Gear Review: Black Diamond EXL Backpack

A 20-liter pack that offers all-day comfort.


When choosing a small daypack, I care more about performance and durability than rock-bottom weight, since my load won’t go much over 10 pounds regardless. The 20-liter EXL delivers outstanding all-day comfort, thanks to a stiff back panel and sliding shoulder straps that give slightly as your body moves. The 210- and 400-denier nylon fabrics withstood rock scrapes; even the stretch pockets proved more durable than average. Bonus: Adjustable straps with quick-release buckles let you expand the stretchy front pocket. Bummer: Those straps must be unbuckled when you want full access to the main compartment. $100; 1 lb. 8 oz.; one size;

Best For

Climbers and hikers who want a fast-and-light daypack that doesn’t skimp on features

Tester Data

» Dennis Lewon

» Duration Sept. to Dec.

» Locales/conditions CO, CA; on- and off-trail

» “The retractable pole-carrying strap slips away when not in use, and three small, zippered stash pockets enhance organization.”