Friday, May 10, 2013

Black Diamond Speed 55 Pack Review for Wilderness Magazine

I've always been a fan of American company Black Diamond's technical climbing hardware. My BD ice axes, ice screws, crampons, nuts, cams and first light tent rate among my most used and most loved climbing gear. But, up until now, I've never had much to do with the BD packs. My mate Jamie has one and he reckons it works well, so I'm interested in seeing how this one performs. The Speed 55 is pitched as a fast and light climbing pack. It is the largest in the BD Speed range, and weighs in at around 1.5kg depending on the harness size. On first inspection all the bells and whistles seem to be in the right places: the harness is comfortable when the packed is loaded up; the ice axe attachments work well; the nylon material feels pretty durable and is reinforced where it needs to be; there's a place for a crampon bungy attachment; and the lid pocket is roomy. The pack strips down. The internal aluminium frame can be replaced with foam (which I like), the lid detaches and, supposedly, the waist belt comes off – although on the model I have to review it appears to be sewn to the main part of the pack so doesn't. It's a fine line getting a pack this size to carry a load comfortably on approach for an overnighter, but still be slim-lined enough to climb with. The Speed 55 does this pretty well. The pack has a great lid extension to really squeeze a load in, but maybe my only gripe is the harness shoulder straps feel a little beefy when climbing. In this sized pack, I'd rather lose comfort for added performance. Also some open pockets on the sides of the pack, to stop snow stakes and walking poles slipping out from under the compression straps, wouldn't go amiss. Three and a half stars out of five.