Reviews You Can Rely On

Black Diamond Creek 20 Review

This comfortable and utilitarian pack is light on features but heavy on durability
Black Diamond Creek 20
Photo: Black Diamond
Top Pick Award
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Price:  $100 List | Check Price at REI
Compare prices at 3 resellers
Pros:  Durable, comfortable, simple
Cons:  Heavy, few hydration features
Manufacturer:   Black Diamond
By Ian McEleney ⋅ Review Editor  ⋅  Apr 21, 2021
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64
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#4 of 13
  • Comfort - 25% 7
  • Climbing Utility - 25% 7
  • Durability - 20% 9
  • Versatility - 20% 4
  • Weight - 10% 3

Our Verdict

The Black Diamond Creek 20 is our top choice for durability. This practical 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 significantly longer. The increased durability means that it can be hauled up the occasional pitch with no worries. It's comfortable both on the trail and on the climb, though it lacks most standard hydration system features, which could be a deal-breaker for some.

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Pros Durable, comfortable, simpleSimple, great zippered pocket, streamlinedComfortable, easy to pack, great packing volumeSimple, sturdy, lightLight, great features, roomy
Cons Heavy, few hydration featuresLimited attachment points, easy to drop stuffHeavy, average durability, no emergency whistleNo emergency whistle, draw cord and cord lock blend into packFragile, not super versatile
Bottom Line This comfortable and utilitarian pack is light on features but heavy on durabilityThough 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 lightThis is a great pack for multi-pitch rock climbs at a very fair priceThis small and light climbing pack is well optimized for alpine action
Rating Categories Black Diamond Creek 20 The North Face Rout... Petzl Bug Black Diamond Rock... Black Diamond Blitz 20
Comfort (25%)
7.0
8.0
9.0
7.0
7.0
Climbing Utility (25%)
7.0
8.0
8.0
6.0
8.0
Durability (20%)
9.0
7.0
5.0
7.0
4.0
Versatility (20%)
4.0
7.0
7.0
5.0
5.0
Weight (10%)
3.0
5.0
5.0
7.0
7.0
Specs Black Diamond Creek 20 The North Face Rout... Petzl Bug Black Diamond Rock... Black Diamond Blitz 20
Capacity 20L 16L 18L 15L 20L
Measured Weight 1.7 lbs 1.1 lbs 1.1 lbs 0.9 lbs 0.9 lbs
Padded back? Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Fabric Type 1200D polyester with TPU coating 420D nylon 400D nylon 840D nylon Dynex (210D + PE 200D)
Whistle? Yes Yes No No No
Accessory Pockets? One internal zip One external zip One external zip, one external open, one internal zip One external zip, one internal zip One external zip, one internal zip
Outside Carry Options? Top strap, two daisy chains Daisy chains Top strap, one daisy chain Top strap doubles as rope strap Top strap, ice axe attachments
Hip Belt Yes, removable Yes, removable Yes Yes, removable Yes, removable
Hydration System Compatible No Yes Yes Yes Yes
Key Clip? Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes

Our Analysis and Test Results

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


Exploring South America's granite wonderland, Cochamo, with the...
Exploring South America's granite wonderland, Cochamo, with the Creek 20
Photo: Katy Pfannenstein

Comfort


Our testers were 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 one of the more comfortable packs in our review.


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

When it's too uncomfortable to climb with it on, the Creek is simple...
When it's too uncomfortable to climb with it on, the Creek is simple to rig for hauling.
Photo: Ian McEleney

Climbing Utility


The simple design of the Creek 20 has some of the standard features we like to see in a climbing pack. The sternum strap buckle doubles as a whistle. There's a zippered pocket in the interior that's large enough 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 pack's interior 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 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 means that hydration system users risk having their bladder slip around in the pack and possibly get twisted or crimped, compromising the flow of water.

The outside is streamlined and has 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 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 haul bag. 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 you'd carry up a multi-pitch route. Most of our testers found that it feels roomy for its 20-liter capacity. This is one of a few packs in our review that can reasonably carry a helmet inside. A nice feature for packing is also the stand-up haul bag-style bottom. This, coupled with the stiff fabric, lets you pack up quickly when you're trying to make it out for happy hour, or use the pack an impromptu rope bag.

The spacious interior zippered pocket.
The spacious interior zippered pocket.
Photo: Ian McEleney

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. If you're a professional guide or regular route developer, this durability could be just what you need.


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.

Hip belt removed, shoulder straps stowed in the back panel, ready to...
Hip belt removed, shoulder straps stowed in the back panel, ready to haul!
Photo: Ian McEleney

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, haul-bag-style bottom is an asset for these applications. When it comes to choosing a small pack to carry inside a larger backpack for an overnight backcountry excursion, however, this isn't our first choice. Its bulk, even when empty, takes up valuable real-estate inside a larger pack. We can only conceive of carrying 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, 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.

Haulbag construction lets this pack stand up when empty, a plus for...
Haulbag construction lets this pack stand up when empty, a plus for packing.
Photo: Ian McEleney

Weight


Weight is this pack's big weakness. At 27 ounces, the Creek 20 is the heaviest pack in this review. Its design is fairly simple, so this weight is not because of unnecessary zippers, pockets, buckles, or straps — it's a direct result of the excellent durability. Removing the hip belt will save you an ounce or two.


For climbers who want to save some weight and are willing to sacrifice some durability and volume, several options in our lineup are both slightly less durable and smaller but much lighter.

Weighing the Creek.
Weighing the Creek.
Photo: Ian McEleney

Value


This is one of the more expensive packs in our test. However, for most climbers, it 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. All told, it carries and climbs quite well, and 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.

The Creek on some abrasive quartz monzonite.
The Creek on some abrasive quartz monzonite.
Photo: Ian McEleney

Other Versions and Accessories


The Creek series of packs from Black Diamond also includes 35L and 50L models with features tailored for cragging and models built more for around-town use that run the gamut from 20L to 32L.

Ian McEleney