up. Play with different combinations of carabiners. If you don't use a micro-traxion, take your knot protecting bottle out for a spin. In the best case scenario, you'd go haul at a local crag in the worse case scenario possible - with the heaviest load up the low angle rock so you don't grade yourself "lightly".
10% Supports HowNOT2
Get 90% of your big walling gear here. This leads you to a detailed buying guide.
Please send video, image, or words, that are respectful to other viewpoints and helpful to Big Wall education. Please be kind by delivering something ready to add and tell us where you think it best fits. We'd also like to link to anything you found helpful online. Maintaining the quality of this resource is important so please submit something worthy of 100,000 people seeing it. We reserve the right to not post what you send us.
BigWalls.com leads to our textbook and was donated by
John Middendorf who runs BigWalls.net.
This course is free but not free to make. If it really helped you, please consider SUPPORTING US.