Pack sizes are one of these personal preferences that can make or break any given product. Most of my packs are in the 35L range: big enough to fit a rope, gear, all the other essentials, and maybe even stuff the helmet inside. 25-ers are a bit more awkward because, except for the rope, everything fits but with a bit of room to spare, leaving you a slightly underfilled pack with a rope hanging off the top. I like them as ‘summit’ or climbing packs, into which I can stuff the essentials, not bother with packing them very well, but they are not necessarily a pack I would use on the approach. So, what to make of Black Diamond’s Speed 22?
It is noticeably smaller than packs in the 25L category, but this is not necessarily a bad thing: I can fit in everything I need for a day out, strap a rope to the outside, and once on-route end up with a pack that’s just the right size for climbing with.
The Speed 22 is a lightly-padded, frameless pack with no extraneous features: minimalistic tool attachments, ultra-thin compression straps, lightweight hipbelt and removable top lid. The back has just enough padding to remain comfortable during 2-hour hikes (erm, approaches) loaded down with gear, yet not so much as to add superfluous weight. The tool holders work well with everything from straight-shafted ice axes to modern technical tools, and the compression straps are a nice touch when you’re all racked up and the pack is mostly empty expect for a jacket, snacks and some water. The hipbelt — which is nothing more than a 20-mm wide strip of webbing — works well enough to alleviate some of the weight off the shoulder straps, and keeps the pack tucked close when climbing. Speaking of the shoulder straps, these are also of the lightly-padded variety, but their anatomical shaping more than makes up for the minimal foam. And even when fully loaded for a long alpine day, they maintain enough comfort to keep you from cursing.
The pack is not very strippable, though the top lid can be removed entirely, to either save some weight or just to make life easier. The lid weighs all of 59 grams, so it isn’t exactly a significant weight savings on the whole pack, which comes in at 639 grams in a size M/L (lid included). This isn’t as light as other packs of similar size, however the Speed 22 is built with more robust materials and features significantly more padding than its competitors.
In terms of functionality, there’s not much I don’t like. Actually, thinking about it, there’s nothing I don’t like about this pack. It fits my tools well, swallows all the gear I’d usually take for a day of climbing and carries it all comfortably to the base of the route. The rope strap is generously long, and the top lid straps have enough reach to cinch the lid over top of the rope. The shoulder straps sit nicely and the pack practically disappears when climbing.
Durability wise, I am conflicted. On the one hand, I managed to tear a few holes in it during its first outing last summer (a climb of the Greenwood/Jones 5.8 A1 route on Mt. Temple) but on the other, I have not been able to add any tears, or even major scratches, since (no matter how hard I try).
I have grown really fond of the Speed 22. It carries reasonably when loaded, and climbs well when mostly empty. It has survived multiple outings with barely a scratch – other than those somehow inflicted on its first trip out. Sizing is of the just-right category, being not too big to take too much stuff, but not so small as to leave shit dangling all over the place. Weight wise, it is not the lightest 20L pack I’ve seen, but it is one of the more full-featured ones. And with a $100 MSRP, it fits in with all the other 20L packs as well.
Pros: good tool attachments, compression straps, useful rope strap, useful top lid
Cons: durability — maybe (see text, above)
Overall: A great all-around pack, just the right size for light-and-fast one-day ascents of ice, mixed or alpine objectives.