Backpacks are a tricky thing – you don’t want too many bells and whistles because they’ll just increase the weight, but you don’t want a garbage bag either. I tend to prefer those packs that fall into the middle of the road: just enough straps to keep everything in place but without dozens of pockets, external cords and an espresso machine. Utah-based Black Diamond offers about 70 different packs so most likely there’s something for everyone in its quiver. (And that doesn’t include the Gregory line of backpacks, which parent company Black Diamond Inc. owns.) In the case of the newly launched Black Diamond Element line, the company is looking to appeal to the “minimalist-minded weekend backpacker” who is looking for a “streamlined and lightweight top-loader.” The Element comes in a 45-litre and a 60-litre option and the equivalent line in the female-specific category is called “Elixir.” Both models feature Black Diamond’s proprietary “reACTIV” suspension system and “SwingArm” shoulder straps that the company says articulate and move with you while you’re hiking over uneven terrain, thus reducing fatigue. When I looked more closely into this system, I learned that what the company is trying to do is have certain parts of the pack move with your body rather than remaining static so that when you bounce and swivel over rocks and roots, the entire load of the pack isn’t forced to move with you. The SwingArm straps have a stainless steel cable running through them that ensures they remain relatively friction free while allowing for greater movement and the waist belt isn’t affixed to any part of the frame, which means it too can move freely without bringing the entire weight of the pack along for the ride.
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