Black Diamond has a simple approach to making ski and snowboard packs: Make them lean, light and affordable with just the right amount of essential features. With the introduction of the SlidePack, they’ve nailed it.
The SlidePack (formerly known as the SwitchPack) is built for day trips into the backcountry but can even be used for resort yo-yoing. I didn’t think that it would hold up for a LONG day trip, particularly on my hut trip in the Tetons, but I was pleasantly surprised. Weighing in at only 2lbs 4oz, it was a great pack for long days in the backcountry. I didn’t take notice that it boasts a mere 1200 cu inches of volume until analyzing the specs for this review. “No way, just 1200 cu inches?” I thought. Indeed, I had a lot of gear along on my tours for only 1200 cu inches of space. Let’s see, on a typical day during my hut trip I had:
- Shovel, probe, small snow science kit
- Small first aid supplies with extra hand warmers, glove liners and a space blanket
- 70 oz. camelbak bladder
- 1 Nalgene bottle (1 liter) with insulating sleeve
- Marmot windshirt
- Lunch (usually Mountain House granola, cheese, an orange, crackers, trail mix, etc)
- Power food: Clif bar or two, Clif shot or two
- Goggles & neck gaiter
- Head lamp, spare batteries, sunscreen, lip balm, small repair kit (duct tape, wire, pole basket, ski strap, etc)
- Digital camera
Of course I had my skins along, but fortunately for me my Gore-tex shell has two very large vent pockets, which I like to use for storage of my skins while descending. I think I could have forced them into the shovel pocket with the shovel if I really needed to store them in the pack. BUT, for only 1200 cu in I was able to haul a fair amount of gear knowing that I was in the Tetons and would be a good distance from the hut at any point in the day.
Sure this pack has 4 pockets for gear storage, but it’s the features within the pockets that are the real deal. As with most packs these days, the SlidePack has internal storage for the probe and shovel handle so you’re not fighting these things every time you dig into the pack. The cool thing is there are 2 small 6″ tall sleeve inserts on the bottom of the main compartment (one on each side) and a shock cord with a sliding cinch to attach to the top of the probe or shovel handle. Why is this so cool? Saves weight by not having a full sleeve. Another similar example is the integration of the bottom ski slots (for A-Frame style carrying) into the snowboard carry strap which also acts as a compression strap for the pack. (See above photo) There are multiple examples of this kind of thoughtful design throughout the pack. This pack wasn’t just thrown together because BD needed another item to sell or to fill the product line. It was designed with a number of specific needs in mind.
In The Backcountry
The pack can be a bit short for the taller torso folks like myself. I had to do some additional adjusting for it to ride comfortably and in the right spot. Once I got it dialed, it fit like a glove. Its streamline and sleek design rides quite well going uphill or down.
The suspension system is merely a padded center with mesh fabric and another 1/4″ foam insert that covers the entire back. It was adequate for the pack’s size. Incidentally, this foam piece can be pulled out and substitutes as a nice seat insulator when we stopped for lunch high on a ridge one day. The shoulder straps have elastic loops to keep the hydration tube in place.
The exterior gear pocket is protected by a waterproof zipper, providing easy access to sunscreen, a Clif bar, or other small items. A larger gear pocket is accessed inside the main compartment. I think the zipper placement should be a bit lower on this pocket and as well the pocket should be adjusted down a bit to fit precisely in the curvature of the shovel. The way it sits the opening interferes somewhat with the top of the shovel where the shovel arm inserts into the blade.
The shovel pocket flap adequately covers the pocket with just the shovel inside, but when I stuffed my gloves, hat and goggles in as well, the flap wasn’t large enough to fully cover these items. As a result, snow found it’s way into the shovel pocket and into my gloves. The flap should be extended a minimum of 1″ longer.
The A-Frame carry system is not my preferred method to carry skis when hiking. However, the SlidePack was built to accommodate all widths of skis, even my Head Monster 85. The upper straps are simple cordura straps. One cool thing about the upper straps is the placement. They were high enough on the pack to strap the binding toe piece, but I was also able to roll my gortex shell up and strap it over the top of the pack, securing it using the top A-frame straps. I’m not sure if this was a designed use, but it worked well for me when I didn’t need the shell but wanted it very handy while skinning uphill.
Despite my high standards and the couple things I have noted here which should be addressed, we here at FeedTheHabit.com feel that this pack is the goods! Fit well, rode well, ample gear storage without the bulk, multiple storage pockets and a weight saving design. The best part about this pack is the price, only $78.50. Sounds too good to be true.
If you are looking for a lightweight simple day pack primarily for backcountry use with a small dose of resort riding that won’t break your wallet’s back, look no further than the SlidePack.