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Reviews > Packs > Internal and External Framed Backpacks > Black Diamond Elixir 60 pack > Test Report by Kara Stanley

BLACK DIAMOND ELIXIR 60 BACKPACK
TEST SERIES BY KARA STANLEY
LONG-TERM REPORT
September 19, 2015

CLICK HERE TO SKIP TO THE FIELD REPORT
CLICK HERE TO SKIP TO THE LONG-TERM REPORT

TESTER INFORMATION

NAME: Kara Stanley
EMAIL: karguo at yahoo dot com
AGE: 32
LOCATION: Phoenix, Arizona
GENDER: F
HEIGHT: 5' 10" (1.80 m)
WEIGHT: 165 lb (74.80 kg)

I have been hiking most of my life and backpacking since 2006. I have hiked mostly on the east coast, doing weekend trips in the Appalachian Mountains. Since moving to Arizona, my hikes have ranged from short desert hikes to overnight backpacking trips in the mountains. Recently I have taken up canyoneering and off-trail hiking/backpacking to spice things up. I currently use a solo non-free standing tent, canister stove, purification tabs, and lightweight trail runners, conditions permitting, to cut down on weight. My hikes are solo and range from an overnight trip to 4-5 nights on the trail.


INITIAL REPORT

PRODUCT INFORMATION & SPECIFICATIONS

IMAGE 6
Back Panel and Hip Belt
Manufacturer: Black Diamond
Year of Manufacture: 2015
Made in: Philippines
Manufacturer's Website: http://blackdiamondequipment.com
MSRP: US$ $219.95
Listed Weight: S - 3 lb 3 oz (1.47 kg), M - 3 lb 4 oz (1.49 kg)
Measured Weight for a size M - 3 lbs 5.5 oz (1.52 kg)
Measured Weight for the detachable top pocket: 5.5 oz (156 g)
Colors Available: Titanium Berry, Vapor Azur (the color tested)
Sizes Offered: S, M (Size tested)
Volume : S - 58 L (3,539 cu in), M - 60 L (3,661 cu in)
Materials : 210d ripstop nylon (with water-resistant finish), 420d nylon

INITIAL IMPRESSIONS

IMAGE 1
The top pocket, detached and ready to use as a lumbar pack.
IMAGE 2
The many pockets of the Elixir
This pack is 10 oz (283 g) lighter and 10 L (610 cu in) larger than my current pack, which I'm excited about since I am always working towards lightening up my base pack weight.

IMAGE 3
Inside of the pack with a 3 L bladder
When this pack arrived, all the compression straps were cinched tight and at first I wondered if the pack was really 60 L. Once I started looking over the pack and loosening the compression straps, I realized that this pack was in fact quite large. The second thing that I realized is that the pack's external pockets are all ripstop nylon and not mesh. This is a huge plus for me since I hike in the desert southwest of the US and there are many thorny bushes and abrasive sandstone rocks ready to destroy external mesh pockets. I also noticed that the back panel and internal frame are very flexible, which should allow the pack to move with the wearer as the bend and move while hiking. It will be interesting to see how this flexible frame works with a full pack.

The hang tag indicates that the pack has a "Comfort in Motion" design which allows the hip belt to move independently of the pack body, the shoulder straps to move with your shoulders, balance loads, allow for a natural gait, and move with your body to reduce friction and hot spots. I'll be interested in seeing if the pack lives up to this description! The back panel has a wire frame around a stiff yet flexible panel. The back panel is very flexible from both top to bottom and side to side. The sternum strap has a whistle integrated into the buckle. This is a feature that I like since it keeps a whistle handy at all times. The whistle works well for an integrated whistle.

There is a second hang tag, more like a hang booklet, on the pack that provides detailed descriptions of all Black Diamond packs. One thing that I learned from this booklet is that the top pocket can be removed and used as a lumbar pack. The straps that hold the top pocket onto the pack can be unclipped from the pack and used as a waist belt. While this is a nice extra feature, the waist strap for the lumbar pack is very thin (5/8 in/1.57 cm) and does not look like it would be comfortable with a liter of water and snacks. The booklet also provides details on the warranty, which guarantees the back to be free of material or manufacturing defect for one year. This information is provided in English, Spanish, French, German, Italian, and Japanese. The booklet did not provide pack fitting instructions, which I found a bit disappointing. I also checked Black Diamond's website and was unable to find any instructions for pack fitting. Good thing I already know how to fit a pack!

The removable pack top has an external zipper pocket with a zipper that runs the length of the back and one side. I like the fact that the zipper is so large since what I want in the pack top is always at the back! There is an internal pocket that would be good for ID, money, or other flat items. There is another zippered pocket on the bottom that has a key clip. I am impressed with the number of pockets in the pack top, however I am not sure how much I will access the internal pocket inside the pack top.
IMAGE 5
Plenty of room for a 1 L water bottle in the side pocket
IMAGE 4
Side view

The main pack has a double draw string cinch top as well as a compression strap. I like the double draw string as this should allow the pack to be compressed effectively when carrying a smaller load or at the end of a long trip. Inside the pack there is a sleeve for a water bladder as well as a loop that closes with hook and eye fastener and a hanging loop. There is a hole at the bottom of the sleeve for the hose to exit. I carry a circa 2011 3 L (100 oz) CamelBak bladder, which I could hardly fit into the sleeve and had to remove the hose in order to get it to fit. I think it will be difficult to fit the bladder in the sleeve once the pack is full, i.e. when I've refilled the bladder during a hike.

The pack also has zipper access from the bottom with two compression straps that cross over the zipper to help reduce the strain when the pack is fully loaded. There is a large external pocket that runs the whole front of the pack. This pocket has two internal mesh pockets for organization. This pocket has a zipper that runs the length of it allowing easy access.

At the base of the pack there are two large pockets. Unlike other packs, the pockets on this pack are nylon and not stretch mesh. Instead of having an elastic band at the top, they have a stiff top and a cinch strap. I like this set-up as it allows the pockets to be tightened down to keep the contents inside. Lastly there are two zippered pockets on the hip belt. Again, there are nylon without mesh. I like the fact that these pockets are not mesh since I hike in a dusty sandy desert setting most of the time.

There are compression straps across the sides of the bpck. There are external loops down the middle of the pack for carrying an ice axe or trekking poles.

SUMMARY

I cannot wait to hit the trail with this pack! There are many pockets and nice features built into this pack for a very reasonable weight. The pack seems very durable as there is no external mesh or elastic. My only disappointment in this pack is that it's very difficult to fit my hydration bladder into the internal sleeve.


FIELD REPORT

FIELD LOCATIONS AND CONDITIONS

IMAGE 3
Side of the pack on a short trip
When: April 2015
Length: 2 days/1 night
Location: Superstition Wilderness, Arizona
Mileage: 18 miles/29 km
Elevation gain: 1,500 ft (457 m)
Conditions: Cool (65 F/18 C to 45 F/7 C) and sunny

When: May 2015
Length: 3 days/2 nights
Location: Canyonlands National Park, Utah
Mileage: ~30 miles/48 km
Conditions: Cool and rainy - the whole trip! (65 F/18 C to 45 F/7 C with some humidity from all the rain)

PERFORMANCE IN THE FIELD

On the first trip with the Elixir, I had a hard time getting the pack to ride comfortably on day one. As a result, I ended up with pressure bruises on my collar bones - something that happens with most new packs until I get them fitted just right. Most of my issue was getting the weight of the pack transferred from my shoulders to my hips. On day two I managed to get the pack to ride comfortably, however my bruised shoulders still hurt on the hike out. One things that I did like is that this pack compresses easily for short trips which do not require much gear or food.

A few weeks later, my husband and I completed a three-day hike in Canyonlands National Park, Utah. This trip has several off trail sections that involved walking down sandstone ramps and rock scrambling to get into and out of several stream beds. At first I was a bit concerned about the fit of the pack since I had a difficult time getting it to ride comfortably fully loaded on the previous backpacking trip. However, within the first few hours of the trip, I stopped worrying and enjoyed hiking with this pack. I was able to cinch the pack down tightly to keep it close to my body during the first off trail decent into a canyon bottom. I enjoyed being able to freely move my arms and noticed that the pack's shoulder harness did adjust when I raised one arm higher than the other.

IMAGE 1
Pack with bear canister attached
This backpacking trip required a bear canister. I carried one that was 12.7 x 8.7 inches (32 cm X 22 cm). I carried it empty, on the bottom of my pack, attached with the straps on the bottom of the pack. I found this to be an easy way to carry the canister with this pack.

To add an extra element of fun to this trip, it rained on and off all three days and two nights of this trip - something unusual for the end of May in southern Utah. I have a large rain cover that I used during periods of heavy rain to keep everything dry. During lighter showers, I did not cover the pack and I did notice that the water beaded up and ran off the pack, keeping everything inside dry.

IMAGE 2
Top cinched down without top pocket attached
On both of these trips I left the removable top pocket at home to save a few ounces. The pack has so many wonderful pockets that I did not miss the top pocket during the hike. I was able to keep snacks and facial tissues in the hip belt pockets and stored the map, headlamp, and other items I needed to access quickly in the external pocket. I have a much longer trip planned in the next few months, so I'll add the top pocket on for additional room.

The Utah hike was over rough sandstone - much like sandpaper and involved rock scrambles and down climbs. The pack held up well and I see very little wear on the pack at this time.

SUMMARY

So far I really like this pack, once I got it correctly adjusted. The pack rode comfortably and securely on my back for an intense three day trip that involved off trail hiking and basic rock scrambles. The outside pockets for water bottles and the like make my husband drool because they are solid nylon and have a cinch strap at the top. Even on a three-day trip, I felt like I had plenty of extra room in the pack for food for several additional days. The pack also compresses down to a smaller size for quick overnight trips. The one con is it is difficult to get the water bladder in and out of the bladder pouch on the inside of the pack with it fully loaded.


LONG-TERM REPORT

LONG-TERM TEST LOCATIONS AND CONDITIONS

Lila Lake, Snoqualmie Region, Washington, USA
When: August 2015
Length: 2 days/1 night
Mileage: 11.0 miles/17.7 km
Elevation Gain: 2,800 ft/853 m
Highest Point: 5,400 ft/1,646 m
Weather: Warm and mostly sunny with an overnight shower (High: ~80 F/27 C, Low: 50 F/1 C)
Trail Conditions: Well-maintained, mostly dry and dusty, with patches of talus and some marshy trail.
Estimated pack weight: 25 lbs/11 kg

Baldy Loop, Eastern Arizona, USA
When: August 2015
Length: 2 days/1 night
Mileage: 17 miles/27.4 km
Trailhead Elevation: 9,394 ft/2,863 m
Elevation Gain: 2,250 ft/686 m
Accumulated Gain: 2,880 ft/878 m
Weather: Rain for the first few hours at the start, then warm and mostly sunny for the rest of the hike (High: ~80 F/27 C, Low: 50 F/1 C).
Trail conditions: A mix of rain water covered trail (about 1 in/2.5 cm of water at times), and dry and rocky. Overall, the trail was well-maintained.
Estimated pack weight: 25 lbs/11 kg

Colorado Trail, Creede to Silverton, Colorado, USA
When: September 2015
Length: 12 days/11 nights
Mileage: 80 miles/127 km
Hiking Elevation: mostly between 11,000-13,000 ft/3353 m-3962 m
Weather: Temps from about 30 F/ -1 C to about 75 F/24 C, with all weather types represented on this trip - rain, sleet, wind, clouds, and sun. Overall, the trail was well maintained though steep in some spots.
Estimated pack weight at the start: 45 lbs/20 kg

PERFORMANCE IN THE FIELD

IMAGE 5
Day 2 of 12
IMAGE 6
Day 2 of 12
For the Washington and the Arizona hikes, I used the pack without the top pocket to save a few ounces in weight and to prevent me from bringing too many odds and ends. I carried a 2-person tent and water filtration system for both of us. I had plenty of room to carry these items plus all my personal gear with room left over. The pack rode well on both trips with no issues. On the Arizona hike, it rained for about 2 hours during the start of the hike. I used a pack cover that I have had for years to keep the pack dry and the pack stayed dry. I didn't put the cover on right away, so when I did I noticed that the fine rain had beaded up on the pack.

For the long hike, I carried 13 days of food since there was no place to resupply on this trip and was the longest I might be out. My pack weight for this trip was about 45 lbs/20 kg. This is a heavy load for me since my pack is normally around 25 lbs/11 kg or less. I packed the food in two medium sized dry bags (3.4 gal/13 L), my sleeping bag, liner, and pajamas in an eVent dry compression sack, and the rest of my gear was packed between the dry bags. I was able to fit everything into the pack and cinch the top. Since the pack was full, I decided to go with two water bottles to be carried in the side pockets instead of carrying my hydration bladder because I would have to constantly unpack and repack my backpack to fill the bladder. I attach a small solar light by carabiner to the web down the back of the pack. I put the tent poles, stakes, and footprint in one of the side pockets. Using the side compression straps, I attached a pair of flip-flips to the pack. I used the webbing strap that runs on top of the hip belt to hold a handkerchief or headscarf. I loved how easy it was to attach items to the outside of the pack.
IMAGE 4
Day 12 of 12
IMAGE 3
Day 12 of 12

I will say that at the start of the trip, the pack was uncomfortable. It sat heavy on my shoulders and my hips, but well, 45 lbs/20 kg IS heavy and I do not normally carry a load that heavy. I was impressed that I did not get any pressure sores/bruises/bumps etc. from the heavy pack weight. In fact, my hips never bothered me the whole trip. I have had hip bruises on other trips with different packs carrying lighter loads. On about day 5 I started to have some pain in my right shoulder while carrying the pack. This felt more like nerve pain than a bruise or sprain since it would go away soon after taking the pack off. Through several days of trial and error I narrowed down the issue to a combination of the pack and the bra I was wearing. I had two different styles with me, one that had narrow, spaghetti straps and another that had wider straps. The wider strapped bra seemed to cause issues when worn with this pack. One day I started out with the wide strapped bra, then when the pain started, I switched to the spaghetti strap bra and most of the pain was gone.

Since I wore a rain jacket for several hours each day for 6 days, I did notice wear on the back of my rain jacket from this pack (pictured). This is located between my shoulder blades on the jacket. It is not major wear, but it is worth noting. To rain-proof my backpack, I used the same system listed above. This time because we have several major down pours above tree line or several hours of rain, water did get into pack on the side against my back. There wasn't enough water in the pack at any point to pool in the bottom of the pack, but it did soak anything not in a dry bag. I learned after the first day how to pack the bag to keep my clothes away from the back panel. Overall the back of the pack dried quickly and I didn't have to put on a soaked pack the next day.

At the end of the trip we took a train back to our car. For the train trip, backpacks had to be stored in the luggage car. I detached the top pocket and turned it into a cross-body style purse and put a down jacket, my e-reader, some snacks, and a water bottle into it comfortably. It was great to be able to have a small bag that I could take with me for the trip.
IMAGE 1
Top pocket as a cross body bag
IMAGE 2
Wear spot on jacket

SUMMARY

Overall I love this backpack. It has earned its place in my gear line-up. This had been and will continue to be my go-to pack for all trips from overnight to long multi-day trips. With loads of about 35 lbs (16 kg) or lighter, this pack is comfortable and fits me well. If I do another long trip requiring me to carry more than 35 lbs (16 kg), I may look for a different pack.

There is minimal wear on the pack, mostly the straps on the bottom are a bit fuzzy from holding the bear canister and being dragged over sandstone rocks. Other than that, there is no noticeable wear and only minor staining on the top pocket.

Things I love:
*The side pockets because they are not mesh and they can be tightened.
*The large zipper pocket across the back - very useful for storing rain gear on wet hikes.
*The size - very functional for both overnight hikes and multi-day trips.
*The reactive shoulder harness system is really nice, I like have the backpack move with me.
*Durability - the pack is still in pretty good shape despite many days on the trail.
*The detachable top pocket - makes a great purse!
*How easy it was to open the cinch top one handed.
*Lots of places to attach items to the outside of the pack.
*The hip pockets are great for a small camera, candies, snacks and other small items.

Things that could be improved:
*The hydration bladder pocket is small for a 100 oz/3 L bladder and is hard to reach as you have to go into the pack to access it.
*Larger opening for the hydration bladder hose - it was very hard to squeeze the mouth piece though the opening.

Thank you BackpackGearTest.org and Black Diamond for the chance to take this pack with me on my summer 2015 adventures!

This report was created with the BackpackGearTest.org Report Writer Version 1. Copyright 2015. All rights reserved.

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