The BBEE is small. And light. And super comfy. It has the nicest padding system of any of the packs we tested, putting some lightweight foam right where you need it most, over the spine, and then going without over the rest of the back. A simple concept done well.
The attachment point for the waistbelt and shoulder straps is also one of the best of all the packs we tested. Each strap is double bartacked into a small tab of nylon that comes off the corner of the pack. Having the straps attached here both makes the attachment more durable and better equalizes the load between the two straps.
The BBEE climbs very well; it is so small that you hardly feel it on your back. It JUST fits a pair of shoes, a layer, some water, and a bar, but even when packed tight as a drum it still is one of the comfiest packs we tested. It packs down quite small, and could definitely be stowed in a larger pack for summit bids or day hikes. It can also serve as a stuff sack when turned inside out, so its not just dead weight in your pack.
The BBEE could also serve well as an around town bag for quick trips or light loads. Its lack of climbing specific features actually makes the pack more versatile, and it would serve you as well for biking or hiking as for climbing.
The small size of this pack can be limiting. You will NOT be able to fit any more than the bare essentials, so if you want to bring extra water, extra food, and an extra layer, you may have to choose whats most important! The BBEE's small size also limits it utility off the rock, we think you'll find yourself wanting a larger bag in most situations.
There are no good options on this pack to deal with the waistbelt straps if you prefer not to use the belt while climbing. You are forced to use it or have them dangling down as you climb.
This pack loses a lot in climbing utility due to the lack of pocket access when loaded. It has an internal pocket that is fixed to the front of the pack, and it is nearly impossible to reach inside without pulling out some of the packs contents. The Petzl Bug and the Cilo Gear 20 L Worksack both have pockets that can fold out and sit on top of contexts, while the Black Diamond Bullet and Shot get around this by having external pockets.
The sternum strap system used on this pack and the lightweight, low denier material combine to bring the durability of the pack down quite a bit. The sternum strap system relies on pressure of a small plastic piece fixed on a stiff rail, rather than the tried and true sliding nylon strap. This system is simply not as strong, and any strong jerk will pull the plastic piece off. Once off, it is difficult to put back on. See Personal Stories Section below.
The BBEE has a unique hydration system port, basically a flap of fabric that extends over the access port, allowing you to have the hydration tube come out either side. It is a nice idea, but this flap adds unnecessary weight and its tight fit also makes feeding a hydration tube through quite a challenge. The dual hydration port system of the Black Diamond Shot is preferable, as are the simple, single ports of the Black Diamond Bullet or Petzl Bug.
This pack performs great for quick trips. That could mean a day hike from camp, a trip to the store, or up a short multi-pitch climb. It works perfectly as the smaller of two packs on a longer multi-pitch climb. Think the Petzl Bug, the REI Flash 18, or the Cilo Gear 20 L worksack (all larger volume) for the second pack. Recommended for anyone looking SPECIFICALLY for a small volume pack.
During the time I was working on this review, my climbing partner and I did the East Buttress of El Capitan, in Yosemite. At the large ledge at the bottom of Pitch 6, I found an old sternum strap of this same style, which had clearly broken off (final photo above). I can only imagine how frustrating it must be to have 7 more pitches to go on a long climb and to have your packs sternum strap break off
The price is fairly average, just $4 cheaper than its big brothers, the Black Diamond Bullet and Shot. Youll gladly pay it if youre specifically in the market for a streamlined small volume pack.