Mammut Multipitch chalk bag
- Storage space for cell phone, keys, camera and energy bars
- Attachment for jacket
- Lining made of thick fleece
- Toothbrush carrier
- 2 suspension points incl. large waist belt
- Mesh pocket
- Zippered pocket
Test Locations: North Cascades, WA; Rocky Mountain National Park, Eldorado Canyon SP, CO; Indian Creek, UT; Wind River Range, WY;
Days Tested: 60
Between new cam technology (BD and Metolius Ultralights, DMM Dragons, etc), new ropes (Beal Unicore technology), and shiny new shoes, climbers sometimes lose sight of small items that can make a difference in comfort and success when on route. The Mammut Multipitch chalk bag falls into that category of a small item that can actually make life on route significantly easier. While a chalk bag with a pocket is not a new innovation, a chalk bag with multiple pockets represents a shift from the norm, and although I initially though the concept a bit gimmicky, after four months of use the Multipitch chalk bag has taken a place on my list of preferred gear for long rock routes.
The Multipitch chalk bag looks much like any other chalk bag on the market and at its core functions much the same – a pocket to hold chalk to dry your hands. Where the Multipitch chalk bag differs is in its accoutrements. While many other chalk bags on the market feature a zip pocket for holding a phone, single granola bar, or keys, the Multipitch chalk bag features two zippered pockets, a stretch pocket, and a set of bungee cords on the bottom all designed to hold a small kit of essential items for a long multi-pitch climb.
The most noticeable pocket is the large external front pocket which protrudes from the body of the bag and is plenty large enough to hold a day’s worth of snacks (for a normal person, I maxed it out and overflowed into the second pocket but I really like snacks…) plus a minimalist first aid kit and headlamp. The pocket also has a small elastic pouch on the inside for organization. I didn’t often use the pouch but occasionally used it to keep my phone or a folded up route description easily accessible.
The chalk bag also features a vertical zippered pocket and an external stretch pocket on the sides. The second zippered pocket is very low profile and slim; great for sliding a phone or keys into, but otherwise limited in space. A nice touch is the orientation of the zipper; the slider opens downwards and has a small mesh triangle at the bottom to keep items from falling out of the pocket even when fully opened. The stretch pocket on the other side of the bag is sized to hold small items like a pair of thin gloves or sunglasses.
Between the three pockets I was able to fit all the food, emergency kit, and route information I wanted on long rock routes in the Wind Rivers and Black Canyon. Noticeably absent from that list of gear is water and layers, which is where the bungee cords come in.
A doubled bungee cord runs across the bottom of the chalk bag with a plastic hook and loop closure/tightening system to secure items to the bottom of the bag. There is also a small plastic keeper clip on the corner for extra security. When fully extended, I was able to get the bungee cords to stretch all the way around a 1L plastic water bottle and hook around it. While I wouldn’t necessarily recommend carrying a full water bottle this way, it was a pleasant surprise to see that I was able to make it work. The better (perhaps best) use I found for the bungees was to hold a thin wind layer or light pair of approach shoes (okay approach flip flops, I was feeling particularly lazy and casual that day).
When I put a pair of flip flops into the bungees while climbing in Eldorado Canyon SP they stayed put even after scumming up a couple of chimneys and pulling a beached whale mantle move to flop onto a ledge. The only downside to stuffing a large item like shoes or a water bottle into the bungees is that large items push upwards into the chalk pocket and make it slightly more difficult to fully chalk your hands.
The one area the Multipitch chalk bag falls noticeably short in is its durability. After using the bag for only four months there is fairly significant wear on the rim of the chalk pocket, enough that that underlying wire rim is starting to show through, which although irrelevant to the functionality of the bag, is still something that I usually see after several years, not months, of use.
More consequentially though, the drawcord closure on the chalk pocket detached after three months of use and the zipper teeth on the two zippered pockets are beginning to snag and behave in an unruly and unpredictable manner. I’m not entirely surprised at the zipper trouble, they are very small gauge zippers and chalk bags are not a piece of gear that stays particularly clean between the ever-present chalk dust and frequent squashing of the bag at sitting belays. The drawcord though is somewhat distressing because the cord did not break; rather the crimped tab holding the two ends of the cord together came unglued and free. I’d expect a more durable closure system; I’ve even seen a simple heat-sealed knot last for years.
Let’s be clear, none of the wear and tear on the bag significantly affects its carrying capacity or utility. The bag still functions perfectly well, just the materials are not holding up to the usual standard of such a simple piece of equipment.
In the Field
I have to say, I was initially somewhat skeptical of the true utility of the Multipitch chalk bag. I hate climbing with a pack on, but accept the necessity on certain long routes where stuffing a day’s worth of food into my pants pockets just doesn’t cut it. That said, I wondered if the Multipitch bag would really fill the void between the pants pockets and a small backpack.
After four months of testing the bag, I feel comfortable in saying that my first impression was wrong and I’ve actually changed what I bring on multi-pitch routes as a result of the bag. I have several climbing partners who’ve commented on the bag usually to the tone of, “Oh it’s so cute! It’s like a baby backpack for your shit!” While I think the cherry red color may have something to do with the cuteness, the reality is that the bag is undeniably useful and it really is like a tiny backpack.
My personal opinion is that the Multipitch bag is best suited for long rock routes with relatively stable weather, little objective hazard, and no need for snow travel. Think of routes between 4 and 12 pitches in places like the Black Canyon of the Gunnison, Eldorado Canyon SP, desert towers, or the Wind River Range.
Previously on routes of this nature I would face the decision of whether to take a small pack with water, snacks, and layers or to say “screw it” and go cowboy style with what I could fit in my pockets and comfortably clip to my harness between gear. Now, I find myself grabbing the Multipitch bag and stuffing the pockets with snacks, using the bungees to attach a light jacket, and clipping a water bottle to my harness. No longer do I feel like I need to decide between comfort and adding a margin of safety, I just load up and go.
Obviously there are some conditions that don’t line up with this paradigm, notably routes which may require an axe or crampons for the approach/descent, routes long enough to require more water, or days which have a high chance of variable weather conditions. On those routes I still reach for my small alpine pack. But for nearly any other multi-pitch climb I bring the Multipitch chalk bag.
The Mammut Multipitch chalk bag is no gimmick, and while it may be a niche piece of equipment, the niche is quite large, and the bag fills it superbly. While the bag could be more durable, I reach for it any time I plan on getting more than a single rope length above the ground. The Mammut Multipitch chalk bag is an excellent choice for anyone who climbs long rock routes.