Again, the Mission 75 is essentially a scaled-up version of BD’s Speed series of packs, and shares many of the same features, including ice axe and crampon attachments, and removable straps. (For more details on those features, see our Speed 30 review.
Along with its larger size and greater load capacity, the Mission 75 makes two other significant changes. It has a much larger brain with additional pockets, and the main compartment has a side zipper running the height of the pack to allow for interior access. While the additional size in the brain was welcome, I found the side zipper had only limited usefulness.
The brain on the Mission 75 is cavernous. Although Black Diamond does not state a specific volume for it, based on my experience, I would guess it is nearly 10 liters. I was able to comfortably fit a 1L water bottle, a half liter bowl, snacks, med-kit, maps, gloves, sunglasses, and assorted other small daily items in the brain.
The brain has three pockets, one main pocket, one on the underside, and a small pocket on the inside of the main pocket. The zipper on the main pocket is L-shaped and runs across the front of the brain and down the side.
I have never seen a similar zipper on a pack, and I am now a big fan. The only thing I would change about the main pocket zipper is that I’d like to see added another slider to allow for opening from either end, not just one.
The brain also has a set of four gear loops on top; one on each corner. The pack does not come with a set of straps for the gear loops, but it is easy enough to thread the loops with elastic cord to strap a helmet or other bulky items on top of the brain.
I rarely used the side zipper except when the pack was nearly empty—e.g., when I used it as a day pack on summit attempts. Although the zipper was sometimes handy to access a rain jacket quickly, the top closure system is simple and quick enough in my opinion to make the zipper-access unnecessary.
When the pack was fully loaded, the side zipper stretched taut, making both unzipping and re-zipping extremely difficult.
I used the Mission 75 for about 40 days this summer while working for Outward Bound. I used it as my work pack—as a big load hauler, and as a day pack for summit attempts.
The pack did everything I asked it to, whether that was carrying sixty pounds of gear and food for twelve days, or cinching down with just a med kit and some layers when leading technical snow couloirs.
With the waist belt on, the pack carried sixty pounds easily, but with it removed, the pack stayed out of the way of a harness, which is a handy feature that I haven’t experienced before with such a large pack.
The versatility of the Mission 75 was much appreciated, since it made packing and hiking easy on long hiking days, but also allowed me to make day trips unencumbered by excessive weight on my back.
Despite the lack of external pockets for things like water bottles, I never wished I had pockets, mostly because of the massive size of the brain which still allowed for easy access to water and snacks.
The Mission 75 is without a doubt the most streamlined large pack I’ve ever used. Unlike packs with more accoutrements, I did not snag the pack on stray branches or trees even when bushwhacking through dense deadfall for hours on end.
I’ve now worked with five co-instructors who use the Mission 75, and have logged a lot of days and miles in it and other packs. None of them have any major complaints about the Mission 75.
The Mission 75 held up remarkably well given its size and its fabric material. (The pack is built with the same 420D nail-head nylon as the Speed 30, and I did not see any difference in durability between the two packs.)
The only major scuffing on the Mission 75 occurred on the bottom of the pack, right where every pack I’ve ever owned has worn first. The fabric on the Mission 75 does not feel as durable to the touch as the VX-21 used on packs like the Wild Things Andinista or Cilo Gear 75L Worksack, but it will take longer than 40 days to determine if that tactile impression holds up in the real world. (I know several people who still use their ten-year-old Andinista packs).
I am mildly concerned about the durability of the side zipper on the pack. When the pack is loaded, the zipper does not take any stress thanks to the compression strap that runs across it, but I noticed the early stages of the stitching on the sides of the zipper pulling apart. Although I think the zipper is useful for accessing gear when the pack is lightly loaded, I never used it when the pack was fully loaded, since re-zipping it was too much of a struggle
The Black Diamond Mission 75 is an excellent big load hauler that climbs extremely well for its size. For expeditions involving some climbing, the Mission 75 is a great choice; it is both lighter and less expensive than many other expedition alpine packs, with no significant trade-off in durability.
If backpacking is your only objective, packs with an even heavier suspension system will offer greater comfort in carrying loads over sixty pounds. But if your objectives require any climbing, the Mission 75 will carry all of your stuff to the base, then cinch down to make the ascent easy.