Black Diamond is most often known for its climbing and mountaineering gear. The Elixir is the first Black Diamond pack we have tested to fall into the backpacking category. It exhibits some features that climbers and mountaineers expect like ice axe attachments that can be used as trekking pole attachments, and a lightweight outer material, while remaining simple and functional for a week of backpacking. With 60 liters of listed capacity, we found the Elixir to provide plenty of space for a weekend outing, if not an excessive amount of space better suited for a weeklong trip. A reACTIV suspension system, proprietary to Black Diamond, allows for natural movement of the body without hindering stride. Overall, the Elixir 60 is a lightweight pack ideal for longer outings in the mountains and mountaineering trips.
Black Diamond Elixir 60 - Women's Review
Cons: Overly spacious, bulky, uncomfortable back panel, very long cords at tightening points, too many top closures
Manufacturer: Black Diamond
Our Analysis and Test Results
Heading into the mountains for a week on the trail or a mountaineering oriented trip? Consider the Elixir 60, with a unique suspension system and spaciousness comparable to top-rated packs like the Arc'teryx Bora AR 61 and Gregory Deva 60.
On its own, the Elixir is a comfortable pack suitable for trips extending beyond a weekend. At first glance, it appears to be highly adjustable for a wide range of trip lengths, backed by a lightweight and sturdy pack construction. But, compared to the other women's packs, the Elixir struggled to keep up. It rated six out of ten on our metric because of instability, which led to discomfort.
This pack is made of lightweight material, which often suggests it will carry lighter pack loads well. however, without an adequate weight load the pack feels loose and unstable; instead of the hinging reACTIV suspension matching your natural stride, the pack sways and is uncomfortable to carry. With a weight load ranging higher than 20 pounds, up to approximately 40 pounds, the suspension is more comfortable. This unique suspension, further described below, lends to the low comfort rating.
Comfort highlights of this pack are the shoulder straps and hip belt, both well padded with no noticeable chaffing after multiple days in a row, and the back panel with ridged foam and a mesh layer for breathability. Unfortunately, padding is not enough to contribute to a high rating for overall comfort. For a more comfortable option that allows unrestricted movement, consider the Osprey Aura AG 65, our Editors' Choice award winner, for superior comfort under a wide range of weight loads. Not only does the Aura AG have superior padding on the shoulder straps and hip belt, it has a floating back panel that offers excellent comfort and breathability, especially in hot temperatures.
Only one pack in our review weigh in under 3 pounds- the Granite Gear Blaze A.C. 60 - Women's - and the Elixir hovers just barely over at 3 pounds 3 ounces. This pack is very light when empty. Typically, this is synonymous with lightweight backpacking, but the Elixir is best when packed up. We found that the unique suspension performs best with a pack load ranging from ~20-40 pounds. If you are looking for a pack that is lightweight and also performs well with a lightweight load, consider the Aura AG or Granite Gear Blaze A.C.
ReACTIV suspension is what makes this pack's specs stand out from the rest. No other pack in our women's review has incorporated swinging arm technology. (the Black Diamond Speed 50 has been reviewed by our mountaineering testers- check out that review for more details.) The pack matches your stride, as opposed to remaining in place, with the intention of reducing pressure and adding stability, particularly while traveling across variable terrain. The suspension moves with you instead of against you, allowing you to work less to maneuver in the mountains. We found this technology to be unique, but it didn't provide the stable suspension we were expecting. Because of the moving components and adjustment points, the pack doesn't lay against your shoulders; it sits off of your shoulders and pulls backward under heavier loads. As mentioned above, this pack feels most stable with a heavier load but the suspension contradicts this as it pulls back on your upper body. To compensate for the pulling, you end up using your body dynamics as much as if the pack didn't have this unique suspension. In the end, you use equal amounts of energy with this suspension design as with any other pack in our review. Overall, the instability and the poor suspension fit against the back compromises the suspension and comfort.
Ease of Use and Organization
The suspension system on this pack takes some getting used to, but it is easy to use: you adjust the straps at the start of your trip and will likely not need any adjustments for the duration of your time in the mountains. The organization of the Elixir is straightforward- not too many pockets or compartments. It is easy to attach a sleeping pad to the exterior and the side pockets are easy to make bigger or smaller depending on your storage needs. While wearing the pack, it is easy to reach the excessively long straps on the shoulders, sternum, and hip belt. What reduces the overall rating for 'Ease of Use' is the inability to snug the pack up against your upper body and the excessively long straps that complicate a clean and compressed exterior. The lid design is beyond the needs of most backpackers- it has two separate cinching drawstring closures and a buckle that crosses over the top and a lid (removable). Only in inclement conditions would this be necessary. An easier to use and more simple design is found on The North Face Terra 55 - Women's. It has just enough pockets and compartments, an easy to use suspension system that skips the bells and whistles of new technologies, and a streamlined, low profile design that has compression options only where necessary.
The Elixir is among the most spacious packs in our review. It has 5 enclosed compartments and one semi enclosed pocket at the front. The two side pockets have a unique design that reminds us of the extensive adjustability and expandable size of the Arc'teryx Bora. The Elixir's pockets are part mesh and part nylon. At the center of the pocket, there is a drawstring so you can secure water bottles down or expand the pocket to accommodate much larger gear like a tent or a large sleeping pad. This pack would be best organized with stuff sacks for the main compartment. The roominess creates difficulty in compressing the pack down if your interior gear is not well packed and organized.
Similar to the Arc'teryx Bora, the Elixir has a range of adjustability. The compression straps on the sides are useful for securing your pack load and lessening loose space in main compartment. The side pockets extend from a single nalgene size to enough space for 2 or 3 nalgenes each; the drawcord is secured at two points lending to a sturdy tightening. A removable top lid offers versatility as well as adjustability for more or less gear. This pack excels at adjusting to accommodate larger pack loads. It lacks the versatility for light pack loads- in both comfort and suspension- as well as the limited adjustability for tightening all the way down. All of the straps are very long so when the pack is compressed for a single night or quick weekend trip, what you minimize in pack looseness, you maximize in excessive straps that you have to secure to avoid catching on bushes or trees. For petite women or for light pack loads, this pack is not recommended based on its adjustability. We recommend the North Face Terra, Osprey Aura AG, or Deuter ACT Lite 60 - Women's for light pack loads as well as petite builds.
This large pack is best on week long trips with weight loads leaning toward 30+ pounds. Mountaineering style backpacking, on and off trail hiking, and trips that require a little extra gear, are good applications for the Elixir.
For $220, the Black Diamond pack doesn't offer notable features in comfort or design that we would consider a good value. For ten dollars more, you could get the Editors' Choice awarded Osprey Aura AG with more versatility, better suspension, and a high overall comfort rating.
The Black Diamond Elixir 60 is a middle of the road women's pack. There aren't any stand out features that encourage us to highly recommend this pack. It has a unique suspension system that doesn't offer any better comfort, support, or stability than packs with traditional padded back panels and frames. The lightweight Ripstop Nylon construction is weighed down by the ideal pack load of higher weights. A water repellant treatment kept our gear dry in light rain, but eventually absorbed water in heavy pouring rain. Overall, it's a good pack for weeklong backpacking trips but we highly recommend checking out our award winners for featured packs that rate higher in all metrics.
— Briana Valorosi