A unisex bag meant for approaches and carrying a full load of 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 22L pack is chalked full of features that distribute weight well no matter how much scrambling you have to do in it. The Swing Arm harness system allows the straps to move with you for a more comfortable experience. It does have a 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.
Black Diamond Nitro 22L Review
Compare prices at 2 resellers 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
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Our Analysis and Test Results
The Black Diamond Nitro is a unisex pack made of 210D ripstop and 210D Dobby Abrasion nylon. It comes in a single size (12-22" torso length) and is also sold in a larger, 26L size.
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 frontcountry 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 elementary school bookbag (before you had to fill it with all those enormous textbooks!).
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).
At 31.25 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.
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 5'4" 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!
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 22L bag, and the tall, narrow shape keeps it well-balanced and close to your back while you hike.
Made of 210D ripstop nylon and 210D 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 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.
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.
— Maggie Brandenburg