ProView – Black Diamond Distance 15 Backpack
The oddball of the bunch. Is it a vest, a pack, or an overbuilt seat pad? The answer, unexpectedly, is all of the above. This pack has quickly become what I grab first for the majority of my missions.
Black Diamond Distance 15 Backpack
Product Description: Engineered to redefine your line by giving you the ability to blend mountain terrain and activities, the Distance 15 is a hybrid pack that transcends barriers. By combining running-vest technology with our award-winning pack design, the Distance 15 moves with you while you run yet carries alpine gear with purpose-built features, so you have the gear you need when the trail ends, and the climbing begins. Built from our UHMWP 10x Ripstop Yarns—the same burly material we use in our climbing dogbones and Ultralight Camalots—the Distance fabric is literally 10-times stronger than steel per weight, while remaining so light it floats in water. The shoulder strap harness system utilizes our Stitch-less Edge Taping Technology—meaning the shoulder strap edge binding is fully edge taped instead of sewn, more like today’s innovative sportswear then a traditional running backpack—which allows for superior comfort, movement, and weight reduction.
Offer price: MSRP: $149.95
After 150 plus miles of pushing the Black Diamond Distance 15 to its limit, I’ve come away a happy runner. The fit, features, and durability of the pack mostly exceed my expectations. From the abrasive effects of central Oregon peaks to saturating Oregon rain, and freezing alpine storms atop Mt. Hood, the Distance 15 has remained true to its promised performance.
- Great fit
- Durable outer material
- Relatively light
- Simple, effective design
- Competitive price
- The metal dogbones for ice pick carry vastly expands the pack’s practicality
- Front pockets hold more than expected
- Fully loaded front pockets bounce less than expected
- Not completely waterproof
- Grab handle tore off
- Can be finicky to fit when fully weighted
- Metal dogbones are finicky with some ice pick heads
- Elastic materials lost utility in freezing conditions
- No clear environmental considerations used in production
The distance I had covered was much less than the distance I had yet to cover. My feet ached, my heart rate was high, and then the sky broke open with a torrent of unexpected rain. Still, the next 13 miles of running through Oregon’s alpine forests and rocky peaks were the best yet, and I had the Black Diamond Distance 15 to thank.
After a series of long-distance runs consistently boiled down to a lack of necessary gear, I decided it was time to invest in a running pack. The fit of some other options didn’t suit me, and I knew I would be seeking missions with the potential for scrambling, climbing, and even snow travel. In came the Distance 15 to carry my concerns away, and that it has.
The runs have become longer, the missions more demanding, and time after time I find the Distance suiting my desires better than any other pack in the arsenal. It’s essential to travel light and fast while never sacrificing essentials like food, water, and navigation. Thus, an earnest running pack becomes less of a luxury, and more of a necessity. For me, the Distance 15 is consistently the only pack I consider.
The Distance 15’s design shows what it was purpose-built to do: create seamless interchangeability between long-distance running and alpine missions. A large synch and clip top entrance makes for efficient packing and gear retrieval. Internal pockets improve the organization as well. Side compression straps compress gear, improving wearability, and hold piolet shafts in place. Two metal dogbones on the front of the pack secure your picks but can be finicky with some pick heads, and near impossible to use with frozen fingers. Two trekking pole carry sleeves extend down either side of the pack, making pole retrieval extremely easy. Four synch-ready front pockets, plus two zippered front pockets, allow for an absurd amount of gear to comfortably fit upfront on longer runs. Various subtle additions such as an in-pocket whistle and keychain clip further reflect the full attention to detail in every inch of the pack.
In hybrid running packs like the Distance 15, fit and durability tend to go hand in hand. I’ve found the Distance to fit like a second shirt, assisted immensely by elastic chords on either side that help the pack to hug you. Buy the wrong size, though, and the pack has the potential to feel either floppy or eager to slide up your side. I initially picked a pack that was too small and found it would shift up my back, making for a much less comfortable run.
The Distance 15 hasn’t shown a single sign of durability concern aside from the top carry loop tearing off abruptly while I was carrying some gear on a run. Unexpected and disappointing, but overall not a fair reflection of the pack’s durability after more than a hundred miles of use in extreme environments. I expected to see the elastic vest material fall apart, but it still looks and feels new.
Pushing this pack to its limit actually forced me to get creative. Long distance runs, and a series of moderate scrambles proved that the Distance performs at a high level. It’s lightweight, durable, and form fitting even with gear, so where might it falter? Its biggest challenge came on a climb up Mt. Hood with freezing conditions and unwavering wind. Several of the elastic portions of the pack froze, making it hard to adequately tighten for fit, or even open the lid to get at my extra layers. I’ve also had the pack let in some water despite its waterproof rating, but only in very heavy rain. Aside from during a few extreme conditions, the Distance performed exceptionally in every environment it was put in.
Friendliness to Earth
Black Diamond has become an active steward of the outdoors through advocation and engagement. However, there is little to no indication that sustainable systems are actively employed in the production of gear like the Distance 15.
The Final Word
The Distance 15 is the perfect companion pack for long days running or scrambling in the alpine. A strong set of features that allow the pack to fit into a range of activities, plus performance to match, make the Distance 15 a compelling choice. The top handle and elastic could be improved to handle more extreme conditions and use, but little else clearly needs to be improved.
About the Gear Tester
Sam is an adventure photographer, mountaineer, and backpacker that learned to crawl down a trail before he could walk. With aspirations of using his degree in marketing to work within the outdoor industry, Sam hopes to help promote more sustainable initiatives for outdoor companies. In his free time, Sam takes to the mountains in whatever capacity the weather allows, usually with a camera in one hand, and a Cliff bar in the other. Sam always loves to connect on Instagram at @swbugas.