Black Diamond Shadow 55, $179
At first glance, the Shadow’s 210d SilNylon fabric seems woefully lightweight for mountain warfare, but after stepping on it with a
and then watching as the fabric self-healed the punctures to nearly invisible pinholes, it made a believer out of me. The Y-rod suspension also has what it takes; we found it well suited for heavier loads, but we could also strip it out to minimize weight and bulk. The removable foam backpad opens for 45 inches of bivy insulation (albeit very thin and narrow). Having one size only is a detriment, however, and we found the fit and comfort to be very hit or miss. The lid’s back could use some anchoring, but not another fixed buckle like the ones securing the front; these tiny little gremlins were tricky to operate with bare hands, nearly impossible while wearing gloves. Finally, the
and crampon attachment systems are works in progress; the axe head pouch keeps sharp picks under wraps, but the bungee-cord/squeeze-toggle lashing is too lightweight. The crampon rigging was more secure, but the straps are spaced too far apart for some collapsed semi-rigid fangs. A very mixed bag.
Internal frame. Removable foam/bivy pad. Hydration sleeve. Bright interior.
One size only. Lid is unruly unless lashed down tight. Fixed buckles are difficult to operate. Bungee-cord axe lashes can stretch and slide.