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Black Diamond Ascent Speed 40

Review by Matt Heason
Monday 16th February 2009


The Ascent Speed 40 from Black Diamond
 
BD don't pull any punches in their introduction to the Ascent series of impressive-looking lightweight climbing packs:

"All-purpose, spartan rucksacks for mountain use, the top-loading Speed 40 and 30 are perfect choices for all-day missions in the Rockies, Sierras or White Mountains. The Speed 40, designed with a deluxe V-Lite suspension, can be pared down for light-and-fast summit pushes by removing the pack’s top pocket and padded hip belt, while the 30 can be stripped to flyweight class thanks to its removable top pocket, hip belt, framesheet and stay. Both the 40 and 30 are built with water-shedding 210d nylon (plus 400d on high-abrasion areas), have dual ice axe attachments, crampon patches, are hydration compatible, and come in multiple torso lengths."

PlanetFear have been using the Ascent Speed for several months, and we are fully convinced of its high-performance capabilities as an ultralight climbing pack, although not of the overall logic of the design. This is a very lightweight pack, and incredibly so when stripped down to its basics without the top pocket and hip belt, but we have some fairly major gripes.

The top pocket is attached to the main body by means of a pair of bouldering-mat style non-fastening buckles. Consequently, because they are not actually fastened the lid has a tendency to detach itself from the body on at least one of the buckles (sometimes both!) pretty much every time you open it up. This is a bit like supplying a car with doors that come off every time you open them. Sure, it makes for a lightweight end product when you deliberately take it off, but it’s frustrating for the vast majority of the time. Why did they not put on some standard fastenable clips instead? 

Another recent review states that it’s a shame that the lid is not extendable. The model that I tested certainly is, but here again the method of attachment irritates. When you actually want to undo one of the buckles the small lip catches on the webbing, making it really fiddly to undo (the opposite of the above-mentioned problem)! Another easy fix with a fastenable and adjustable buckle / strap combination.
 
Gripes aside, how else did it fair? The lid pocket is nice and roomy, with zips that open all the way around the sides of the lid to give easy access for large guidebooks etc (the downslide is that you have to be a little careful not to spill stuff out when opening). So far it seems reasonably durable and watertight, though I suspect that the lightweight nature of the material will mean that both of these characteristics will weaken over time. The ice axe attachments are well designed (as you’d hope from BD), with ample strapping. However, there is no external crampon storage. A couple of compression straps on each side are very useful additions, even on such a small sack.

There are both 40 and 30 litre models, in either yellow, black or orange. Retails at £75 (30l). Weight 1.02kg (584g stripped) (30l)

Click here to browse products from Black Diamond available from the planetFear shop.

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