Sunday, 16 August 2015

Black Diamond Speed 22: A Little Gem

Trying to get a spot on pack for scrambling is quite tough. Smaller packs tend to be a little short, not comfortable or not designed for the purpose. I recently reviewed the Lowe Alpine Illusion 16 that punches above its weight, but not always large enough. So I wanted a reasonably priced, narrow, comfortable pack of around 20 litres or slightly above. After a lot of research and looking around I settled on the Black Diamond Speed 22.

First Impressions
The pack seems well made and very light (536g, just over 19oz). It’s a little flimsy, although this is to be expected. It sits well on my shoulders and is just the right length for me at 5’ 10” in height. Most advertisements mention the length as M/L, but I have never seen a S/M, unlike the previous model. So perhaps Black Diamond have chosen to only make one length.
There doesn’t initially seem to be many features on the pack, but it has a few surprises considering its weight. Size wise the pack has a capacity of 22 litres, so it holds 22 litres. It will carry everything I need for a day out plus more. I’m looking at carrying a short rope when out scrambling with a few bits of extra gear and this should all fit without a problem. And if it doesn’t fit inside, there are options.

The pack is quite tall and narrow giving it a very low profile when manoeuvring through tight places. But even if you do catch the pack against rocks, I’m finding that the material the main body is constructed from is pretty tough and able to stand up to knocks and scrapes. The main body is 210 denier rip stop with 420 denier reinforcements. The main body is of welded construction and really nicely made.
There’s a whole lot of weight saving going on in this pack. First of all, it’s frameless, so you just have to be a little smarter about how you pack the Speed 22. Not only is it frameless, but there is only a thin pad, so you have to be aware of where you put any sharp or solid objects in the pack. Black Diamond markets the pad as a bivvy pad. Well if you want to bivvy on a pad that thin good luck. If you put a hydration bladder in the internal pocket you will add to the packs padding, although you might end up with warm water. For that reason, I don’t use a bladder and added an extra sit pad inside.
On the back of the sack, in the centre, near the lid, there is a hole for your hydration bladder tube to feed through. The whole is also where the extra rope retaining strap feeds through so that it can be pushed down inside the pack when not in use. But if needed the strap can be used to feed across the top of the collar and hold a rope in place, or possibly a helmet. This is aided by the fact that the lid of the pack is actually a floating lid. It’s held on at the back by a strip of hook and loop material and two adjustable straps. The straps will extend by just over 4 inches, around 11cm, so enough adjustment to allow a rope under. Black Diamond detail this as a removable lid, but since the collar only has a single draw cord, protecting the contents of your pack from the elements might become an issue.
There are only upper compression straps on the Speed 22, probably it’s only negative for me, if only a minor negative. Due to the packs small size, compression straps should have a minimal requirement. The buckles of the upper compression straps are of the quick release type, so the straps could possibly be used as extra retaining straps for a rope. As well as a lack of lower compression straps, there are no side pockets, not a real concern when wanting a pack that is narrow and uncluttered.
Continuing with the fit, the shoulder straps are minimal but comfortable. There are no load lifters on the shoulder straps, so again, fit is important. And further weight is lost by using a narrow webbing waist belt. I’ve had these belts on other packs, and like the Lowe Alpine Illusion 16, I have removed them sue to being of little use. The webbing belt on the Speed 22 however does the job well and I am able to slacken the shoulder straps right off and carry the majority of the packs weight on my hips.
The sternum strap has a broad range of adjustment of nearly 6 inches, around 14cm. The buckle for the sternum strap has what seems to be becoming almost standard issue, a whistle.
The top-back of the pack, near the hydration tube hole, is the location of the carry handle. It appears to be well attached to the pack and could possibly be used as a haul point. Although since it isn’t at the corners it could lead to the pack snagging and might only be used in an emergency.
On the front of the pack are two narrow slots cut through and along the back of the material into which two narrow straps (provided with the pack) can be fed through as alternative attachments for poles primarily for crampons. I’ve chosen to feed bungee cord through with a line lock instead. But either would be highly useful. And I can swap the bungee out for the straps in just few minutes come winter time.
Continuing the snow theme, the front bottom of the pick has a ‘Micro’ Pick Pocket for ice axe picks to be slid through with a strap to lock them in place. At the top front of the pack, there is an ice axe lope on each side, so two ice tools could easily be carried.

Finally, there are two other pockets on the pack other than the hydration pocket. These are the pretty much standard pockets top and bottom on the lid. The top one is fairly spacious and will hold gloves, a hat, snacks and a handful of other small items. The bottom pocket, under the lid id ideal for you wallet, phone, keys and other bits and pieces. The lid is secured by a single strap and buckle that adequate for the job. The buckle for the lid and the rope strap are very secure if a little more fiddly than a standard buckle.
The Black Diamond Speed 22 can cost from just over £50 up to £80, depending on the retailer. Where ever you purchase it from, if you are not sure whether it is the right length, it may be a good idea to try it first. The lack of adjustment limits the pack a little. But given its size, you probably should limit how much weight you carry in it anyway. I find I forget I have the pack on, which says a lot for its fit and comfort. But if I added quite a bit more weight, that may not then be the case. Highly recommended, but try before you buy.

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