A small pack for rock climbing, spelunking or summitting a peak is a specialized item. Here is one such daypack worth looking at.
by Leon Pantenburg
I was not paid to do this review, and at the time of publication, Black diamond had no sponsorship relationship with SurvivalCommonSense.com.
To test a rock climbing pack, you should go rock climbing. That’s why my daughter, Mary, and I headed for Smith Rock State Park, near Terrabonne, Oregon recently.
We didn’t go climbing that day, but people come from all over the world to scale the park’s sandstone cliffs. From a distance on a nice day, the park looks like a bunch of ants are attacking the heights.
But on the other extreme, spelunkers need a similar daypack to explore caves. So shortly after the hot, sweaty Smith Rock hike, I took the Bullet 16 into some cool, dark lava tubes near Redmond, Oregon.
These wildly different activities have a lot of similarities when it comes pack design.
Here’s what to look for:
- Sturdy enough to haul ropes, lights, snacks, water and a survival kit, but small enough to be hauled through a chimney or lava tube.
Streamlined enough not to interfere with the crux lead, or to be dragged through a small opening in a cave. It needs to fit next to your back, between the top of your shoulders and waist.
Tough enough to take the abrasion and scrapping of climbing or spelunking, but light enough to be handy.
Here are the Bullet 16 specifications:
- Volume: 976 cubic inches / 16 liter
- Average Stock Weight: 13 oz / 380 g
- Tough 420d nylon and 1260d Ballistic nylon
- Comes in black, yellow or red.
Here’s what I like about the Bullet 16:
- The 20 mm webbing hipbelt isn’t too bulky. The purpose of the belt is to keep the pack from swinging away from your body on a climb, bike ride or other strenuous activity. You could also take the hipbelt off, which is what I would do for everyday use.
- Zipper front panel opening: This pocket is a great place to stash smaller items you might need to get to like sunscreen, sunglasses, bandana, snacks etc.
- Outer stash pocket: This makes for easy access to your rope, rain gear, a bottle to pee in or whatever you’re hauling.
- Mesh interior pocket with zipper and clip is a great place to store things like car keys, wallets or other items that must be secured.
- Hydration compatible: It was easy to stow my Camelback hydration system in the pack. While bladder systems are not my favorite, they are really useful when you need a drink, but can’t let go of a rock with both hands!
- Adjustable sternum straps make the pack easy to fit to virtually anyone.
- Collapsible for easy packing: This is a fantastic daypack to take along on a backpacking trip, where the idea is to set up a basecamp and take day hikes or summit a peak.
- Underground, the Bullet 16 has plenty of room for warm clothing, gloves, spare lights and batteries and food. This could end up being a big deal!
- Great for urban use. This pack would fit in easily at the mall, school or on a trip across town, without looking like some tacticool daypack.
All in all, I like this daypack.
About the only improvement I could suggest would be to add a reflectorized logo or markings on the pack. A black pack is camouflaged in shade, shadows or overcast situations. This might be what you’re looking for, but I like highly visible equipment for most outdoor excursions.
Besides, if you don’t like the logo, you could always put a piece of duct tape over the shiny surface.
The Bullet 16 retails about about $50, which is a reasonable price for quality equipment.