Suspension is not a gimmick. Just a few comments on…
Suspension is not a gimmick.
- Well built - construction and materials
- Super suspension
- Space is all useable
- Poor design to accommodate head looking up when scrambling
Just a few comments on this as still not a great deal written about this pack.
Firstly, the suspension. The main feature is the pivoting hipbelt and connected shoulder straps. Black Diamond didn't invent this but neither did Apple invent GUI. I think BD have nailed it with this setup and will go down as the guys that brought active suspension to the market because they have made it work.
I was concerned buying this that I was falling for a gimmick. Thankfully in practice it is no gimmick and improves comfort. For me, it also improves stability walking and scrambling over rocks. Whilst the fit and contouring of the pack is not quite as refined in practice as, say, an Osprey (at least for me) the active suspension more than makes up for it.
The construction of the pack is excellent, materials appear a tad more durable/heavy duty than the average and neat, high quality stitching. Bar tacks abound on every possible critical point so I doubt this thing will unravel in a lifetime. The experience of BD with harnesses shows in the types and stitching of the foams. There are a couple of non-functional design features (e.g. a fringe over the front pocket zip) but overall it is a simple design. A large number of pockets throughout is a luxury I appreciate and the two hipbelt pockets are very useful for a few items on the go.
I don't care for the waterproof zippers as I would never trust a pack to keep gear dry the needs to be dry (that is for drybags). Also, I am not a fan of a J-zipper — topload is fine enough. But that is a matter of perspective, not a problem with the pack pe se.
The hipbelt is a reverse pull which is a much improved system. The straps are thin but not uncomfortable. The padding on the belt and shoulders is thick and solid.
All of the straps on the pack except the shoulder straps are a very soft, pliable webbing. It feels great and I am sure more than durable enough but it can twist as it goes through a buckle and and need a bit of fiddling to get the twist back through the buckle. The arm straps are the traditional stiff webbing and don't have this issue.
No pack will be perfect and whilst there are a number of features I don't care for, they have been executed well if you consider the design brief.
The one real issue with the pack is something I expected Black Diamond with their climbing heritage not to fail on. There is a contoured, hard plastic 'skull divert' in the pack to enable you to tilt your head pack when climbing to see your next handhold. It is next to useless. The lid of the pocket comes down over most of the divert whether loaded with gear or not and inhibits your ability to look up. Osprey packs have a much better way of keeping this area clear so your head is free.
But, overall it is a very good pack. The suspension alone makes it worth having, but most other features of the pack are very well done. I expect it to last a long time. I can put up with the soft webbing. I am surprised and disappointed with the poor functionality of the head divert design — Black Diamond please sort this out for the next model because otherwise you have a real winner.