The SnaPack Tarp is essentially a squidgy box with shoulder straps and very little else. It is uncompromisingly designed to do one thing – carry your climbing gear short-ish distances to the bottom of the crag and then help you find the gear you need, as you do routes and move along the cliff for further climbs. It comes with a basic rope tarp to help keep your rope clean once out of the pack. It is not a pack designed for climbing with, let alone mountaineering when you will need ice tools and crampons. It is designed with one specific task in mind that it does well, but not to be versatile. It is though relatively cheap, making up to certain extent for the lack of versatility.
It is by no means the first 'crag-pack': bags designed purely for rock climbers that you carry like a rucksack, but then open up with a zip like a sports bag, have been around at least since the early 90s. For example the Metolius Crag Station www.metoliusclimbing.com/cragstation. Yet Snap might be the first to come up with the startlingly obvious idea of having the zip (or zips in the case of the double-zipped SnaPack Tarp) run down the back system. The huge advantage of this is obvious to all those who climb anywhere slightly muddy, damp or dusty: when you lay the bag down to open it up, the bit against the ground is the opposite side to what will be against your back when you carry it rucksack style once again.
The double-style zips make packing and un-packing the bag a breeze, and because they run the whole way down the length of the pack, there is no more of the traditional rucksack experience of something small like a nutkey or belay plate invariably getting lost at the very bottom of the pack under all your other kit. The shoulder straps are also cleverly designed to work like handles on a basket, so even if you don't fully zip up the bag, you can carry it basket-style along to the base of the next route with out much fear of things falling out. The material is the reinforced rubbery tarp material like on the many duffle bags that all copy the original North Face ones and seems hardwearing after nearly a year of regular use. I have managed to bust one of the stiffened corners a bit, but it doesn't look like the actual seam is likely to break.
The bag has one small zip pocket on zip flap that will take car keys, then another bigger zipped pocket down the side that allows wallets, phones and the like to be stored away from climbing kit. Then there is a mesh pocket on the other side – good for stuffing your litter into, or something like a shell jacket that doesn't fit inside. The SnaPack Tarp at 45 litres and being French, suffers a little from that normal French design flaw where they presume what you need for a day's cragging is a 60 metre rope, 12 quickdraws and sunscreen. Snap make a 60 ltr version but that doesn't appear to available in the UK currently. I perhaps should have got the bigger version, but then I probably take more gear than I need to the crag – being a bit of wuss I quickly reach for the “don't have the right kit” ploy as a way of weaselling out of all sorts of vaguely ambitious leads. Therefore on each crag day I take with me everything from an RP Zero to Friend 6, often along with two different types of rock boots to force myself to try harder. I can fit this big rack, a 50 metre 10.2 mm rope, one pair of shoes, a litre of water, and lunch in but sometimes have to clip my helmet outside, but for colder days when you want a duvet, various spare layers and a thermos, I have had to carry the rope separately.
So the SnaPack Tarp does what it is meant to very well but won't do much else. Nevertheless I started realising some years ago that “a general purpose pack”, whilst the optimal solution when a skint student, actually wasn't quite perfect at anything.
So if you already have a lightweight mountain sack that you don't want to wear out dragging along the bottom of Stanage, or the top of Pembroke, then something like the SnaPack is well worth considering.
Currently it only seems to be available online from Urban Rock (although I bought mine from V12 last summer)
Toby Archer, based in Finland, works as a researcher specialising in terrorism and political Islam for an international affairs think-tank. "Climbing keeps me from getting too depressed by these sort of things." He blogs about both at Light from the North. He is part of the UKClimbing.com Gear Review Team.