Black Diamond Speed 40 ReviewAugust 25, 2016
- Carries heavy loads well
- Good weight shedding options
- Good balance of durability vs. weight
- Nonadjustable shoulder harness
- No outside pockets
- Top loading only
Simple and durable design has made the Black Diamond Speed 40 a cornerstone among mountain guides for whom these two characteristics are most important. Achieving this status means a sparse feature set, eschewing many items considered standard on backpacking packs. If the torso length fits, this pack will carry even heavy loads comfortably, in harsh and aggressive environments, for seasons to come.
The Black Diamond Speed 40’s suspension system is comprised of simple components that work together to create a pack that can carry even heavier loads in comfort. The pack has a thermoformed back panel that is permanently affixed. There is a plastic removable frame sheet that houses three removable stays, a pair of aluminum vertical and one fiberglass horizontal. Sandwiched between this frame sheet and the back panel is a separate sheet of foam. None of these components are substantial on their own, but combined they provide the right amount of stiffness and rigidity to comfortably carry 30+ pounds in terrain that demands mobility. The shoulder harness is not adjustable so the torso length has to fit to carry correctly. The low bulk shoulder straps and hip belt work well until the loads reach the 30 lb range, where the hip padding is lacking in summer clothes.
Proper packing and compression of the Black Diamond Speed 40 yields a stable package befit of a pack designed for scrambling in alpine terrain. The simplicity of the suspension system keeps the entire length of the pack in contact with the wearer’s back, contributing to load stability, as does the relatively shallow pack body. The non-stretch shoulder straps and hip belt help reign in loads as well.
The simple design of the Black Diamond Speed 40 demands that all gear must reside inside the main body of the pack or the lid. There is not a single exterior pocket, a nod towards mobility in tight spots but dropping the convenience factor. There is a long extension sleeve and the lid can follow, allowing for large scale overstuffing.
The Black Diamond Speed 40 plays the weight vs. durability card well. The main fabric is 210d ripstop. The bottom of the pack is protected from disproportionate abuse with a sandwich of 210d ripstop, a thin layer of foam, and a 420d outer skin. Straps and buckles are small, but not as diminutive as those found on ultralight offerings. There are no stretchy or mesh type fabrics to snag and all foam is devoid of cutouts.
Lack of extras is part of the Black Diamond Speed 40’s DNA, and most of the “extras” involve removable features: hip belt padding (leaving a 1” wide webbing), framesheet/thin foam (bivy pad), lid+lid closure straps, and crampon/ice tool straps. Other features that made the cut: interior hydration reservoir sleeve, hip belt gear loops, ice pick holster, and a hide away rope strap.