A neat and hybrid pack based on running vest tech which is suitable for a whole variety of mountain adventures.
Slowly, slowly Black Diamond have been moving into the Ultra and Trailrunning space. Their ubiquitous Distance Z Poles have become a mainstay of the UTMB crowd and we have reviewed and still use them here at CGR for both running and approach. They now add a hybrid pack into the Distance family with the birth of the Distance packs, working with Joe Grant the uber famous ultra-runner. There are two sizes the Distance 8 and the Distance 15. There’s about £10 price difference and the Distance 8 is only 49g lighter so in my opinion unless you are going to be running a lot with the pack the versatility of the extra 7 litres capacity for mountain use is worth it.
In terms of function think of a running vest front with a more durable climbing or hiking back (it’s origin is the Blitz pack with a running harness sewn on). The main compartment is made from 200D bombproof, ripstop material which feels stiff and has been stiffen on the lid. This is complemented with the 100D skirt closure. This system has worked well and I liked the closure mechanism of coaching the skirt from the back and then closing the lid using the steel hook and taped loop, both the cinch cord and taped loop are backed up with generous barracking so I’m not expecting them to come off anytime soon. The still hook is attached to an elasticated tape to ensure that the lid can stay secure and not flap about. In test I found this tricky to tighten and easy to release. The way around this was to just pull one of the double elastic tapes up which worked quite well. The style of the lids does means that the pack isn’t water tight. The material is but anything other than a shower seeped in quickly – so look at the forecast closely and pack insulated shells and gloves up in a waterproof bag. The lid and top is finished off with laminated edge taping which add a nice touch. On the whole I found that the lid worked well enough but the elasticated tape did become a pain and the rethread slots could do with being another half millimetre wider and the tab that you put you finger into to open it could be twice the size as it’s not very glove friendly.
The BD Distance 15 is jammed packed with great features, the dual quiver at the sides worked well with folding poles (if they are locking poles they will flop around but you can get around this by putting two in one quiver) but they were very OK to deploy on the move (note to self – work on that shoulder flexibility!). So I could take my poles out OK but I needed to take the pack off to put them back in.
Both the Distance 15 and the 8 will carry two piolets (or axes to you and me) and I can definitely imagine using the Distance 15 in winter. There is a tuck away steel dogbone and a pick sleeve and the ability to carry two does make a more technical alpine day possible. Here in the UK I’m more likely to be using the Distance 15 for longer Scottish traverses and Lake District Grade 1 gully day outs and it will be fine for this. I use a Petzl Gully axe and it fired perfectly – just slide the shaft up through the zigzag compression cord, pull out the doggone, fit it though the pick eye and slide the pick into the sleeve. It’s really neat and works well. Again you will need to stop to take the pack off and deploy the axe but I always do this anyway to take on board some food, liquid and assess the gully conditions before I climb it. The pack is finished with corded corded side compression that can easily accessed from the side for tweaking if there is any bounce and the cord has reflective flecks for nighttime use. One idea BD could use is to make the edging reflective and the BD logo on the lid and this would make it easier for partners (or pursuants) to see you in the dark. The Blue colour the test sample came in was fantastic, a really nice Petrol Blue.
The back panel is close fitting with plenty of venting mesh but I’ve yet to find any pack on the planet that doesn’t make your back sweat and the Distance 15 is no different. It did dry out in good time so after a short break it wasn’t too sticky to put back on again. The inside of the pack has a bladder pocket and a zipped inner security pocket with a key clip. This was plenty big enough for a small wallet and light gloves.
The front of the Black Diamond Distance 15 is pure running vest tech and wouldn’t look out of place on a Salomon Advance Skin or UD Adventure vest. I really liked the front panels, they had plenty of pocket space and importantly two zipped secure pockets. I used one for my phone and the other (which has an emergency whistle) for my compass – which I lashed to one of the chest strap loops)- head torch and printed route maps. One of the pockets is designed to fit the Deploy jacket – my Arc’teryx Squamish would not fit in but my Montane Featherlite Vest would.
The next pockets down are plenty big enough for my UD soft flasks, you can buy BD branded soft flasks which would also fit well and Salomon ones are a little thinner and tended to rattle around a bit. The bottle system would also work better with straws. Then finally, there are two lower pockets that I used for my windproof jacket or vest. A good summer system was my Fetaherlite Vest, thin gloves and arm sleeves which all fitted in. The other I stuffed with food bars, I could easily fit five or six into the pocket which was great.
Side tensioning is achieved by elasticated side cord. The best way I have found to adjust the Distance 15 is to fully open the side out and then put the pack on and tension up the compression to get the fit right. I like the attention to detail here in the way the excess cord was in a separate compartment to the to the lower pockets so that it doesn’t interfere with whatever you’re using it for. Nice design work there.
In conclusion the Black Diamond Distance 15 is a great, all terrain contain pack. It runs well and climbs brilliantly, it’s well designed with alpine adventures in mind whether thats climbing a summer technical route or running across technical rocky terrain. There are a few niggles that are more probably personal to me such as having font located pole attachments and not the quiver and a bigger pull tab on the skirt but other than that it’s a great addition to the Black Diamond stable of technical mountain packs and hopefully it will develop further in future seasons. In terms of comparison, I have owned a UD Fastpack 15 (I now use the Fastpack 25 for winter) and the Distance 15 is more suited to technical mountain days where the UD Fastpack is better for the commute. I prefer the Distance 15 and it will probably supersede the Fastpack 25 for winter days out I think. It will all depend on how the size medium fits with more layers on.
- Comfy and stable on technical terrain.
- Hold two axes really securely for running.
- Front system is brilliant.
- Heavy (as it’s bombproof).
- Not as water resistant as stated.
- Lid works best when fully loaded.
The Black Diamond Distance 15 comes in sizes S, M and L and two colour options.
Disclaimer – CGR reviewers and writers are never paid to provide a review and the website does not take advertising or link to affiliate sales. We are a bunch of keen climbers and travellers that accept sample products and offer an honest and independent review of the item. The reviewer will often keep the sample after reviewing it for both hygiene and safety reasons and more often it’s in no fit state to return!