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Black Diamond Nitro 22L Review

A comfortable pack for even heavy loads over long distances with good balance and solid features
Black Diamond Nitro 22L
Photo: Black Diamond
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Price:  $130 List | Check Price at REI
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Pros:  Moves with you, durable build, well-balanced load carry, good pockets and carry options
Cons:  No hydration reservoir clip (loop only), not meant for downpours, very long torso
Manufacturer:   Black Diamond Equipment
By Maggie Brandenburg ⋅ Senior Review Editor  ⋅  Jan 7, 2020
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71
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#6 of 14
  • Comfort - 25% 7
  • Versatility - 25% 8
  • Weight - 25% 6
  • Ease of Use - 15% 7
  • Durability - 10% 8

Our Verdict

A unisex bag meant for climbing approaches with heavy gear, the Black Diamond Nitro strikes a solid balance of carrying more than we expected while being more comfortable than it appears. With a long torso and massive main compartment, this 22-liter pack is chalked full of features that distribute weight well and move with you. The Swing Arm harness system allows the straps to move with you for a more comfortable experience. It does have a too-long torso for some shorter individuals though, and no clip to hang your hydration bladder from — just a loop. Overall, we like this bag for everything from heading to a climbing site to making your way through the airport.

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Pros Moves with you, durable build, well-balanced load carry, good pockets and carry optionsComes with hydration bladder, very comfortable hip belt, good capacity, solidly constructedGreat ventilation, backpack-like comfort, useful pockets and attachments, well built, intuitive useAdjustable torso length, very durable, great features and pocketsGood for on-the-go, secure fit, fits more than expected, many shoulder strap pockets
Cons No hydration reservoir clip (loop only), not meant for downpours, very long torsoU-shaped top opening is smaller, some pockets are less convenientOne size only, heavy, lame hip belt webbing systemRuns a bit small, front stow pocket a bit smallOpens unconventionally, meant for more specific use, not rainproof
Bottom Line A comfortable pack for even heavy loads over long distances with good balance and solid featuresA super comfortable pack with a unique waist belt system and included hydration bladder for the serious day hikerAll the comfort and security of a full backpack in a bite-sized daypackA versatile, durable, and comfortable pack that works just as well on the trail as in townA lightweight, securely fitting pack, cleverly designed for use on the go
Rating Categories Black Diamond Nitro... CamelBak Sequoia 24 Gregory Juno 24L Osprey Tempest 20 Chimera 18
Comfort (25%)
7.0
9.0
8.0
7.0
7.0
Versatility (25%)
8.0
8.0
8.0
9.0
6.0
Weight (25%)
6.0
6.0
6.0
6.0
8.0
Ease Of Use (15%)
7.0
8.0
8.0
8.0
7.0
Durability (10%)
8.0
9.0
9.0
8.0
7.0
Specs Black Diamond Nitro... CamelBak Sequoia 24 Gregory Juno 24L Osprey Tempest 20 Chimera 18
Weight (oz) 31 oz 36 oz 31 oz 31 oz 17 oz
Volume/Capacity (liters) 22L 24L 24L 20L 18L
Back Construction OpenAir backpanel; ridged foam covered by large mesh AirSupport(TM) backpanel; mesh covered foam panels with air flow channels VaporSpan ventilated mesh AirScape backpanel; large spaced horizontal padding bars covered by large-holed mesh FlashDry backpanel; lightly padded and covered in fine mesh
Hydration External hydration sleeve External hydration sleeve and 3L Crux reservoir included Internal hydration sleeve External hydration sleeve External hydration sleeve
Hipbelt Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes, webbing
Compartments 1 2 1 1 2
Rain Cover No No No, but DWR finish No No
Additional pockets 5 6 6 8 7
Outside Carry Options Ice axe loops, dual 5-loop daisy chains, expandable side drink pockets, front stuff pocket, hip belt pocket, small zippered top pocket, four shoulder strap loops Trekking pole and ice axe attachments, side pocket, expandable overflow pocket, hip belt pockets (one zip, two stretch), daisy chain, hydration hose clip Lare exterior stretch pocket, 2 stretch side pockets, 2 zippered hip belt pockets, 1 zippered pocket, hiking pole storage, ice axe loop Lidlock helmet attachment, trekking pole quick-stow, large stretch front pocket, ice tool loop with bungee tie-off, side pockets, hip belt pockets, sunglasses shoulder stow, bike light loop Trekking pole and ice axe attachment, side pockets, expandable front stuff pocket, four small pockets on shoulder straps, loops on shoulder straps
Whistle Yes No Yes Yes No
Key Clip Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Materials 210D ripstop nylon, 210D Dobby Abrasion 420D oxford nylon 210D Honeycomb Cryptorip nylon, 420D reinforced bottom 70D x 100D nylon body, accent and bottom 420HD nylon packcloth 70D ripstop nylon, closed-cell foam, elastic pockets
Notable Features Bike light loop, main zip opens all the way down, ReActiv shoulder straps connect to each other behind the waist and waist belt not attached to frame to facilitate twisting, front expandable pocket reinforced with internal structural foam panels Hydration bladder included, hydration pocket has blue zipper pull, removable metal stiffening rod in center of back. multiple pockets in both hip belts, several internal stretch pockets, U-shaped top zipper Sunglasses stow loops, hydration hose attachment, trekking pole attachment Helmet attachment, trekking pole quick-stow, sunglasses quick-stow, bike light loop, shoulder strap pocket, stowable ice axe loops Dyno Cinch System connects shoulder straps and waist webbing as one system, cinch cord for top and sides of pack all one system, main and small zippered compartments are opened via side zips for one-shoulder access

Our Analysis and Test Results

The Black Diamond Nitro is a unisex pack made of 210-Denier ripstop and 210-Denier Dobby Abrasion nylon. It comes in a single size (12-inch to 22-inch torso length) and is also sold in a larger, 26-liter size.

Performance Comparison


The Nitro is well-balanced and comfortable to carry even when you're...
The Nitro is well-balanced and comfortable to carry even when you're carting supplies for four dogs through the snow.
Photo: Maggie Brandenburg

Comfort


The Nitro's harness is entirely made of Black Diamond's OpenAir construction, which translates to a horizontally ridged foam panel with breathable holes, covered in large-net mesh. This makes for a pretty breathable, flexible, and comfortable back panel, hip belt, and shoulder straps. This pack's Swing Arm design means the shoulder straps are connected to the hip belt, which more securely attaches the whole bag to you even as you move - the harness actually moves with your body rather than staying unmovingly with the bag while you twist and scrunch uncomfortably inside it. For those front country adventures, we were easily able to clip the hip belt out of the way and turn it into a more traditional backpack easily stowed as a carry-on bag under the seat in front of us on an airplane. Even without the hip belt, this bag is pretty comfortable to carry, like your second-grade bookbag (before you had to fill it with all those enormous textbooks!).

We buckled the hip belt out of the way and greatly enjoyed using...
We buckled the hip belt out of the way and greatly enjoyed using this bag as a personal item on airplanes.
Photo: Maggie Brandenburg

Versatility


Numerous pockets and loops make it easy to attach just about any conceivable piece of gear to this bag, whether you're taking it climbing or heading to the library. The main compartment is long and deep and easily fits a full-sized laptop with plenty of room to spare above or below. Dual pull-through loops on each shoulder strap let you attach sunglasses; though it would be much easier if these loops were elastic, but they're not. The outer stuff pocket is also not stretchy, unlike most packs, but instead is thickly padded and pulled tight with clipped, webbing side straps. This is great for being able to put large, heavy, and awkwardly pokey objects on the outside of your pack without worrying that you're going to break the expandable pocket. But if you just want to cram a light jacket in there, it's a bit of overkill. Additionally, though the Nitro will resist light showers and even a short outburst, this bag isn't made to withstand a deluge or even a steady rain for long periods of time. If the forecast includes rain, we'd recommend including a rain cover (not included).

You can use the pull-through webbing to attach your sunglasses, but...
You can use the pull-through webbing to attach your sunglasses, but it's not elastic, which makes it more challenging.
Photo: Maggie Brandenburg

Weight


At 31.3 ounces, the Nitro is on the heavier end of the spectrum of daypacks, though definitely not the heaviest we tested. This extra weight gets you a larger bag that's comfortable and full of features. It's also of solid construction that soothes the mind much more so than many other packs we tested that are often covered by mesh pockets just waiting to be snagged on bushes or scraped off against granite slabs. For what this bag offers, we think its weight is very reasonable.

The hip belt pocket just barely fits an iPhone 8+.
The hip belt pocket just barely fits an iPhone 8+.
Photo: Maggie Brandenburg

Ease of Use


First things first, when it comes to adjustability and sizing, this bag is very much a unisex option, without the little tweaks that often accompany women-specific packs. It comes in a single size, that Black Diamond claims fits torsos from 17-22 inches. Compared to the dozens of other bags we've tested over the years, this one feels quite tall. That being said, our main tester is 5 feet, 4 inches tall, and has a 17-inch torso, and actually really likes the added length of this bag. She feels that it never got in the way of her movement (despite some initial worries) and is surprisingly comfortable to wear while being very adjustable. Because it's unisex, we even had some guy friends give it a whirl and they also like the fit and feel of this bag. We take our hats off to Black Diamond for creating a solidly versatile fit for a unisex pack — that's no small feat!

Though it's intended as an approach bag, we like the deep, balanced...
Though it's intended as an approach bag, we like the deep, balanced design for daily commutes and traveling too. Pictured here with a 13" laptop in a black sleeve.
Photo: Maggie Brandenburg

With a main compartment that zips almost all the way open, it's easy to pack just about anything inside. However, the top clips that secure the outer stuff pocket are quite high, making it very difficult to dig into while you're still wearing the bag. It's much more conducive to being set down in a spot where you can really unclip, unzip all the way, and then dig through. Anything you want to access on the go is better stored in any smaller, outer pocket rather than the main compartment. We also wish the exterior hydration pocket had a clip to hang a bladder. It only has a small fabric loop, and a ton of hydration bladders don't have a hook but do have a spot to be hooked. But at the end of the day, we're solidly impressed by just how much gear we can fit into this 22-liter bag, and the tall, narrow shape keeps it well-balanced and close to your back while you hike.

The external hydration pocket and shoulder loops are easy to use...
The external hydration pocket and shoulder loops are easy to use, but we wish it had a hook to hang the bladder, not just a fabric loop, as our Platypus bladder has no hook on it.
Photo: Maggie Brandenburg

Durability


Made of 210-Denier ripstop nylon and 210-Denier Dobby Abrasion nylon, this bag is pretty beefy. It's made to withstand being scraped against and across coarse rocks and boulders and it shows. Though some of these materials feel a bit scratchier and less soft against the skin, their durability is excellent. This bag looks as good as new even after we spent months pushing it to the limits on rocks, through spiky desert plants, and up against the whims of the TSA. Other online reviews also attest to the impressive durability of this bag and its ability to resist abrasion where other bags have failed.

The Nitro sports a pretty beefy build, thick and reinforced, ready...
The Nitro sports a pretty beefy build, thick and reinforced, ready to tackle all your adventures, no matter how abrasive or pokey.
Photo: Maggie Brandenburg

Value


The Nitro isn't a cheap option, but also isn't the most expensive bag we reviewed. Where we think it holds most of its value is in its versatility of what it can carry and who it fits and some seriously impressive durability. For a super lightweight pack or a bag you can easily access while you walk, this probably won't be your favorite, but if the rest of our review sounds like what you want in a bag, we think this one is worth the investment.

Conclusion


The Nitro 22 is a pretty impressive, versatile daypack. The harness that moves with you and tall design that distributes weight comfortably make it a great option for hauling seriously heavy stuff. It's durable and has plenty of pockets and helpful features we love. Even if you're not the climber this pack is made for, we think it's a pretty versatile bag that's made to keep you comfortable for years to come.

We love this big, comfy bag from Black Diamond and find it very...
We love this big, comfy bag from Black Diamond and find it very useful.
Photo: Maggie Brandenburg

Maggie Brandenburg