Most gear reviews are a load of garbage. The product gets used once or twice and the reviewer's initial impression is recorded with plenty of advertiser-pleasing flufferies. But initial impressions do little to reflect the durability and long term satisfaction you're looking for in a product. Face it: no matter how good that rope or pack or climbing shoe is...if it wears out in a week it's as good as trash.
Over a year ago, Sierra Designs sent us the Sorcery 55 climbing pack. It got loaded up with climbing gear and the initial impression was good: great fit, carries well, looks durable, nice features, etc. To truly test the durability of the pack, our DPM tester wanted to use the product for a full year before reviewing it. (read: never got around to writing a review). Our laziness worked out for the best though as we can now offer a full, honest, pictures-don't-lie, assessment of this awesome climbing pack.
The Sorcery climbing pack.
Size: The Sorcery pack reviewed is a 55 liter model. This is on the larger side of cragging packs. This size pack is suitable for backpacking or overnight alpine/mountain climbing. Of course, we didn't use it for that at all. This size was also perfect for day trips to the crag and quickly filled up with rope, rack, quickdraws, extra clothes, and all the other necessities. For just plain old sport climbing in the summer, this size might be a bit too large, but it's got plenty of compression straps to cinch it down smaller and I'd rather have too much room than not enough.
Check out the features: Gear loop on the waistbelt, pocket for water bottle, compression straps.
Features: I've never seen a pack with so many bells and whistles. It actually does have a whistle...built into the sternum strap clip so if you get lost on your way to the Project Wall at Rifle you can whistle for help. There are large pockets on the sides for stuffing little things in or water bottles for those long approaches. There's a large "crampon pouch" on the back that is good for anything you don't want on the inside like a wet jacket or messy chalk bag. The free-floating top panel zips open to reveal plenty of room for lunch, and any small losable objects. There are actually two seperate zippered pockets inside the top panel. One has a place to clip your keys and the other is a fleece-lined optics pocket for your ski goggles, sunglasses, or Iphone.
Fleece-lined optics pocket. Put your Iphone, ski goggles, or sunglasses in this rig to keep them unscratched.
The main compartment is a standard top-loading deal with a draw cord at the top. The main compartment has no problem taking a 70-meter rope, 14 quickdraws, a full rack of trad gear, and extra clothes. There might even be a little room to spare. Inside the main compartment is an emergency bivy pad that you'll hopefully just be using to sit on and change into climbing shoes.
There are ski straps and ice axe loops on the back, a three-point haul system if you ever need to haul your pack, radio/GPS attachment points, and gear loops on the waist belt. I really like the gear loops. Of course, these are great for climbing with your pack on, if you're into that kind of thing. For me, it's helpful for throwing your pack on over your harness and having a place to clip your Grigri so it doesn't jab into your side under the waistbelt. Finally, my favorite feature of all: the bottle opener. Right on your chest is a bottle opener to remind you to drink a cold, bottled beer at the end of the day.
Bottle opener opens beer, beer gets consumed, you get drunk and lost...blow the whistle. This pack thought of everything.
Fit, Carry and Suspension: The Sorcery pack is extremely comfortable. The shoulder straps and waist belt are soft and distribute weight evenly. I don't know what they're made of but it feels like a stiff version of memory foam. They use the same stuff on the back panel. Four soft panels touch the back: two at waist level and two below the shoulder blades. A well-defined gap is left for the spine creating plenty of air flow and no hot spots.
The frame is quite stiff, utilizing a single aluminum stay and a plastic frame sheet. The stiff frame allows most of the weight to carry on the hips, making for a comfortable hike even with a heavy load.
Comfy straps and stiff suspension. Note where the pack touches the back and the nice path of air flow it leaves along the spine.
Construction and Durability: This is where the Sorcery really stands out. I have honestly not seen a better built pack with more attention to detail and focus on durability. The fabric is super burly and shows no signs of wear after one year of use. The stitching around the shoulder straps is usually a wear point but this pack utilizes one-inch webbing to connect the straps to the pack. The stitching is burly! It's the attention to detail that makes this pack stand out. The zipper pull tabs are made of steel cable! I doubt they will be wearing out any time soon.
1-inch webbing straps and grab loop. Steel cable zipper pulls. Bomber stitching. It's gonna last a while.
The Sierra Designs Sorcery 55 retails for a nickel less than 200 bucks which is actually very reasonable compared to some other packs in this size range. Consider it at least a five year purchase. Even with daily use, I think this pack will outlive any others in its class. Click here to purchase or read more about the pack at Sierra Designs' website.