Black Diamond Distance 15 Review
Cons: Hard to insert soft flasks, limited accessible pockets, no hydration system included
Manufacturer: Black Diamond Equipment
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Black Diamond Distance 15
|Price||$149.95 at Backcountry||Check Price at REI|
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|$180 List||$159.95 at Backcountry|
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|$89.95 at REI|
|Pros||Highly versatile, comfortable, durable, waterproof||Amazing pockets in arm's reach, carries a lot of gear||Minimalist, lightweight, accessible pockets||Comfortable, great fit, tons of easily reachable pockets, versatile||Ample storage, simple and successful design, approachable price|
|Cons||Hard to insert soft flasks, limited accessible pockets, no hydration system included||Some stiff materials on the chest, pole carry is hard to execute while moving||Doesn't carry heavy items well, some unwanted stretch||Expensive, must buy hydration bladder separately||Lower quality bladder, minor pain points over longer distances|
|Bottom Line||Built for any rugged activity in the mountains but the hydration system needs some work||A comfortable and capable choice for big mileage when gear accessibility is mission-critical||The best race vest on the market with form fitting stretch so it can store more gear comfortably||A top-notch running pack, with excellent pockets and a comfortable fit||An entry-level hydration pack for trail running with a great price and ample storage|
|Rating Categories||Black Diamond Dista...||Nathan Pinnacle 12L||Salomon S/Lab Sense...||Salomon ADV Skin 12...||REI Swiftland Hydro|
|Hydration System (15%)|
|Volume To Weight Ratio (15%)|
|Specs||Black Diamond Dista...||Nathan Pinnacle 12L||Salomon S/Lab Sense...||Salomon ADV Skin 12...||REI Swiftland Hydro|
|Weight (with included hydration vessels)||14.2 oz (pack only, no bottles/bladder included)||13.6 oz||7.9 oz||13.4 oz||13.7 oz|
|Included Liquid Capacity||1L||1.6L||1L||1L||1.5L|
|OGL Volume to Weight Ratio (bigger is better!)||1.06||0.88||1.01||0.90||0.37|
|External Storage?||Yes, paracord||Yes, kangaroo pockets||Yes, back pouch pocket||Yes, kangaroo pockets||Yes|
|Type of Water Storage||Not included||1.6L hourglass reservoir||Two 500mL bottles||Two 500 mL soft flasks (included), plus reservoir sleeve (reservoir not included)||1.5L reservoir|
|Pole Holders?||Yes||Yes||Add on||Yes||No|
Our Analysis and Test Results
Black Diamond takes inspiration from their successful climbing and skiing backpacks and brings this mountain heritage into the design of the Distance 15. This running pack is built for long mountain missions, and it has the durability and water resistance to withstand most any adventure. The 100D ripstop exterior is stiff and not form-fitting, but paired with a well-designed chassis and adjustment straps across the ribcage and chest, it makes for a comfortable, secure suspension. Dual quiver pole sleeves, two piolet attachments, ample storage in the chest pockets, and 15L of carrying capacity make it suitable for fast-packing outings, quick approaches to the crag, or commuting to work. Versatility is the name of the game with this pack, but it excels at mountain running most.
With a large blitz pocket on the back, we had immediate concerns about weight distribution and bounce with this pack. Unlike other high-volume hydration vests, the Distance 15 has no pockets across the flank and limited storage on the shoulder straps. It looks more like a conventional daypack for hiking. Looks is where that observation ends, however, as Black Diamond managed to design an adjustment system that holds the pack securely and comfortably in place while running with a significant load.
We found that this pack's comfort stems from the wide shoulder straps that help distribute weight and the positioning and shape of the adjustment system on the ribcage. Instead of simply using webbing or continuing a stretch material across the flank, it features highly reinforced breathable fabric held snug with strong elastic cord — a design that allows for ample adjustments and compression.
Elastic closures across the sternum can be repositioned to the best point of comfort, accommodating more body types. Though, more than once, we tightened the sternum straps as much as we could and still wanted a snugger fit. While this is a trend with many packs that incorporate soft flasks on the chest, the sternum straps need to have more adjustability or the elastic cording on the sides needs to be easier to make minor changes while on the move. Despite these small shortcomings, we appreciate how easy this pack is to throw over the shoulder, unlike many hydration packs that you have to contort your body to get into. Because of this, we found ourselves reaching for it time and time again, which reinforces its degree of comfort. If a pack isn't comfortable, you won't use it.
It would be unfair to credit this pack with having more features than other hydration packs for running, as it is clearly designed for more than just running. While we loved the easy storage of collapsable poles in the pole sleeves, it's important to note that the pack has to be removed to do so. Their intended use is more rooted in stowing the poles for hand over hand climbing, not quick storage for running down a blistering descent.
In addition to pole sleeves, the Distance 15 is equipped to carry two ice axes, appropriate for those of you who also enjoy running and scrambling in a climbing helmet. In harsh conditions, reflective accents and a safety whistle can come in handy too. We appreciate the thought behind the zippered pockets on the shoulder straps, one for quick deployment of a rain or wind layer and one for keys, headlamp, or micro-trash. All of the design features appear to integrate with other gear that Black Diamond positions for mountain running, including two soft flask pockets on the chest.
Considering how well this pack is designed, the hydration system and compatibility are a letdown. First and foremost, Black Diamond doesn't include soft flasks or a bladder with the purchase of the pack, but we tracked down some of their soft flasks and tried a variety of others too. Regardless of the soft flasks we sampled, the chest pockets are too tight at the top to swiftly refill bottles and slide them back in. and if you have any food or readily accessible gear in these pockets, it makes it all the more challenging.
That is part one. Our second gripe with the hydration system design is that the soft flasks end up being positioned well below the mouth, requiring some serious neck strain (and potential for tripping) when we wanted to hydrate on the go. Inside the main compartment is a bladder sleeve with an attachment to keep it upright and a port for the tube to run out from the pocket and route along the shoulder straps. This option may be easier to use than the soft flask pockets on the chest. We hope to see more consideration to this area in the next iteration of this pack, as we are in love with so much that it has to offer.
Volume to Weight Ratio
At first glance, the Distance 15 scored very highly on the volume to weight ratio, but consider that most other packs include soft flasks or a bladder with the pack. Still, this pack is featherweight for a 15L running pack that is far more durable than the standard. We have a feeling that between the volume of this pack and its durability, users will love how light it is and how much gear weight it can carry.
A large, fully waterproof main compartment with a blitz opening (quick pull) simplifies accessing all of the gear you need to keep dry. Inside that main compartment is a mesh zipper pocket for storing valuables. Six other pockets are located on the shoulder straps, with a secured zipper pocket higher up on each shoulder and two mesh pockets on each strap intended for snacks, headlamp, gloves, and soft flasks. We love this design for fast-packing and scrambling; however, we wish the mesh pockets on the chest were more spacious.
There is inherent value in a pack as versatile as the Distance 15 because you will likely use it for far more than just running. With a comfortable and ergonomic shape and constructed of durable materials, you can carry anything that will fit in this 15L bag. It has gotten more daily use than any of the other bags we've tested, so the value should be apparent.
Capable, durable, and comfortable. It's an anomaly for a 15L pack with this shape to carry so well and run as smoothly as it does. While we are not entirely thrilled with the hydration system, we are confident that the Black Diamond Distance 15 will perform for the runner looking for longer and more rugged mountain missions.
— Jeff Colt