Black Diamond Speed 30 Pack

Matt Zia reviews the Black Diamond Speed 30 Pack, Blister Gear Review
Black Diamond Speed 30

Black Diamond Speed 30 Pack

Manufacturer Specs:

  • Volume: 30 liters (size Medium, Small is 28L and Large is 32L)
  • Stated Weight: 2 lbs 9 oz, 1.16 kg (size Medium)
  • Materials: 21 Denier nailhead nylon, 420 Denier nylon


  • reACTIV suspension with SwingArm shoulder straps and thermoformed back panel
  • Micro ice-tool PickPockets
  • Three-way haul system and ladder-lock crampon straps
  • Top-loading with removable, floating top pocket, skirt closure, and tuck-away rope strap
  • Removable, padded hipbelt with fixed webbing belt
  • Hydration compatible

MSRP: $140

Reviewer: 5’11’’, 165 lbs; Waist: 30”; Torso Length: 18”

Test Duration: 8 months, approximately 100 days

Test Locations: Wild Iris, WY; Sawatch Range, CO; Mosquito Range, CO; Elk Mountains, CO; Ouray, CO

Last season, most of Black Diamond’s backpack line, including the Speed series, got a full overhaul. I’ve spent a lot of time in the older version of the Speed 30, and although it got the job done, I always disliked several of the pack’s key features.

The new Speed 30 addresses nearly all of the issues I had with the previous version without changing my favorite parts.

The Black Diamond Speed packs are designed to be fast and light for the alpine, capable of carrying heavy loads and then stripping down to the basics.

The 30 liter-Speed is an ideal size to serve as a crag pack, a day pack for alpine climbs, an overnight pack for ultralight trips, or even a lightweight ski mountaineering pack.


The Speed 30 comes in three sizes – Small, Medium, and Large – which each have a different torso length and waist belt size.

With an 18” torso and 30” waist, I fit right between the Small and Medium according to Black Diamond’s size charts. I decided to go with the Medium since my previous Speed 30 was a Medium, and it is two liters larger than the Small because of its longer torso length.

While the Medium Speed 30 fits me pretty well, it’s very close to being a little too big for me; when I cinch the waist belt all the way down, it just barely fits my hips. Still, when the waist belt is fully tightened, loads could sit comfortably on my waist, and the shoulder straps offer enough adjustment between the load-lifter straps and the shoulder adjustment straps that it wasn’t an issue to carry up to 35 pounds.


Like the older version, the new Speed 30 still has the reACTIV suspension system. A thin, free-floating cable connects the bottom of each shoulder strap to the body of the pack internally, allowing the straps to pivot freely as you walk. This allows the pack to move with you while climbing, a feature that is especially nice when wearing it while leading or scrambling around.

I never felt like I was fighting the pack—it stayed balanced even when I wasn’t. I suppose that if you were carrying a larger load in the Speed 55, the reACTIV suspension could result in more imbalance given the heavier weight, but with light loads, I really liked this system.

Matt Zia reviews the Black Diamond Speed 30 Pack, Blister Gear Review
Matt Zia with the Black Diamond Speed 30 on the Mayflower Traverse, CO.

The Speed 30’s suspension kept the pack seated nice and high on my back. This was especially nice when wearing the pack with a harness because it still allowed me to access gear clipped to the back of my harness, such as anchor-building materials.

The padded waistbelt on the Speed 30 is removable, but the webbing belt is fixed. Although the padding on the shoulder straps and waist belt is just thin foam, I didn’t experience much rubbing or discomfort in either location. Only when I loaded up the Speed 30 with a double rack of cams weighing about 35 pounds for a three mile approach did I feel the suspension lacking. I wouldn’t recommend carrying loads over 35 pounds over long distances, but you shouldn’t have a problem with short approaches or longer days with lighter loads.


The stated volume of the Speed 30 is, as you might guess, 30 liters (the Small is 2L smaller and the Large 2L bigger).

In reality, I actually found it to function more like a 40 liter pack, which I think is due to the simplicity of its design. The Speed 30 has straight sides, which means the main compartment doesn’t have any curves that tend to create dead spaces when loading it. It’s easy to stuff the Speed 30 to bursting, whereas with some more complicated pack designs, I routinely end up with small dead pockets that I can’t stuff something into, and that decreases the pack’s functional volume.

When I loaded it to near bursting for a day of new-routing at a backcountry crag, I was able to fit a double rack of cams from .4-5 Camalots, about a dozen alpine draws, anchor gear, a helmet, harness, shoes, layers for the day, food and water. Weighing around 35 pounds, this was definitely a heavier load than I would normally carry for an alpine climb, and this was definitely at the upper end of the weight capacity for the pack’s suspension. But it was within the capability of the Speed 30.


Black Diamond’s stated weight for the Medium Speed 30 is 2lbs, 9oz, which is slightly heavier than other top-of-the-line alpine packs like the the CiloGear Dyneema 30L WorkSack that weighs just 1lb, 6oz. However, super high-end packs like the CiloGear WorkSack generally run upwards of $500. While I definitely believe light is right, I also like to keep my wallet heavy when possible, and at $140, the Speed 30 represents a great price-to-weight ratio.

NEXT: Features & Durability

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