Black Diamond EXL Pack – Climbing Gear Review

Black Diamond EXL Pack

So is the Black Diamond EXL pack the perfect rucksack for light and fast day missions?

Performance ****


Value for money ****

Black Diamond EXL pack being used in anger on the headwall, 20 pitches up on the Grand Charmoz, Chamonix, France

Black Diamond say that: “The EXL is a highlight from the Velocity series of Black Diamond packs which are lightweight and compact multi-sport packs, designed for on-the-go trail performance, from running to biking to hiking. The EXL is a highly adaptable daypack with SwingArm (see video below for more info on SwingArm technology) shoulder straps for fast & light balance and comfort.”

I have tested the EXL pack extensively over the Summer months using it for running, cycling, hiking and Alpine rock climbing. I can vouch for both performance and adaptability. The pack has a 20 litre capacity meaning that, with careful packing, you can cram it with everything you need for a full day on the hill. I used it Alpine rock climbing and managed to fit everything I needed for both approaching and climbing a 26 pitch route on the Grand Charmoz in France.

Whatever activity I was doing I was very impressed with the way the pack felt to carry. It sits comfortably on your back, high enough so it doesn’t interfere with a climbing harness and not so high that it obstructs vision when looking up. When running it doesn’t bounce around annoyingly, the easy to adjust waist and chest straps and the SwingArm shoulder straps, seeing to this effectively.

Black Diamond EXL pack, perfect for extended trail runs. Used here at Montenvers, Chamonix, France.

In terms of features, the EXL has lots for such a small pack:

  • SwingArm™ shoulder straps with extended range and OpenAir backpanel
  • Zippered panel access
  • Side stretch pockets and front compression stretch pocket with front compression cord
  • Retractable trekking pole/ice axe loop and bike light slot
  • Hydration compatible

I found the open air back panel breathed fairly well when I was exerting myself and didn’t get too sweaty. The zippered panel access was easy to use and the zipper worked smoothly. The tabs were easy to handle, even wearing gloves. I really like the fabric Black Diamond have used to create the stretch pockets. The side wand and zipped pocket were great for stashing snacks and gels and the front pocket swallowed a jacket and pants, secured with drawcord compressor, but still handy enough to grab whilst on the move.
An internal mesh pocket, with key clip, was handy for storing valuables and the external zippered pocket was large enough to take a topo, small first aid kit, compass and other essentials. The hydration pocket is neat and very easy to use and seemed to minimise any bouncing around inside the pack. A neat clip on the shoulder starp secures the tube externally. Other nice touches are a bike light slot (great for night time rides and runs) and a retractable trekking pole/ice axe loop which I used for both and found effective.

With a weight of 700g it’s definitely not the lightest pack in it’s class but I found it carried so well that I was choosing it for my extended fell runs, over another smaller lighter pack that I’d had for the same job. Quality seems to be excellent as we’ve come to expect from Black Diamond. And the fabrics are holding up well to abrasion.

So to conclude, the EXL pack is a brilliantly versatile, well featured day sack for all your light and fast missions from running, to Alpine rock. It would make a great little pack for day ski missions too. I like the stretchy external pockets, ease of carry and well thought out interior. If I could add anything, I’d take away some of the weight but then that is something I’d say for a lot of kit! Top notch stuff from Black Diamond!

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