Black Diamond Element 60 ReviewJuly 31, 2014
- Quick cinch side pockets
- Large zippered hip-belt pockets
- Zippered front pocket with inside mesh organizer pockets
- Removable lid that converts to a lumbar pack
- Hydration port access point to small
- Only two color choices
Despite being a lightweight, streamlined pack, the Black Diamond Element 60 backpack provided great organizational features for weekend and extended-weekend trips. The Element 60 performed well as a minimalist backpack on multi-day adventures.
The Black Diamond Element 60 features access to the pack’s main compartment through a top storm flap and through the bottom sleeping bag compartment. These access points make packing, unpacking and accessing the main compartment easy. The Element 60’s large zippered front pocket contained multiple mesh and elastic storage pockets that I found useful for storing extra clothing, rain gear and other frequently-needed items. I could access the items in these pockets without having to bother getting into the main compartment.
The Element 60 also provides organization other organization options that I really appreciated. The Black Diamond Element 60 features two zippered hip-belt pockets that provide adequate storage for a small camera, snacks, beanie, or gloves. The lid includes an extra long zipper that allows the top pocket to open wide, giving easy access to the pocket’s contents. This lid can also be removed and used as a daypack for out-of-camp side trips.
The Element 60 comes with two quick-cinch side pockets that were large enough to securely hold a 1-liter water bottle. Unlike many other packs, I found these side pockets allowed problem-free access to water bottles and other items thanks to the simple by effective quick cinch system that could be manipulated easily while hiking.
The Element 60’s internal hydration sleeve held a 3-liter hydration bladder, but I found the hydration port a bit too small for the bite-valve cover I keep attached to my hydration tube. Ultimately, I was forced to use a knife to cut the fabric to make a larger hydration port so I could keep my protective cover on the bite valve.
While the Black Diamond Element 60 is a lightweight pack built for the minimalist, the hipbelt provides comfortable padding similar—if not as thick—as that on bigger trekking packs. The hipbelt adjusted easily and had a good wrap-around feel. I also really liked the zippered hip belt pockets.
Back panel/Shoulder Straps
The Element 60 used an open back-panel design that created good airflow along my back, allowing me to stay cooler even during very aerobic hikes. Black Diamond incorporated their “reACTIV” suspension with swing-arm shoulder straps in the Element 60 to improve comfort. Those swing-arm shoulder straps proved very comfortable and allowed for more movement than many other packs I’ve tested, although I wasn’t sure this was due to the suspension system. Even with their thin, lightweight padding, the shoulder straps were remarkably comfortable.
When carrying loads in the 30 to 40 pound range, the Black Diamond Element 60 was stable and secure on steep ascents or descents. It never shifted or floated even during the the occasional rocky scramble. With loads in the 50-55 pound range, the Element still performed well, but with that load, I felt the pack was pushing its limits for stability and comfort.
The Element 60 provided good overall comfort while carrying loads up to 45 pounds in a variety of conditions. The pack’s lightweight feel and easy adjustments contribute to it competing very well in this class of packs in terms of comfort.
The Black Diamond Element 60 proved durable, despite its lightweight construction and feel. The zippers, pockets and fabrics all performed well even after days of rugged use. The only negative aspect involving durability was that the material on the side of the pack sustained some scratches when it was dragged through a small slot canyon (which is somewhat to be expected).