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Black Diamond Demon Editorial Review

Submitted by vegastradguy on 2008-03-16

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by John Wilder

by darkside

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Black Diamond

So Vegastradguy asks me to try out a pack. I'm a little sceptical initially because I'm his ice gear disposal system. I think living in the desert has thinned his blood a little because when I even mention winter in the Rockies, he starts shivering. When I look up the pack he mentions, it immediately strikes me as having a major drawback - one axe holder. Now where am I to put my other tool I wonder? OK well the truth is that even up here in the beautiful frozen north, things thaw out enough to go climb rock at least five or six days each year, being that we call it summer, we manage to stretch that to more like five or six months though. It actually came in handy having the second pack with it being spring. I left the rock gear in the Demon pack and the ice gear in my previous pack. The shoulder season can be a great time, ice one day, rock the next.

Now comes my second misgiving. The Demon is a 32 litre pack (1953 Cu.In.) whereas my old pack was a 45 litre. After jettisoning a few superfluous items I find I can get my rack and helmet plus lunch, water, and a jacket into the pack. The one item I don't like having ditched is my first aid kit I usually stashed in the lid.

The lid is intriguing though. Unlike the traditional flip over and strap down style, the Demon has a zip around design. It has a much reduced cargo capacity more suited to a headlamp and small lunch. Additionally the zipper seems backward. You know how most pack lids open towards the wearers head, well the Demon has a lid that opens away. Now for anyone who has put a pack down on a wet ground, or dusty desert floor, then flipped it over so the lid falls out of the way while you delve into the inside, you'll have noticed a downside. Pack it up, hoist it up, and then put the dirty pack onto your back so your jacket also gets wet or dirty. On the other hand, with the Demon's lid opening away from the head, you can put the pack down on the ground, shoulder straps up and keep the back clean and dry.

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The zip lid is a nice touch that results in a clean back.
The zip lid is a nice touch that results in a clean back. Photo: darkside.

Am I the only person who wonders which side of a pack is the back and which is the front when you wear it on your back? Back-to-back maybe? At any rate, this was one feature that made a lot of sense to me and I liked it. What I liked a little less is that having a zippered lid made it impossible to stash a rope under it. Now perhaps with just a rack of sport draws and a skinny rope, it would be practical to carry them all inside the pack but for a full trad rack, there's precious little room in this size pack for a rope too. Fortunately the side compression straps can be used provided the approach isn't too far. One suggestion I would make for this pack is to somehow add a strap over the top to better hold a rope in place in addition to the compression straps. Without it, a rope tends to sag down the front of the pack.

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A compression strap on top would be a welcome improvement to avoid rope slump.
A compression strap on top would be a welcome improvement to avoid rope slump. Photo: darkside.

The pack has two compression straps on each side, and these work well for reducing the volume once you pull out the gear but want to carry the pack with you on multi-pitch. When using it as a climbing pack, it carries well and being hydration system compatible, makes it practical too. When it comes to wearing with a harness, the padded hip belt doesn't wrap fully around the waist so the plain nylon webbing belt interferes less with a harness and gear. On the other hand it is sufficient to make carrying a fully loaded pack on an approach, extremely comfortable for what at first glance seems a bare bones pack. The fact it was so comfortable played a part in a later choice I made but more on that in a moment. Furthermore the hipbelt has a slot on each hip for a Black Diamond Ice Clipper giving some hope for use of this pack in an alpine environment.

On the outside of the lid there is one zippered compartment, whilst on the inside is a second zippered compartment containing a key clip. Additionally there is a third unzippered compartment inside the pack which I found handy for dropping a guidebook into. The hydration bladder pouch sits against the suspension system which is made up of a single aluminum stay and a plastic backpanel. Both are removable should you feel the need to strip some weight for the alpine although for my liking, the padded foam back alone is not worth the loss of support for the weight savings.

The material for this pack is made up of 1260 Ballistics and 420d nylon fabrics which carries claims of being very durable. On the other hand I found some issues. During an approach to climb in Little Cottonwood Canyon, UT, I was surprised when I put the pack down, went to unzip the outer compartment, and had the zipper blow out. Upon closer inspection, it appeared that there was a small cut that created it with other similar damage in the fabric. I was disappointed that the pack could be so easily damaged on a relatively straightforward approach. Black Diamond however came up trumps when they heard of the damage and immediately sent a replacement. It is this sort of customer service that influenced my decision to replace my larger pack.

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Although the zipper blew early, BD was quick to respond with a replacement!
Although the zipper blew early, BD was quick to respond with a replacement! Photo: darkside.

I had decided to upgrade my old 45 L pack so with the Demon being so comfortable and Black Diamond being so helpful, I naturally looked to see what they had fitting the bill. Besides considering packs from a number of other brands, the one that I ultimately decided on was the BD Predator. I purchased the Predator at a local retailers having tried it in the store. The Predator has features suitable for an ice climber such as two ice tool pickpockets, a crampon pouch, and ski slots. The Predator is a 50 L (3052 Cu.In.) pack so it handles the additional gear needed well. The additional weight is equally well carried by the more advanced V-Flex suspension system and the hipbelt has some nice features too. The regular hipbelt wraps around the hips nicely and has a preformed stiffener over good padding which spreads the load. The whole hipbelt can be completely removed and replaced with a basic nylon webbing hipbelt. This sits much better with a harness for alpine use. Some additional features I like are the helmet holder on the lid, the rope holding cinch stap, and the side access zipper, although I hope I never have to use the removeable foam padding for an unplanned bivi. All in all, the Predator has worked well for me so far based on the way I liked the Demon.

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Descending after a long day- Ha Ling, NE Face
Descending after a long day - Ha Ling, NE Face. Photo: darkside.

Some of you may be looking for further tech info on the BD Demon. Here is some additional lowdown. The weight is 1.18 kg (2 LB 10 OZ). Comes in two sizes; S/M & M/L. Available colours are; chilli pepper, dolomite, or black.

For more info on the BD website see:

here for the BD Demon and here for the BD Predator.

Full Disclosure: The company that manufactured this item provided it free of charge to who in turn provided it as compensation to the reviewer for his review.


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