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Backpacker Magazine – April 2009

Gear Guide 2009: Black Diamond RPM Review

Run, climb or ski with the low profile Black Diamond RPM pack.

by: Steve Howe

Black Diamond RPM (
Black Diamond RPM (

Gear Guide 2009: More Daypacks
Search through our extensive library for more reviews.

Best for Minimalists
"Superlight, stable, and low profile" is how our tester described this streamlined top-loader after using it for fast-paced hikes around Idaho's Boise Foothills. It's just large enough to swallow a rack and rope, or all of your essentials and clothing for a big day in the mountains. It carried 10 pounds securely for trail running, and 20 to 25 pounds for normal hiking and scrambling, thanks to its flexible backpanel and amply padded shoulder straps.

The removable webbing hipbelt is mostly for stability, not load transfer. The pack profile is narrow enough that elbow banging is a non-issue, even for cross-country skiers. There are no outside pockets, just two inside the main packbag (one on each side), and another in the lid, with an external bungee for holding an extra layer. $100; 1,709 cu. in.; 1 lb. 4 oz.

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Reader Rating: -


Jun 05, 2009

Excellent alpine pack. I bought it for climbing in the Sierra. Light, sturdy and adjusts/fits well. I put 20# in it in the store and walked around for awhile and it passed my comfort and carry tests. It easily gulped down a 9.4, 60m rope and a substantial rack (even threw in the #6 BD cam for kicks)and had a bit of room left and I didn't feel the hardware poking me in the back. The padding on both the torso and straps is great.
Once home,I removed the ice axe holsters (top & bottom) to reduce weight and material. They go back on easily enough. I cut off the plastic button where the bungee on the back of the pack is and restrung the bungee and put a simple cordlock on it-now it cinches better for strapping on a sleeping pad or jacket. I cut off the "handle" strap that is right behind one's neck when wearing it. Who carries a backpack any way? It's a BACKpack, not a friekin' suitcase.
I cut a horizontal slit in the inside, posterior side of the pack. This gave me an additional pocket for sorting gear (I'll only put really light stuff here, i.e.-storm shell or socks, since it's far from my spine/ center of gravity) without adding weight since the material there is doubled.
I removed the thin waist belt it came with and re-engineered it with a much wider waist belt from an old day pack. This is much, much more comfortable and for those who know how to fit their packs, it's the hips that should bear the brunt of the weight, not the shoulders. I didn't use a padded belt, just wider, and I used velcro on the ends attaching it to the pack, so the belt is easily removable. This is quite favorable to the skinny belt that came with the pack and added trivial mass, especially after all the stuff I cut off the pack. I always alter my gear to make it work for me and make it easily adjustable to various conditions.
I removed the plastic hydration tube clip. The straps have loops that the hydration tube goes through, so this plastic jobby is superfluous. The 2 mesh water bottle/tent pole pockets are run of the mill and I'd recommend having a tie in loop and clipping any water bottles to the pack if you use these mesh pockets. I've lost bottles when the little pockets burp out your bottle when you lean over to tie a shoe, climb over a fallen tree, etc.
I like how it has 2 zippered pockets in the lid-one on top and one underneath-to store things you're likely to need soon on the outside and things you need to carry but not access til later (ID, credit card, car key, etc.) in the little pocket under the lid. It even has a little plastic clip to attach your car key or whatthehellever else to. I'm thinking about cutting that little clip out though ;)
Remember my light is right, Outdoors Law of Conservation of Mass; those who do not count grams do not know that grams count...


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