Black Diamond Speed 30: Light and Comfy

Posted on: October 8, 2008


MSRP: $119.95

Weight: 2 pounds, 3 ounces

Black Diamond and its series of Speed Packs has been a long-time favorite of mine. The go-to climbing and skiing company always has found an excellent balance between weight and comfort—and this line of packs is no different. The Speed series has all the right features without any of the extra bells and whistles that so many pack designers can't help but add.

A couple of years ago I wore the Speed 28 on a three-day ski traverse of Canada's 130-plus kilometer ultra-classic: Bugaboos to Rogers Pass, on which most parties spend ten to fifteen days. I also wore it on numerous ascents in Patagonia. No matter the adventure, the Speed 28 allowed me to move fast and light.

So I happily agreed to test this year's version, the Speed 30, to see if it would perform as well. I didn't go easy on it, either. I tested it thoroughly in several Canadian Rockies arenas: daily use on a nine-day ice climbing expedition to Icefall Brook; alpine routes such as a 31-hour, car-to-car push on the first ascent of Dirty Love (M7, 14 pitches, 1830 meters) on Mt. Wilson; the classic Silver Lining (WI6 M5, 700m) on Mt. Saskatchewan; and many limit-pushing day outings from ski-touring to rock climbing. It withstood my varied challenges.

The Speed 30 is an excellent choice for big outings that require all of your precious energy. The pack weighs 2 pounds, 3 ounces but is easy to knock down to a mere 20 ounces if you strip off its removable top pocket, hip belt, ultralight plastic framesheet and stay. It's hydration compatible, and it adjusts to multiple torso lengths.

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Each year, Black Diamond makes a few key changes to its popular design. The first thing I noticed on this year's version was its improved water-shedding 210d nylon fabric. It felt and acted like Teflon when the snow hit it, and it stayed reasonably water repellant in a light rain, too. Its durability (it features 400d ripstop on high-abrasion areas) impressed me as I hauled it up chimneys and around chockstones on Mt. Wilson that easily would have shredded other 30-liter packs I've owned.

Black Diamond also changed the ice ax and crampon attachments. There are two ax loops at the bottom instead of one, and two Velcro straps replace the bungee cord/toggle grip holder of previous models. It's a functional design, but it's not very glove friendly. And somehow, my picks always twisted dangerously outward, threatening anything within a few inches of me. I was also surprised that the pack wasn't equipped with a bungee or webbing straps to secure crampons, as there are four rings over its crampon patch. Naturally, I "added" it to the pack.

My complaints are minor. Still, Black Diamond could easily have eliminated these small nuisances before releasing their latest version. Nonetheless, the Speed 30 is, overall, an excellent addition to any pack quiver.

Pros: Light; comfortable; versatile for a wide range of sports, especially alpine climbing.

Cons: Crampon attachment isn't included; removable lid isn't extendable; the ice ax holders need improvement.

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