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Black Diamond Pipe Dream Review

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Price:  $170 List | $127.46 at MooseJaw
Compare prices at 2 resellers
Pros:  Becomes a comfy pad to sit on, beefy suspension handles heavy loads
Cons:  Expensive, annoying to open/close, heavy
Manufacturer:   Black Diamond
By Jack Cramer ⋅ Review Editor  ⋅  Dec 21, 2015
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63
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Weight - 15% 4
  • Durability - 20% 7
  • Packed Size - 10% 5
  • Climbing Utility - 20% 6
  • Versatility - 15% 4
  • Comfort - 20% 10

Our Verdict

The most unique of all the crag packs we reviewed is the Black Diamond Pipe Dream. Designed as a slimmed down version of a crash pad, this pack can carry all your stuff to the cliff and let you relax in luxury when you get there. A pair of aluminum buckles and a Velcro strap seal up its 45 liter compartment. Unpack it and it folds out into 50" X 29" mat of closed cell foam. Lots of our testers loved this feature, particularly for resting between redpoint burns or seated top-rope belays. Others were less enthusiastic; when first seeing it in action, one tester remarked, "Great… Now I can bring all the worst parts of bouldering with me to the crag." Sarcasm aside, there is some truth to this criticism. Like most bouldering pads the Pipe Dream is bulky, awkward to carry, and its folds can be a pain to pack and unpack. Nevertheless, if you can put up with these minor weaknesses, crag-side comfort is now available.


Our Analysis and Test Results

The Pipe Dream is a unique crag pack that features a fold out pad for comfortable lounging. It is the largest capacity pack that we tested, holding 300 meters of rope in our comparative test, but it is also bulky and awkward to carry.

Performance Comparison


Take care on dangerous approaches  this pack's bulkiness can throw you a bit off balance. Fortunately if you do fall backward  its padding will cushion the impact.
Take care on dangerous approaches, this pack's bulkiness can throw you a bit off balance. Fortunately if you do fall backward, its padding will cushion the impact.

Weight


Weighing in at a little under 4 pounds, this pack was the heaviest we tested. This is perfectly understandable when you consider the extra foam padding it includes. Its beefy suspension system is more than capable of comfortably handling the added weight of the bag itself and whatever else you decide to carry.

Durability


The padding of the Pipe Dream is held inside a combination of 840 and 1260-denier nylon. Thinner on the body, thicker on the base. We found this fabric to be strong and durable; no tears or rips were seen after a few months of regular use. The aluminum buckles on the crash pad closure are also sturdy. These qualities placed it towards the front of our field in durability. Our long-term concerns are how long will it be before the foam padding compresses and when will the Velcro used on the fold strap and accessory hood wear out? We didn't see any of these fail in our tests but our familiarity with the materials makes us suspect they're not completely indestructible.

Packed Size


Much like a crash pad  the BD Pipe Dream's boxy shape occasionally snags on branches or narrow constrictions.
Much like a crash pad, the BD Pipe Dream's boxy shape occasionally snags on branches or narrow constrictions.
Anyone who has ever gone bouldering knows that carrying a big crash pad can often be awkward and uncomfortable. To a limited extent, the same is true for this pack. Although the fold is smaller in dimensions than a typical crash pad and the foam thinner, its rectangular shape still creates issues. The top corners can snag on low-hanging branches or both sides can jam when walking through a narrow passage. The accessory hood on top can be removed to streamline its shape but we still wouldn't want to wear one of these in a wind tunnel.

Climbing Utility


We love how easy it was to remove the accessory hood. By taking it off you can keep small items organized while avoiding crushing your breakables as you sit on your comfortable pad/pack.
We love how easy it was to remove the accessory hood. By taking it off you can keep small items organized while avoiding crushing your breakables as you sit on your comfortable pad/pack.
The utility of this pack is unique and simple: it provides a comfortable pad to sit on. Yet somehow this uncomplicated feature seemed to polarize our testers and the climbers they talked with. Many raved about the luxury of having a comfy place to relax while others complained about its bulk and decadence. These wildly differing opinions probably come down to how you like to climb. Top-ropers and project climbers generally seemed to have enough time to sit down and enjoy the Pipe Dream. The former got a soft spot for a seated belay, the latter lounged between redpoint burns. Climbers constrained by time or circumstance didn't find as much benefit in this feature. During a quick session after work many didn't get a chance to sit down before sundown and multi-pitchers only got to gaze down at their comfy pack from awkward hanging belays.

Versatility


Although the pad this pack folds out into has many uses—sitting, stretching, or sleeping—the pack itself has limited applications. Unlike a lot of packs you see out cragging, this pack doesn't work well for overnight backpacking. It's too bulky and heavy. There are also a lot of other options we'd prefer for multi-pitch or winter climbing. These limitations contributed to it receiving the lowest score in versatility.

Comfort


The BD Pipe Dream suspension system is surprisingly burly with molded shoulder and hip straps that can support heavy loads.
The BD Pipe Dream suspension system is surprisingly burly with molded shoulder and hip straps that can support heavy loads.
Comfort is king with this pack. The padded mat folds out into is its largest, and most obvious, advantage in this category. However, its suspension also deserves praise because it makes carrying this unwieldy pack pleasant. Both the shoulder and hip straps are ergonomically molded to handle heavy loads (50+ lbs). An additional side benefit of lugging around a couple extra pounds of foam is that the pointy metal objects know as climbing gear can't poke and irritate your back.

Best Applications


This is the ideal crag pack for climbers that like to take things slow. It instantly turns any location into a plush spot for a seated top-rope belay or repointing rest. Parties of three will also appreciate having a nice place to chill during the break from belay duty. In a pinch, it can also be used as a sleeping pad or a mat for yoga/other warmup stretches.

Value


At $169.99 this pack is the second most expensive reviewed. All the crag packs we tested can get your climbing gear to the base of the cliff but only the Pipe Dream can fold out to create a comfortable seat. If this feature is important to you, then the high price should be reasonable.

Conclusion


The Black Diamond Pipe Dream really shines for top roping. Be careful though  partners have been known to fight over who gets to belay next.
The Black Diamond Pipe Dream really shines for top roping. Be careful though, partners have been known to fight over who gets to belay next.
So many of our testers were psyched to try this pack. The innovative design and potential comfort it offered were appealing. However, at least half came back disappointed, not in its comfort as seat (which is great), but rather in how little they got to sit on it. On your next day climbing try to observe how much you actually get to sit down. Like some of our testers, you might discover that it just isn't that much. If it is a lot of time, then go out and get this pack because you are one of the climbers who will love it.

Jack Cramer