Black Diamond Street Creek 24 Review
Cons: Outer pocket opens unexpectedly, uncomfortable
Manufacturer: Black Diamond
Our Analysis and Test Results
The Black Diamond Street Creek 24 is a pack that tries to serve all the needs of the working outdoorsperson. It's got features designed to make it easy to go from hauling climbing gear to the crag to hauling a laptop to work. If it weren't for a crucial design flaw that keeps the bag from securely holding things in its outer compartment, we could see this pack performing well for its designed functions. As is, it's an extremely tough but only somewhat passable pack for outdoor use and commuting.
The Street Creek is a heavy-duty, moderate volume pack, competing in the day hiking realm with much lighter and feature-rich packs like the Osprey Talon 22 and REI Trail 25. While it has some nice features for commuters, like a laptop sleeve and organizer pockets, it carries loads uncomfortably and has a design that fails to securely carry a load. While this pack is marketed for a climbing, hiking, and commuting audience, it ends up as a jack-of-all-trades and master of none: being too uncomfortable for outdoor pursuits and too insecure for commuting.
This was one of the most uncomfortable packs tested. The wide, stiff, and thin shoulder straps dug into our shoulders during long bus rides or hikes. This might be alright if the waist belt held any of the load, but we found it too thin and poorly positioned to do so.
The Street Creek lacks any sort of compression other than a single rope strap that secures the top of the pack. This means that when leaning, jumping, or running, the bag moves around on the back substantially. With a full load for sport climbing, we never forgot that we had this pack on our backs, and we wished it could support a bit more weight without either digging into our shoulders or shifting around and throwing us off balance as we hiked and scrambled.
Weight to Volume Ratio
The Street Creek 24 is moderately heavy, with a weight to volume ratio of 1.1 oz/L, but offers extremely thick, puncture-resistant material and large zippered pockets. The simple, top loading design shared by this pack and others such as the REI Co-op Flash 18 saves some weight. This pack has some heavy commuter-specific features, like a fleece-lined laptop pocket and divided outer zippered pocket, which add weight.
The features and suspension on this pack are similar to that of the Flash 18, but this pack maximizes durability by using thick, 1260D Ballistic Nylon, which maximizes durability at the cost of weight. If you're looking for a commuter bag that will last for years, this bag is for you; if you're looking for a bag you'll hardly notice, consider the REI Co-op Flash 18 or Flash 22.
We took this bag on buses and trains commuting to work as well as up to the crag for a day of climbing. It's large enough to hold your standard sport climbing kit, but the 15" laptop sleeve makes carrying just the essentials and a computer for work easy as well. It has daisy chains to clip on smelly shoes going to and from the climbing gym, and we liked the top strap for holding sandals or a rope.
We recommend this bag for only short hikes or commutes due to the lack of comfort features, like a padded hipbelt or load lifters. The top loading design and stiff fabric is great for those who want to throw stuff in the main compartment, cinch it up, and forget about it, but for those doing more aerobic or dynamic activities, the lack of compression straps will get frustrating. Also annoying for hiking is this pack's lack of a hydration port and sleeve, although the laptop sleeve or main compartment work alright for this purpose.
Ease of Use
This pack has a feature-set designed for commuting and cragging, but its design also includes some crucial flaws not found on other packs.
This pack's commuter features include a compact and effective rain cover, an outer pocket with organizational dividers for pens and notebooks, and a laptop sleeve. We found that accessing the laptop sleeve was kind of difficult on a cramped bus, where we like to get some light work done, due to opening from the side (we prefer top-loading sleeves so we're not elbowing other people to get our computer out). Along with these commuter-specific features, the removeable hip belt and sternum straps are nice, especially when using this bag for travel. It stands up on its own due to the stiff bottom, and it's easy to load and unload the main compartment because of this.
The outer pocket is unfortunately ineffective at holding items. A quick shake will open the relatively loose zipper on this compartment, letting its contents go free even when the top strap is buckled. We spilled our first aid kit, hat, and sunglasses at the crag just by lifting the bag quickly, even with the top strap buckled. The outer pocket also doesn't zip fully closed, leaving a thin opening on the top that can let out pens and business cards, which otherwise fit nicely in the organizational pockets. We consider this a crucial design flaw that compromises the security of the bag.
Black Diamond is known for especially durable haul bags, and that legacy shows in the Street Creek. We were unable to even put a scratch on this bag after months of testing.
In our rain testing, we were surprised that the tiny rain cover (which only covers the tops of all the pockets) repelled water effectively. The main compartment material is extremely water resistant, and we were unable to wet it out after 6 minutes of spraying it with a hose. That said, if you forget to deploy the rain cover, water does pool in the depression created by the main compartment cinch, and easily enters the bag.
For climbers who want everyone to know they are climbers, even when they aren't climbing, this is a cool backpack. It checks some necessary boxes for commuting and cragging, but can't compete with more versatile day packs like the Osprey Talon 22 for hiking, biking, or long days in the mountains. If you can live with an insecure outer pocket, this pack will help you along your commute for years.
The Street Creek is somewhat expensive, considering its relatively niche use. If you value the branding and extreme (maybe overkill) durability, this pack will carry your gear to and from the gym, office, and crag for years.
This pack is a decent commuter bag with climbing chops. The poor design of the outer pocket really hampers what is otherwise a very solid bag.
— Dan Scott