Black Diamond Bolt 24 Review
Cons: No lower compression straps, not water-resistant
Manufacturer: Black Diamond
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Our Analysis and Test Results
The Black Diamond Bolt 24 stands out with its swing-arm suspension, which allows you to easily bend your torso (e.g., to reach above your head while climbing) while keeping the pack weight centered on your hips. Other than that, this is a pretty traditional, albeit well-designed pack that works great for activities like climbing or skiing.
With a mostly stiff back panel and robust hip belt, the Bolt 24 transfers weight efficiently to the hips. The swing-arm suspension allows the shoulder straps to slide in and out of the lower portion of the pack, keeping the weight centered and moving with you at all times.
While the back panel isn't as ventilating as suspended mesh panels, it still ventilates quite well - better than most packs with similar ventilation. The shoulder straps and hip belt also ventilate nicely, producing a comfortable pack that doesn't get in the way on long days.
The Black Diamond Bolt 24 carries a respectable 26 L at a moderate 33 oz, for a weight to volume ratio of 1.28. We wish it were a bit lighter for its size, but this is a mountain-oriented pack, so durability is a key feature. The Bolt achieves this durability with a simplistic design and thick, often double-walled fabrics.
We tested the Bolt in the Colorado Rockies, scraping it against rocks and on compact snow, and found that it was difficult to even scuff the tough fabric. The side zip is a major vulnerability but looks well-constructed. As a top-loader, this pack is likely to last for years of hard use.
We were initially put off by the lack of bungee pole/axe carriers, or lower compression straps on the Bolt 24. However, the upper compression straps, well-placed ice axe loops, and generously sized crampon pocket make it easy to carry pretty much any gear you might need for a day in the mountains. We found it easy to pack for anything from a short day hike to a day in the backcountry with an axe, shovel, probe, and microspikes all easily stored on or in the pack
While the Black Diamond Bolt 24 is primarily an outdoor-oriented daypack, we found that it works fine for urban pursuits. It compresses down well, and the hip belt isn't stiff, so it doesn't get in the way. Most of the straps can tuck away as well, which gives the pack a sleeker look when they aren't needed.
Ease of Use
The Bolt is a surprisingly easy to use pack. The side zip access is uncommon these days, but Black Diamond executed it well. We liked having easy access to bulkier layers or tools that we'd rather not keep on the outside of the pack.
The axe/pole carrying system utilizes the upper compression straps, which can be a bit annoying if you find yourself unbuckling those straps regularly. However, they work great for keeping axes and poles secure on the outside of the pack.
The main compartment has an oversized opening, which was great for quickly getting to gear. Combined with the large outer pocket, we found it easy to store layers and tools for quick access. We also liked the medium-sized hipbelt pocket but wished for one on each side (or at least a gear loop on the side without a hip belt pocket). The stretch mesh pockets are high-quality and stored water bottles or longer items securely.
The Black Diamond Bolt 24 is well-designed for harsh, mountain environments. It uses thick fabrics and has minimal straps or other features that could easily break.
In general, zippers and dangly things tend to break quickly on packs. We do worry a bit about the side zip on the Bolt, but at least the pack would still function at near peak functionality without it. Over our months of testing, we didn't manage to scrape up this pack appreciably. It will probably endure years of regular usage before it starts to wear out.
In our rain testing, the Bolt 24 performed a bit worse than similar top-loading packs. It's long side zipper let in water, and the main compartment got soaked. While it probably wouldn't do so poorly in normal rain conditions (our rain test involves minutes of direct spray with a hose), we'd recommend a pack liner for wet hikes or alpine adventures.
For a mountain-oriented pack, the Bolt 24 comes in at a pretty average price. For that price, you're getting a durable, long-lasting, and effective pack. We consider it a great value for a decently performing pack.
With its effective suspension, beefy fabric, and simple design, the Black Diamond Bolt 24 excels at carrying your gear for a day in the mountains. Sure, there are lighter and more featured packs out there, but if you're looking for simplicity, the Bolt 24 is a great, dependable option.
— Dan Scott