Black Diamond Speed 40 Review
Cons: Less features, some wonky strap designs
Manufacturer: Black Diamond Equipment
Compare to Similar Products
Black Diamond Speed 40
Check Price at REI
$195.00 at REI
|$110 List||$224.95 at Backcountry|
Compare at 2 sellers
|$144.00 at Backcountry|
Compare at 2 sellers
|Pros||Versatile, simple, durable, well-priced||Comfortable, affordable, durable, fully featured||Lightweight, simple, excellent pack for steep, technical terrain||Durable, versatile, fully featured for all mountain pursuits||Durable, comfortable, optimized for ski mountaineering|
|Cons||Less features, some wonky strap designs||Not as lightweight as some packs||Less durable, less versatile, no side straps||Closure system limits ability to overstuff, larger size less ideal for more technical routes||Heavier, novel front access zipper can be difficult to use|
|Bottom Line||This is a pack-of-all-trades well suited to a variety of mountaineering pursuits||This is an excellent pack for most mountaineering uses, excelling in comfort and versatility in all alpine terrain||This is an excellent on-route climbing pack for challenging steep terrain in the mountains||The Mutant series has been a favorite, and the 52-liter version fills an excellent niche for colder and longer climbs||The durability and feature set of this pack make it particularly well suited to ski mountaineering|
|Rating Categories||Black Diamond Speed 40||Osprey Mutant 38||Black Diamond Blitz...||Osprey Mutant 52L||Ortovox Peak Light 32L|
|Weight to Volume Ratio (20%)|
|Specs||Black Diamond Speed 40||Osprey Mutant 38||Black Diamond Blitz...||Osprey Mutant 52L||Ortovox Peak Light 32L|
|Measured Volume (liters)||45||37||29||47||30|
|Measured Weight (pounds)||2.93||2.84 (without lid), 3.25 (with lid)||1.09||4.19||2.53|
|Measured Weight (grams)||1330||1288.2||496.1||1899.4||1148.2|
|Weight to Volume Ratio (grams per liter)||29.56||34.82||17.11||40.41||38.27|
|Frame Type||Removable foam and plastic framesheet with 3 stays||Inner framesheet with aluminum stays||Foam pad||Removable framesheet and dual stays||Swiss Wooltec knit back construction|
|Fabric||210d ripstop main, 420d abrasion||210D nylon with 420HD nylon packcloth on bottom||Dynex ripstop||210D High Tenacity Nylon||Nylon 420D Oxford|
|Pockets||1 main, 2 zippered lid, 1 internal hydration||1 zippered lid||1 main compartment, 1 waterproof top lid, 1 internal zippered||2 zippered lid||1 lid with 2 compartments, 1 hip belt pocket|
|Hip Belt?||Yes - padding removable, not belt||Yes - reverse wrap hybrid EVA foam w/ gear loops and ice clipper holsters||Yes - removable webbing belt||Yes- removable||Yes - removable hip belt|
|Removable Suspension Padding?||Yes||Removable framesheet and/or dual stays||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Lid?||Yes - removable||Yes - removable with stowable FlapJacket for lidless use||Yes - removable||Yes||Yes|
|Hydration System Compatible?||Yes||Yes - internal pouch with buckled hanging loop||Yes||Yes||Yes|
Our Analysis and Test Results
The Black Diamond Speed series of packs has been a popular and dependable design for many years. The 40 liter hits the sweet spot for versatility and carrying comfort, making it a great option for multiple kinds of endeavors.
The Speed 40 is a highly versatile mountaineering backpack. We found it to be useful for all the mountain adventures we could dream up, except for longer expeditions — though you still might want to bring it as your separate on-route pack to carry while at a basecamp in Alaska for a few weeks. For example.
The Speed 40 has a narrower overall profile than the 50, which seems obvious, but in our experience, this seemingly minor difference in how the 40 is scaled down made a whole world of difference. It carries well enough to be the go-to of certain conspicuous IFMGA guides that our reviewers work with, even for 4-day long ski mountaineering trips. Obviously, your packing skills must be impeccable, and your personal kit must be very lightweight (as well as that of your partners, so they don't offload anything on you!), but this pack rides nicely enough to allow you to enjoy your turns in the often variable snow conditions in the mountains.
We found this pack to be useful for alpine climbing first and foremost. It is a great size for mountaineering trips of 1-4 days and can be stripped down for a fast-and-light summit attempt as well. The durability ensures its utility for regular rock cragging sessions, and the size and features allow for ease of use when ice climbing and even ski mountaineering.
Weight to Volume Ratio
The Speed 40 doesn't steal the show in this category, but it is certainly above average. This pack is reasonably simple and made of light but durable fabrics. Some added padding at the bottom of the pack and three layers of material in the back panel could be the main sources of added weight compared to other packs in the same size category.
Despite the slightly lower score here, this 40-liter version of the Speed series is by far our favorite for versatility, as well as the carrying comfort, discussed next.
The Speed 40 has excellent suspension and a sturdy back panel.
As mentioned above, there are essentially three layers in the back panel lending to a firm and supportive, yet reasonably flexible, frame: there's the foam in the backpack itself, another layer of removable foam, and a firm plastic support panel with three stays. Most packs we like have two stays, one is usually too weak, but three is unusual! This modular design allows you to choose the amount of support you want. And while it is very supportive and strong enough to haul heavier loads to basecamp, it remains flexible enough to mold to your back and allow for more technical climbing movements as well.
The other thing we think contributes to the overall carrying comfort of this pack is its size. This seems like a bit of a cop-out because arguably any pack which is smaller than another "should" be more comfortable than the bigger one, right? Not so. The 40-liter size certainly seems to be the sweet spot — larger, and it seems increasingly difficult to make a comfortable and versatile pack. However, there's another detail — the girth of the pack. This version is a narrower cylinder which helps to keep your center of gravity closer to normal.
Durable and lightweight, the Speed 40 is made of both 210 and 420 denier fabric. This is a simple pack that is well made and reliable. The reinforced bottom is great for when you're cragging, your rack is in the bottom of your pack, and you have a habit of dropping your pack on the ground… why so specific, you ask? Some lessons are hard-learned…
This is also a great pack to be used as a "workhorse" due to its lower cost. This is further discussed in the Value section below, but the low cost plus the durability means that we felt less stress around working this pack hard in the mountains, at the crag, and even for backpacking — also elevating its versatility. Overall, this is a durable pack that will last for years and is useful for a broad range of mountain activities, from ski mountaineering and ice climbing to cragging.
The Speed 40 is a simple cylinder with a relatively low (narrow) profile which makes it perform well on technical climbs. It extends upward to accommodate extra gear for the haul to basecamp, has side straps for gear, and will accommodate skis in an A-frame carry. It has ice axe and tool attachments. And the hip belt and part of the frame can be removed to strip it down for fast-and-light summit bids, but if you keep the padded hip belt on, you'll have an ice clipper sleeve and a gear loop to keep gear handy — this is a favorite for glacier mountaineering where you're walking for a long time on a rope and want to be ready for crevasse rescue at any time. Excellent!
The simplicity and streamlined features really set this pack apart. It is a no-frills cylinder with a couple of extra straps for your sharp items (crampons, axe or tools, skis) or bulky and light gear (sleeping pad). And that's it.
This pack is an excellent value. It is durable, versatile, comfortable, lightweight… all the things you want in a solid backpack. And the price tag is impressively low for the amount of use you're likely to get out of it. As we discussed in the Durability section above, this low price combined with durability makes this pack a notably low-stress workhorse for a variety of mountain adventures. Suffice it say, we find this a high-value product.
The Speed 40 is an impressive mountaineering backpack — no wonder it has been around for so long and includes a series of packs from 22 to 50 liters — and there's even a zippered top access variation as well. It may not excel in any one of our metrics as much as some other packs in our review, but the strong performance across the board makes this a great investment and likely a quiver-of-one pack for many mountaineers. If you're on the hunt for the best all-rounder, this is the one we recommend.
— Lyra Pierotti
Ad-free. Influence-free. Powered by Testing.
GearLab is founded on the principle of honest, objective, reviews. Our experts test thousands of products each year using thoughtful test plans that bring out key performance differences between competing products. And, to assure complete independence, we buy all the products we test ourselves. No cherry-picked units sent by manufacturers. No sponsored content. No ads. Just real, honest, side-by-side testing and comparison.Learn More