The new Black Diamond Epic 45 is a top-loaded rock & alpine workhorse, designed to be used on any steep endeavour. It features Black Diamond’s removable ergoACTIV suspension system, ice tool storage, a detachable floating top pocket and is also hydration compatible. Though Autumn to Winter, we’ve taken the Epic 45 cragging, hiking and finally to alps to see how it performed.
Comfort & Fit
There are many elements to how a pack fits – so let’s start with the frame: The Epic 45 comes with a removable frame which keeps the pack in a very ergonomic, slightly curved shape. The frame fits very well indeed (6’1′ average build male), whilst the cut channel helped reduce sweat – although it did not completely alleviate it.
The firm although padded hip-belt and main shoulder straps are also comfortable, I did find (this may be a personal issue) the shoulder straps pinched my neck every so slightly when the pack was new, and also when it is very lightly loaded – but over a months use this reduced and is not so noticeable at the time of writing. It’s probably important to stress how important getting the bag fitted correctly is, small adjustments make a big difference over long hikes, so do play around with the webbing.
The ergoACTIV system is a nice feature – especially on a pack like this, where you might be having to be a bit more flexible (when scrambling for instance) the suspension system moves independently with your helps allowing you to keep the pack tightly fitted without constricting (or rubbing) as you move.
Build Quality & Durability
The Epic 45 is built like a tank! We’ve had many packs over the years, some often felt flimsy and not up to much – but as soon as you handle the Epic pack you feel it’s ready for anything. The 420d nylon is a heavy duty fabric, that won’t rip if snagged on rocks or sharp edges. The buckles, webbing and straps also have a feeling of quality to them without being overly heavy (although the combined hardcore build of this bag has made it on the heavy side at 1.55kg/medium). For ultralight day ascents, it could be worth compromising the build quality with a lighter pack, but for day-to-day use the Epic series is going to last a long time.
Features & Storage
The Epic pack is a simple pack, the top loaded main compartment features a large pocket for a water reservoir, this main compartment has a nice drawstring shutter to it (with plenty of spare material) plus a strap for storing a rope over the top. The floating top pocket is great size – with plenty of room to store essentials that you need to get to quickly – this, and the suspension system can be removed completely if you want to lighten the pack and just use the main compartment (which really adds to the versatility of this pack). All buckles and straps are easily adjusted with gloves on.
The face of the pack feature ice-tool pockets (for the sharp ends) and velcro loops to hold everything in place, these also doubled up quite nicely for hiking pole storage. The strapping to the floating pocket and the side adjustments mean theres also plenty of space to store items outside the pack if you quickly want to stash a jacket. We did miss a drinks bottle holder on the side – that would have been nice to have.
For a days cragging, the 45 litre capacity was just enough to cram all the hardware, harnesses, shoes, rope and food for the day. We wouldn’t go any smaller, but if you’re sharing the load or need something a little less bulky the Epic comes in a 35 litre version too.
If you’re a climber looking for a well made, rugged and well designed pack the Epic ticks all the boxes. It will cater for the hike to the wall, and the climb up it. It’s thick skin and simple layout appealed the most to us, and it’s become our go-to pack for day adventures, plus… It JUST fits on as EasyJet carry on. Just.