How To Climb a Big Wall – Packing the Haulbag

This article about packing a haulbag is part of the book - Big Wall and Aid Climbing.

VDiff big wall aid climbing book

A poorly packed haulbag is a nightmare on the wall. Small essential items will sneak their way to the very bottom, or you’ll be unable to get at your food unless you pull out all your water bottles and bivi gear, probably dropping most of it in the process.

Avoid this by packing properly at the base and re-packing in a logical order after a night's sleep on the wall. If you have more than one haulbag you can pack each one in the same way.


Step 1
Once you've carried all your stuff to the base of the route, position your haulbag where it will be hauled from. It will be difficult to drag it around the base once packed, so get it in the right position to start with.

Big wall haul bag

Step 2
Pack your loose equipment into 'stuff sacks'. Use stuff sacks (with a secure clip-in point) to group together food, clothes, toiletries and other small items.


Step 3
Remove the haulbag straps and drop them into the bottom of the haulbag. You won’t need these until you’re on the summit. Hauling with the straps on will probably break the straps, cause the haulbag to get stuck and dislodge rocks.

how to pack a haulbag

Step 4
Line the inside of your haulbag. Cardboard or old pieces of foam sleeping pads work well. This will help to prevent holes from wearing in the sides when you drag the bag up slabby ground. Don’t use your actual sleeping pad for this – it’ll be almost impossible to reposition back into a fully loaded haulbag.


Step 5
Haulbags like to be packed in layers, with the bottom layer providing structure. Without a tightly packed bottom layer, the haulbag will elongate and become narrower when hanging by its straps, which reduces overall useable space.

Pack the bottom layer tightly with stuff that you won’t need for the first half of the wall. Things like spare water, food and celebratory summit beers would be suitable items. Once you remove something from this layer when the haulbag is hanging by its straps, you probably won’t fit it back in. So factor this in when packing. Stack water bottles upright and cram your stuff sacks of food in between them.

how to pack a haul bag

Step 6
Fill the rest of your haulbag in a logical order. The second layer up should consist of things you don’t need until the following day (e.g: tomorrow’s food and water). The next layer will be things you won’t need until the evening (e.g: sleeping bag, stove).

Anything above this will be easily accessible. Fill it with stuff you might need during the day, making sure to keep a bottle of water and some food on the very top along with your first aid kit and some spare clothing.

packing a haul bag

Step 7
Streamline the haulbag. Fasten the straps and tuck away any loose pieces of cord to reduce the chances of it getting stuck.


Rack Bag
Spare rack could be packed in the top layer too. However, if you have a huge spare rack of obscure aid gear, it's worth taking an extra smaller haulbag (a rack bag) to de-cluster your main load. Attach the rack bag to the main hauling point so that it hangs alongside the main haulbag.

packing a haulbag


If using a rack bag, group the same type of rack together on 'racking' slings. Use an internal clip-in system to clip your racking slings to.

packing haulbags

This way, you won't accidentally drop all your cams when pulling out your piton rack.

big wall haulbag

Portaledge
You can attach your portaledge to the straps underneath the haulbag, or to your main hauling point. The rainfly can hang on these straps underneath too (packed inside a durable bag) if there's no room inside the haulbag.

Be warned that if your rainfly is in a standard stuff sack, it’ll probably wear a hole in it if hauled like this.


Poop Tube
You could also attach your poop tube to these straps, but a better way is to attach it to a piece of cord (4 or 5 meters long) which is clipped to the main hauling point. This way, it hangs out of smell-range below everything else and can be pulled up quickly in an emergency!

big wall haul bag

Example Haulbag Setups

Which haulbag setup you choose depends on your personal preference, how many people are in your team and how much stuff you’re bringing. Here are some examples.


Lightweight
Suitable for 2 climbers spending 2 nights on the wall.

- Medium size haulbag (approx 100 litres)
- Poop tube

how to haul bags


Mid-weight
Suitable for 2 climbers spending 5-7 nights on the wall.

- Full size haulbag (approx 160 litres)
- Medium size haulbag (approx 100 litres)
- Poop tube
- Portaledge
- Portaledge fly

how to haul on a big wall


Heavyweight
Suitable for 2 climbers spending 2 weeks on the wall.

- Full size haulbag (approx 160 litres)
- 2 Medium size haulbags (approx 100 litres each)
- Poop tube
- Portaledge
- Portaledge fly

how to haul bags on a big wall

Preparing the Haulbag

Before you leave the ground, you'll need to attach the haul rope and a docking tether to the haulbag. The docking tether provides a releasable attachment point for the haulbag.


Step 1
Attach the docking tether to the main hauling carabiner (large auto-lockers are a good choice) by tying an overhand loop in the middle of it as shown. This provides you with two strands for docking.

Step 2
Along with a docking tether, you will need a back-up sling/cord. Incorporating a shock-absorber (screamer) with the sling is preferable. Attach this to the main hauling screwgate.

big wall hauling

Step 3
On most haulbags, one strap is shorter than the other. Clip the long one into the main hauling carabiner along with the docking tether and back-up sling.

how to haul on a big wall

When you fasten the main hauling carabiner, it'll remain closed for the duration of the climb. This carabiner will be constantly loaded until you reach the summit.

how to attach a haulbag

Step 4
Attach the shorter strap to the main hauling screwgate with another carabiner.

how to attach a haulbag to the rope

On heavy loads, it can be difficult to unclip this carabiner to access the haulbag’s contents. An alternative is to shorten the strap further by tying an overhand knot in it.

set up the haulbag on a big wall

Then attach it via a piece of 7mm cord tied with a releasable knot (such as a munter-mule-overhand) as shown. However you do it, make sure the haulbag’s weight hangs evenly on both straps.

how to set up haulbag on a big wall

Step 5
If using a knot protector (highly recommended), slide it onto the end of the haul rope at this point.


Step 6
Tie a figure-8 in the end of the haul rope and attach it to the main hauling carabiner with a separate screwgate.

haulbag docking tether


Swivel
If your route is slabby with many traversing pitches, it is worth using a swivel. This will help to prevent kinks in the haul rope. Tuck the docking tether and back-up cord away to further reduce snags.

haul bag swivel

Rigging Plate
A rigging plate (such as the Petzl Paw) helps to spread things out at the main hauling point. This is most useful if taking several haulbags.

haul bag rigging plate petzl paw

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