Reviews You Can Rely On

Black Diamond Bullet Review

This classic is still going strong, though you cannot carry anything on the outside of the pack
Black Diamond Bullet
Photo: Black Diamond
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Price:  $70 List | Check Price at REI
Compare prices at 2 resellers
Pros:  Durable, sleek, stylish
Cons:  Uncomfortable shoulder straps, no external carrying options
Manufacturer:   Black Diamond
By Ian McEleney ⋅ Review Editor  ⋅  Oct 15, 2019
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60
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#9 of 12
  • Comfort - 25% 6
  • Climbing Utility - 25% 7
  • Durability - 20% 7
  • Versatility - 20% 4
  • Weight - 10% 5

Our Verdict

In our initial small climbing daypack review, the old version of the Black Diamond Bullet won the Editors' Choice award. The new Bullet is even stronger and sleeker than its predecessor. It's also got many of the features we're looking for in a climbing daypack: a removable hip belt, removable foam back panel, and an emergency whistle. We feel gratitude towards the Bullet because it popularized many of the features we love that are now ubiquitous on rock climbing daypacks.

However, the competition has caught up and now surpasses this pack in overall utility. The Bullet's exterior lacks anchor points to enable you to carry a rope or gear on the outside for approaches or descents. Also, we heard universal complaints about the shoulder straps, which seem prone to sliding off during any athletic movement.

Compare to Similar Products

 
Black Diamond Bullet
Awards  Editors' Choice Award   Best Buy Award 
Price Check Price at REI
Compare at 2 sellers
$80 List$70 List
$69.95 at Amazon
$69.95 at Amazon
Compare at 2 sellers
$59.95 at Backcountry
Compare at 2 sellers
Overall Score Sort Icon
60
73
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57
Star Rating
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Pros Durable, sleek, stylishSimple, great zippered pocket, streamlinedComfortable, easy to pack, great packing volumeComfortable, lightSimple, sturdy, light
Cons Uncomfortable shoulder straps, no external carrying optionsLimited attachment points, easy to drop stuffHeavy, average durability, no emergency whistleSmall, flimsy, not versatileNo emergency whistle, draw cord and cord lock blend into pack
Bottom Line This classic is still going strong, though you cannot carry anything on the outside of the packThough there are no extra features, this bag ticks all the boxes for multi-pitch climbingThis pack is great to climb with and easy to load, though it's not particularly lightThough it's one of the most comfortable small climbing packs, this bag isn't very abrasion-resistantThis is a great pack for multi-pitch rock climbs at a very fair price
Rating Categories Black Diamond Bullet The North Face Rout... Petzl Bug Mammut Neon Light 12 Black Diamond Rock...
Comfort (25%)
6.0
8.0
8.0
8.0
6.0
Climbing Utility (25%)
7.0
8.0
8.0
7.0
6.0
Durability (20%)
7.0
7.0
5.0
3.0
5.0
Versatility (20%)
4.0
7.0
7.0
5.0
5.0
Weight (10%)
5.0
5.0
5.0
7.0
7.0
Specs Black Diamond Bullet The North Face Rout... Petzl Bug Mammut Neon Light 12 Black Diamond Rock...
Capacity 16L 16L 18L 12L 15L
Measured Weight 1.1 lbs 1.1 lbs 1.1 lbs 0.9 lbs 0.9 lbs
Padded back? Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Fabric Type 420D nylon, 1260D ballistic nylon 420D nylon 400D nylon 70D nylon 840D nylon
Whistle? Yes Yes No Yes No
Accessory Pockets? One external zip, one internal zip One external zip One external zip, one external open, one internal zip Two external zip, one internal zip One external zip, one internal zip
Outside Carry Options? No Daisy chains Top strap, one daisy chain Daisy chains Top strap doubles as rope strap
Hip Belt? Yes, removable Yes, removable Yes Yes, removable Yes, removable
Hydration System Compatible? Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Key Clip? Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes

Our Analysis and Test Results

The updated version of the Black Diamond Bullet features a streamlined exterior and casual styling. It is undeniably well-made and durable.

Performance Comparison


Andy was not held back by The Bullet on this thrutchy lead.
Andy was not held back by The Bullet on this thrutchy lead.
Photo: Ian McEleney

Comfort


The back panel and hip belt are adequate on the Bullet. The problem is the shoulder straps, which many felt were too wide-set. During climbing or any other athletic movement, these straps are prone to sliding off the shoulder. Even our broadly built, 6'3" tester complained. This problem can, of course, be remedied by keeping the chest strap fastened and tight. However, this solution isn't ideal because it can inhibit breathing or accidentally pin down a shoulder-length runner while placing desperate protection.

The simple girth hitched hip belt attachment.
The simple girth hitched hip belt attachment.
Photo: Ian McEleney

Climbing Utility


The design of this bag gives it both strengths and weaknesses in climbing utility. The shape is simple and compact while the absence of external straps or daisy chains further streamlines its profile. It's hard to imagine a pack better designed for wearing or tagging inside a tight chimney, and the possibility of snagging a branch on the approach trail is practically nil. This arguably makes it the best bag for the actual act of climbing.

This streamlined profile can be enhanced for hauling by tucking the shoulder straps inside a flap. Unfortunately, this means unbuckling them and leaves the haul loop as the only option for attachment. It has decent hydration compatibility, a key clip, and an emergency whistle built into the sternum strap. It has one external and one internal zippered pocket. This pack "feels" the smallest of all the 16L models we tested, and no more so when packing it. This contender punishes those with poor packing skills.

The streamlined exterior of the Bullet makes it great for actual...
The streamlined exterior of the Bullet makes it great for actual climbing.
Photo: Ian McEleney

Durability


Durability is one of the greatest qualities of the Bullet. This is the result of not only robust materials but a streamlined design unlikely to snag in chimneys or constrictions. It is composed of burly, 1260 denier, ballistics-grade nylon on the base and a 460d nylon body. The exterior zippers on the main body and accessory pocket are the largest and strongest used for any climbing daypack tested. Though we think it highly unlikely they are possible failure points, we subtracted a point for this.

A decent weight-to-volume ratio and good durability makes this pack...
A decent weight-to-volume ratio and good durability makes this pack a good choice for alpine rock routes without crampons or an ice axe.
Photo: Ian McEleney

Versatility


In the same way that climbing utility is limited by the lack of external carry options, so is overall versatility. We like the Bullet's stylish exterior for everyday uses like going to class or toting your laptop to a coffee shop. It's also great for other activities like biking, caving, or skiing where you wouldn't want to carry anything on the outside.

Though it's not the lightest pack in the review, it does fit into a larger pack relatively well, especially when the foam pad has been removed. Yet its small overall capacity and inability to carry an ice axe limit its potential use as a mountaineering summit pack—perhaps the most popular secondary purpose of a rock climbing backpack.

There's no simple way to attach either of these items to the outside...
There's no simple way to attach either of these items to the outside of this pack.
Photo: Ian McEleney

The lack of external straps or even a daisy chain means that there's no way to attach extra gear or a rope to the outside. For many of our testers who enjoy climbing carry-over multi-pitch routes, this is one of the essential features of a climbing backpack—the ability to carry a rope, helmet, large cams, or other awkward objects on the outside during the approach and descent. Different packs offered this option while still coming with reasonably smooth exteriors.

Weight


Stock from the factory, this bag weighs just over a pound, at 18 ounces (510 grams). The only heavier packs in the review have larger volume capacities. You can remove the foam back-panel and hip belt to subtract an additional 2 oz, making its lightest possible configuration a healthy 16 oz.

This pack does little to inhibit climbing movement.
This pack does little to inhibit climbing movement.
Photo: Ian McEleney

Value


This is one of the lowest-priced bags we tested. As long as shoppers understand and are comfortable with its limitations, it could be a potentially great deal.

Conclusion


Two crucial qualities undermined the Bullet's performance in this review: the lack of external carrying options and shoulders straps prone to sliding off. These deficiencies force us to suggest that anyone seeking a climbing daypack consider the other options first, unless these qualities are low on your list of priorities.

The BD Bullet is fine for strenuous multi-pitch routes without a...
The BD Bullet is fine for strenuous multi-pitch routes without a carry over. Just make sure you keep the sternum strap clipped. Seen Here on Positive Vibes, The Incredible Hulk, California.
Photo: Jack Cramer

Ian McEleney

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