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

BLACK DIAMOND ELIXIR 60 PACK
TEST SERIES BY MARINA BATZKE
LONG-TERM REPORT
September 09, 2015

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

TESTER INFORMATION

NAME: Marina Batzke
EMAIL: mbbp2013 (at) hotmail (dot) com
AGE: 55
LOCATION: Los Angeles County, California, USA
GENDER: F
HEIGHT: 5' 5" (1.65 m)
WEIGHT: 132 lb (60.00 kg)

I converted from day hiking and car camping to backpacking in spring 2013. My backpacking trips are mostly weekend excursions in Southern California: desert areas in the winter months and mountainous areas in the summer months. I try to backpack one or two weekends a month. I always hike with a group and I like the gear talk when in camp. While I am looking for ways to lighten my pack, I am not an ultra-lighter: I like sleeping in a tent with a sleeping bag on a comfortable pad.


INITIAL REPORT

PRODUCT INFORMATION & SPECIFICATIONS

Manufacturer: Black Diamond Equipment, Ltd
Year of Manufacture: 2015
Manufacturer's Website: http://blackdiamondequipment.com
MSRP: US$219.95
Listed Weight Small Size: 3 lb 3 oz (1.47 kg)
Measured Weight: 3 lb 3 oz (1.45 kg)
Volume: 58 L (3539 cu in)
Listed Weight Medium Size: 3 lb 4 oz (1.49 kg)
Measured Weight: 3 lb 6 oz (1.53 kg)
Volume: 60 L (3,661 cu in)

Other details:
Available in Women's Small and Medium
Designed for multi-day trips
Two color choices: Titanium Berry [violet-red] and Vapur Azur [blue]

INITIAL IMPRESSIONS

Per the pack sizing chart on Black Diamond's website, the Women's Small Elixir is designed for a Torso ranging from 15.5 - 18.5 in (40 - 47 cm) and a Waist from 30 - 35 in (76 - 89 cm).

Black Diamond designed the Women's Medium for a Torso ranging from 17.5 - 20.5 in (45 - 52 cm) and a Waist from 34 - 39 in (86 - 99 cm).

Following above pack sizing chart for women's packs, I originally selected the Small size pack for my 17 in (43 cm) torso. After I had test-packed the Small Elixir with what I would need for a weekend backpack trip and tried it on at home, it just did not feel right. Its fit was way too short for my torso length. In the neck area, a fabric seam projected and pushed into my neck. The shoulder strap padding ended at my armpits and therefore the black plastic buckles pinched into the skin.

I returned the Small Elixir and exchanged it for the Medium size.
IMAGE 1
The small Elixir

IMAGE 2
The medium Elixir


When the Medium size arrived, it was protected inside a clear plastic bag. Attached to the Elixir 60 were a greenish triangle-shaped Black Diamond Comfort tag and a silver-colored Black Diamond Backpacking Series Technical Packs booklet. The pack sizing data for the Elixir 60 in this little booklet conflicts with the data on Black Diamond's website.

The Elixir's body is made of 210d ripstop nylon with water-resistant finish and 420d nylon. My color choice Titanium Berry is predominantly grey with violet-red color accents on the outside, and all violet-red on the inside.

On my backpacking trips so far, I have used a 60 L pack at 4 lb 9 oz (2.07 kg). In comparison, the Elixir 60 feels light with its 3 lb 6 oz (1.53 kg), compact and small. Yet once I opened the top pocket for the first time, I was impressed by how spacious the interior is.

The Elixir is a top-loading, internal frame backpack that has a zippered sleeping bag opening at its bottom area.
IMAGE 3
The sleeping bag storage


The top pocket detaches from the main pack and may be used as lumbar pack. The top pocket has an outside zipper for access when the pack is closed. When I open that zipper, there is another zipper with access to a smaller inside pouch.
IMAGE 4
The top pocket opened with smaller pouch visible inside

When I now unbuckle the top pocket and lift it up, there is an inside zipper below. This inside zipper gives access to a "hidden" compartment with a key-hook, where I plan to keep the few valuables I take on a trip (car keys, cell phone, etc.).

Once that top pocket is lifted, I can access the 18 in (46 cm) long zipper that opens up the front pocket. Inside are two black mesh organizer pockets, plus I have room for somewhat flat items and bags inside this front pocket that spans the entire face of the Elixir. The elastic top of one of these organizer pockets is sewn into the seam upside down, which causes the elastic top to be twisted.
IMAGE 5
One internal organizer pocket sewn in wrong


Now looking at the main pack body, at its top it has two cinch strings plus a compression strap/ buckle.
Inside the pack body, nearest my back, there is an internal sleeve with elastic at its top which allows me to insert a hydration pouch. On each top side near the shoulder straps is an opening to guide the hydration system hose through to the pack outside. I do notice the internal frame metal, clearly visible on the pack inside. The pack body is open inside, meaning there is no separating fabric between the lower sleeping bag area and the general storage area above.

IMAGE
Several outside attachment points

The Elixir outside offers a range of attachment points: on the face of the front pocket for e.g., trekking poles, plus fabric compression straps both on the left and on the right side of the pack, as well as the opportunity to attach e.g., a sleeping pad underneath the pack. On its lower left and right sides, the Elixir has quick-cinch side pockets for a water bottle, sit pad or similar items I may want quick access to.

IMAGE 7
The OpenAir backpanel

Looking at the outside back of the Elixir, it shows Black Diamond's high-flow OpenAir backpanel that shall provide good ventilation.

Each of the hipbelts has a zippered pocket for small items that I may need to access while hiking.

The Elixir 60 has SwingArm™ shoulder straps with Black Diamond's reACTIV suspension system. It is designed to help the hipbelt move independently from the pack body. I shall see. The black sternum strap has a black (barely noticeable) whistle built-in.

The Elixir backpack does not come with a raincover.

LIKES

- Lightweight
- Spacious
- Large front pocket, outside pockets and several attachment points
- Top pocket can get removed as lumbar pack
- Nice colors

DISLIKES

- Pack sizing chart does not seem correct
- One front pocket black mesh not sewn in properly


FIELD REPORT

FIELD LOCATIONS AND CONDITIONS

Carey's Castle, Joshua Tree National Park, Southern California, USA
2 days/ 1 night April 2015
Total Pack Weight: 37 lbs (17 kg)
10 miles (16 km), 1300 foot (400 m) gain, all cross-country through sandy canyons and over boulders
Temperatures: 88 - 49 F (31 - 9 C)

Bridge to Nowhere, San Gabriel Mountains, Southern California, USA
Dayhike May 2015
Total Pack Weight: 20 lbs (9 kg)
10 miles (16 km), 900 foot (275 m) gain, on-trail with multiple river crossings getting feet wet
Temperature: 68 F (20 C)

Mount Waterman, San Gabriel Mountains, Southern California, USA
2 days/ 1 night May 2015
Total Pack Weight: 31 lbs (14 kg)
6 miles (10 km), 1300 foot (400 m) gain, on-trail
Temperatures: 75 - 40 F (24 - 4 C)

Yosemite National Park, Northern California, USA
4 days/ 3 nights May 2015
Base Camp elevation: 4000 feet (1200 m)
Total Pack Weight: 22 lbs (10 kg)
8 miles (13 km), 2400 foot (730 m) gain, on-trail, light rain
10 miles (16 km), 2700 foot (820 m) gain, on-trail
Temperatures: 68 - 40 F (20 - 5 C)

San Bernardino National Forest, Southern California, USA
3 days/ 2 nights June 2015
Base Camp elevation: 6600 ft (2000 m)
Total Pack Weight: 22 lbs (10 kg)
5 miles (8 km), 1100 foot (340 m) gain, on dirt road and off-trail, light rain
4 miles (6 km), 500 foot (150 m) gain, on and off trail
Temperatures: 85 - 50 F (29 - 10 C)

Henninger Flats, Angeles National Forest, California, USA
2 days/ 1 night June 2015
Total Pack Weight: 29 lbs (13 kg)
Top Elevation: 2600 ft (790 m)
6 miles (10 km), 1400 foot (430 m) gain, on dirt road
Temperatures: 90 - 67 F (32 - 19 C)

PERFORMANCE IN THE FIELD

I first used the Black Diamond Elixir 60 on an all off-trail backpacking trip in Joshua Tree National Park through sandy canyons and over moderately rocky terrain. We had to carry in water for 2 days: I hauled 2 gallons (8 liter) of water at 18 lbs (8 kg) out of the trail head. On top of that the Elixir 60 with tent, pad, clothes, food and more at 20 lbs (9 kg). The higher up we hiked, the more we had to climb over big boulders and up rocky chutes. I right away positively noticed how the active suspension system kept the heavy pack staying with my body: I pushed myself off one boulder to hop over to (or pull myself onto) another and my pack stayed with my body movement. That gave me great balance and allowed me to move at a good speed. During a March trip to Joshua Tree National Park where I had used my own backpack, I remember sometimes feeling my pack moving the opposite direction when I pushed off to one side, with the risk of throwing me off balance.
IMAGE 1
Bouldering in Joshua Tree National Park

Active suspension system: Where the shoulder straps disappear into the lower pack, behind the hip belt, the fabric sleeve is a bit crunched on each side and inside I can feel a metal cable. This cable directly connects the two shoulder straps: I can pull one shoulder strap up to 2 inches (5 cm) out on one side and see how the other shoulder strap disappears the exact same distance into the crunched fabric. Due to this moving wire system, the shoulder straps move with me and the pack stays well balanced on my back. At the end of this Field Report period, I noticed some abrasion wear on the adjacent fabric (see photo) after just two months of infrequent use.
IMAGE 3
Expanded shoulder strap
IMAGE 4
Contracted shoulder strap - see signs of wear


The hipbelt sits firm on my hips: it is comfortable and stays in place. Black Diamond's high-flow, OpenAir back panel allows some space between my back and the backpack. I feel it ventilates sufficiently.

Black Diamond designed the Elixir 60's top pocket to also be used as lumbar pack. To remove it from the pack body, I unclip two black buckles near the top of the shoulder straps and pull a grey strap out of its cinching buckle. I can then clip those two black buckles together, so they form a belt. In Joshua Tree, I used the top pocket while climbing up and down a peak entirely off-trail. I felt the skinny straps made for a lousy belt and it was uncomfortable wearing the top pocket like a lumbar pack. Instead I wore it like a messenger bag and that was just about OK. Overall it is not as comfortable to wear as a true ultra-lightweight peak bag but it makes do.
IMAGE 5
Top pouch as Peak Bag


My recent trips have been to forested mountain locations with a better chance of water availability and therefore no need to haul all my water in. Still, I drink a lot of water and typically start out with at least 1 gal (4 L). All my recent forested mountain trips required me to carry a bear canister with a net weight of 2 lbs (1 kg). I was happy to see that the Elixir 60 is plenty wide enough to hold the bear canister and provide room to place the tent, pole system, footprint, pad and small items all around the canister. The sleeping bag rests underneath it all. Above the bear canister, I have lots of space for my stove, water filter, down jacket and other items of clothing that I stuff into crevices. My pack weight including bear canister with 1 gal (4 L) of water (8.8 lbs = 4 kg) and food for a one night trip is around 29 lbs (13 kg).
IMAGE 6
Very spacious inside

I have a 0.5 gal (2 L) hydration pouch. It fits well into the provided sleeve. I like that there is a hook-and-loop strap at the top of this sleeve, which allows me to hold my hydration pouch upright. My own backpack does not have such a top attachment: it has frequently happened that the near-empty pouch collapsed inside the sleeve and I was not able to get all the remaining water out.

A drawback is that the port through which I feed the tube to the pack outside is rather small. My hydration pouch tube has the water flow regulator permanently attached to the bite valve and I have to squeeze, press and pry to get the bite valve through the tight fabric opening.
IMAGE 7
Hydration port too small


Twice I experienced light rain, enough for me to put the rain jacket on but not a strong, steady downpour. (Living in Southern California and experiencing a severe drought, we are already getting excited by 15 minutes of light rain - yeh!) The Elixir 60 well withstood that light rain. Nothing inside was damp.

Some of my outings have been off-trail where I dodged brush, dead tree limbs, twigs and other objects. The outside fabric of the Elixir 60 shows no tears or rips. All zippers continue to run smoothly.

I like the big front pocket of the Elixir 60: it offers plenty of room along the entire face of the pack for tissue paper, my topographic map, first aid supplies and more. I also use both quick-cinch side pockets: one side for my sit pad and a water bottle, the other side for my bathroom supplies. The hipbelt pockets could be a touch bigger, as I cannot fit in my small camera, sun lotion, lip balm, hard candy and an energy bar (that do fit into my own backpack's hipbelt pockets). I have not used any of the many outside attachment points, as I have not traveled with my trekking poles this season and left the camp shoes at home too.

One thing I have occasionally noticed is that the left shoulder strap padding end with its black buckle pinches through shirt layers into my skin. I have adjusted the straps to longer or shorter settings. I have moved the sternum strap from top to middle to bottom. I have compared the two padding ends and am wondering if the left one is sewn on ever so slightly off center. After my most recent trip return, I watched an online video on how to properly fit a backpack and I will observe their tips on upcoming trips. I should know more by the end of the Long Term Report.
IMAGE 8
Left shoulder strap padding occasionally pinches

LIKES

+ The active suspension system makes the pack move with my body.
+ Lots of space inside the pack
+ Hook and loop strap at top of hydration pouch sleeve keeps near-empty water pouch upright
+ Pack outside shows no signs of serious wear; no tears
+ Has withstood light rain
+ Top pouch can be separated as a peak bag, yet is not efficient as lumbar pack; better worn messenger bag style.
+ Big zippered front pocket offers plenty of room for near-flat items
+ Both side pockets can be cinched tight, so nothing falls out

DISLIKES

- Hydration port that feeds tube to outside is too small
- reACTIV suspension system movement has caused slight fabric abrasion after just 2 months - how will that wear be after a year?
- Hipbelt pockets could be a touch larger
- Not on every outing, but occasionally the left shoulder padding end with black buckle has pinched skin


LONG-TERM REPORT

LONG-TERM TEST LOCATIONS AND CONDITIONS

Purple Lake, Northern California, USA
4 days/ 3 nights: backpack July 2015
Total Pack Weight: 38 lb (17 kg) leaving trailhead
19 miles (30 km) on forest soil and rocky trail with 1,900 ft (600 m) elevation gain up Duck Pass
Temperatures: 71 - 48 F (22 - 9 C)

Beartrap Bluff, Southern California, USA
2 days/1 night: backpack July 2015
Total Pack Weight: 30 lb (14 kg) leaving trailhead
10 miles (16 km) on trail with afternoon climb up a 900 ft (274 m) steep, rocky slab face
Temperatures: 84 - 50 F (29 - 10 C)

Mt. Pinos, Southern California, USA
2 days/ 1 night: car camp August 2015
Total Pack Weight: 15 lb (7 kg) leaving trailhead
4 miles (6 km) off trail over forest soil
Temperatures: 86 - 46 F (30 - 8 C)

Little Jimmy from Crystal Lake, Southern California, USA
2 days/ 1 night: backpack August 2015
Total Pack Weight: 30 lb (14 kg) leaving trailhead
10 miles (16 km) on trail with 1760 ft (540 m) elevation gain
Temperatures: 91 - 54 F (33 - 12 C)

PERFORMANCE IN THE FIELD

Two great benefits I have experienced and enjoyed with the Black Diamond Elixir 60 pack are its spacious interior at a light weight: I have been traveling with both a bear canister and lots of water on all my backpacks during the past two months. I can stuff these bulky necessities plus all my backpacking supplies into the Elixir 60 and everything fits inside very well with nothing dangling on the outside of the pack.

I have been using the two outside pouches (one for a water bottle, the other for a toilet kit) and like how I can firmly tighten the cinch straps around the items.

During the Field Report test period, I had occasionally noticed that the left shoulder strap padding end with its black buckle pinched through my shirt layers into my skin. Over the last two months, I have made sure to position the Elixir 60 level on my back when starting out. I double-check that the shoulder straps are at equal contraction where they disappear into the lower portion of the pack. I sense that in the beginning I might have occasionally put the pack on a touch off-center. My thought is that the pack's reACTIV suspension system allowed the pack to move as intended but this slight off-center positioning caused the pinching. Since I have started focusing on putting the pack on level, this pinching has not happened.

One afternoon during the Beartrap Bluff backpack, I climbed up a 900 ft (274 m) steep sandstone slab face to a plateau. As mentioned during the Field Report, the top pouch can be separated as a peak bag, yet it is not really efficient. Instead I detached that top pouch and left it in my tent in camp, then climbed up the steep incline with the near-empty Elixir 60, holding just my 10 essentials and water. That worked great, as I had to bushwhack through an overgrown area, clear a path through thick bushes and climb over low branches. The Elixir 60 nicely hugged my back and survived the at times thorny brush and stinging yucca leaf ends without any scrapes or other fabric damage.

At the end of this test period, the Elixir 60 shows one 2.5 in (6.4 cm) treegum streak on the external front pocket. It virtually blends in, so I do not bother attacking it with aggressive removal methods. The Elixir 60 has well survived all my off-trail hiking.

My biggest concern is the shaving caused by the reACTIV suspension system movement that I first noticed during my Field Report. The fabric abrasion has increased and particularly on the left side, the mesh fabric is starting to tear from the constant rubbing.
IMAGE 1
Abrasion after 4 months of use

A nuisance continues to be the tight hydration port: it is really tough to wiggle the bite-valve through the small fabric opening.

I did not experience any rain during the past two months.

SUMMARY

I will continue to use the Black Diamond Elixir 60 pack particularly on outings that involve rock scrambling and boulder hopping. In addition to earlier mentioned Likes and Dislikes, I would like to point out these aspects:

LIKES:
+ spacious interior
+ lightweight
+ lots of pockets and attachments

DISLIKES:
- Fixed suspension attachment does not allow torso length adjustment and I was mislead by the pack sizing chart
- reAktiv suspension system movement causes noticeable wear on the hipbelt mesh fabric
- Hydration port that feeds tube to outside is too small

Thank you to Black Diamond Equipment, Ltd. and BackPackGearTest.org for the opportunity to test the Elixir 60 Medium size pack.

Marina Batzke

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

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