Hands-on Gear Review

Black Diamond Creek 20 Review

This comfortable pack is light on features and heavy on durability.
By: Ian McEleney ⋅ Review Editor  ⋅  Nov 23, 2017
Price:  $100 List  |  $89.95 at Amazon - 10% Off
Pros:  Durable, comfortable, simple
Cons:  Heavy, few hydration features
Manufacturer:   Black Diamond
65
OVERALL
SCORE


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

Our Verdict

The Black Diamond Creek 20 is our Top Pick For Durability. This utilitarian bag is an excellent choice for climbers who might want to take more than the bare minimum up a route and are willing to carry a bit more weight in exchange for a pack that will last a significantly longer. It's comfortable both on the trail and on the climb. It lacks most standard hydration system features, which could be a deal breaker for some.


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Our Analysis and Test Results

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Black Diamond's Creek series of packs are named after Indian Creek, the renowned desert crack climbing venue. This is a place that's hard on gear, clothes, and human flesh. While the Creek 20 is not big enough to carry the oversized racks of cams required to protect those splitters, it's plenty big enough to carry your kit up a multi-pitch climb. More notably, this bag is incredibly durable.

Performance Comparison


Read on for an in-depth exploration of this robust pack.

Exploring South America's granite wonderland  Cochamo  with the Creek 20
Exploring South America's granite wonderland, Cochamo, with the Creek 20

Weight


Weight is this pack's big weakness. At 27 ounces, the Creek 20 is the second-heaviest pack in this review, after the Metolius Mescalito. The pack's design is fairly simple, so this weight is not the cost of unnecessary zippers, pockets, buckles, or straps, but a direct result of the excellent durability. Removing the hip-belt could save you an ounce or two.


For climbers who want to save some weight and are willing to sacrifice some durability and volume, the Patagonia Linked 16L and the Black Diamond Bullet are both slightly less durable and smaller but much lighter.

Durability


The entire body of the Creek 20 is made of 1200 denier polyester. Alone, this is one of the more abrasion resistant fabrics in our test. Additionally, the fabric has a thick urethane coating on the outside which enhances the durability.


The simple exterior has no pockets of any kind, which means nothing to break or blow out if you need to haul, climb a tight corner, or if you accidentally drop it from the top of pitch two. The only pack in our test which is more durable is the Mescalito.

Burly fabric increases durability and also makes it easier to get in there and get what you need at the belay.
Burly fabric increases durability and also makes it easier to get in there and get what you need at the belay.

Climbing Utility


The simple design of the Creek 20 has some of the standard features our testers hope for in a climbing pack. The sternum strap buckle doubles as a whistle. There's a zippered pocket in the interior of the pack that's large enough (comparable to the one in the Petzl Bug) to easily accommodate a phone, a few bars, a headlamp, etc. A key clip lives in there too. Though the inside bottom and the interior pocket are a bright blue fabric, the interior of the pack is predominantly black, and it can be a bit of a black hole sometimes.


One "standard" feature that's lacking on the Creek 20 is true hydration compatibility. A bladder comfortably fits into the pack, and the hose can pass out the central opening of the pack with little trouble. There are even a few pieces of webbing on the shoulder strap to guide the tube. However, there's nothing inside the pack to help the reservoir stay up; this model is packing a pocket or spot to clip the top of the reservoir to. This means that hydration system users risk having the slip around in the pack and possibly get twisted or crimped, compromising the flow of water.

A roomy interior zippered pocket.
A roomy interior zippered pocket.

The outside of the pack is streamlined with almost nothing to get caught in scrub oak when you get lost descending from the top of Mount Wilson in Red Rocks. This also helps when the pack is being hauled. The hip-belt is also removable, and the shoulder straps tuck away into a compartment to protect them while hauling, leaving the Creek 20 a cylinder as smooth as any real haulbag. The top of the bag features two burly haul points that can easily be clipped with one carabiner when the bag is less than full. Once it's packed to the brim, climbers have the option of using one point alone or rigging something with a sling or cord to equalize the two.

This bag is big enough to comfortably swallow most things our testers carry up a multi-pitch route. Most of our testers find that it feels roomy for it's 20L. This is one of a few packs in our review that can reasonably carry a helmet inside. Other models that can do this include the Mountain Hardwear Hueco 20 and the Patagonia Lightweight Black Hole Cinch Pack 20. A nice feature for packing is the stand-up haulbag style bottom. This, coupled with the stiff fabric, lets us pack up quickly when we're trying to make it out for happy hour, or use the pack an impromptu rope bag.

Haulbag construction lets this pack stand up when empty  a plus for packing.
Haulbag construction lets this pack stand up when empty, a plus for packing.

Versatility


Though some might say that the Creek 20 doesn't have the style for around-town missions, our testers found it was ideal. The stand-up, haulbag-style bottom was an asset for these applications. When it comes to choosing a small pack to carry inside a larger backpack for an overnight backcountry excursion, this isn't our first choice. It's bulk, even when empty, took up valuable real-estate inside a larger pack. We can only conceive of hauling this pack into the backcountry if you'll be doing a lot of hauling, new routing, or other blue-collar work on your ascent.


The Creek has a pair of daisy chains running down the front of the pack, giving a fair amount of attachment options. Ropes can be draped over the top and strapped down securely with the rope strap. While the daisy chains can be rigged to accept a pair of ice tools, the weight of this contender kept our testers from carrying it into the alpine. It weighs about twice as much as the Arc'teryx Cierzo 18, which has a more alpine focused feature set.

The top strap is the main attachment point on this sleek pack. Two external daisy chains allow other options to be configured.
The top strap is the main attachment point on this sleek pack. Two external daisy chains allow other options to be configured.

Comfort


Our testers are pleasantly surprised by how comfortable this pack is on the rock and the trail. The burly fabric enhances the fairly thin foam padding, giving the pack a pleasant rigidity on approaches even when fully loaded. On the trail, it was as comfortable as the Petzl Bug and Metolius Mescalito.


At first, our testers guessed that it would not climb that well, but most were pleasantly surprised with the comfort on steep terrain. The black panel is slightly tapered, contributing to its comfort level. Indeed, some of our more slight testers are pleased with how well the pack works with narrow shoulders. When climbing, we think it's only slightly less comfortable than the category-leading Petzl Bug.

The three most comfortable packs in our test: the Creek 20  Linked  and Bug (L-R). They were chosen for their comfort both on the trail and on the climb.
The three most comfortable packs in our test: the Creek 20, Linked, and Bug (L-R). They were chosen for their comfort both on the trail and on the climb.

Best Applications


The BD Black Diamond Creek 20 is a great pack for climbers looking for something that's durable and utilitarian - and are willing to carry some extra weight to do so. It's large enough that a team of two traveling light could roll with just this pack, carried by the second, and hauled on the harder pitches. If you put up a lot of new routes and are often carrying the required tools, this could be the pack for you. This is an ideal pack for professional guides who spend a lot of time working in multi-pitch terrain, perhaps in Yosemite or Red Rocks.

Value


At $100, this is one of the more expensive packs in our test. However, for most climbers, this pack will last a long time - long enough that its amortized cost (pitches climbed per dollar) will be quite reasonable.

Conclusion


The Black Diamond Creek 20 is robust. The price climbers pay for this durability adds additional weight. It also lacks complete hydration system compatibility, which isn't a problem for climbers that use water bottles. It carries and climbs quite well. If you want to buy one pack for long rock climbs and not have to think about it again for 5 - 10 years, this could be the pack for you.

Chad rigging the rappel.
Chad rigging the rappel.

Other Versions and Accessories


The Creek series of packs from Black Diamond also includes 35L and 50L models with features tailored for cragging, as well as 22L and 32L models that are built more for around-town use.

Ian McEleney

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