Black Diamond Element 60
- Second lightest pack in test set
- Very comfortable
- Easily adjustable sternum strap
- Huge water bottle sleeves with cinch
- Only one hidden ice axe loop
- Non-removable water bladder sleeve
The Black Diamond Element 60 is an all-around strong performer. Its drawbacks are small—only one axe loop, no crampon sleeve—but consistent enough to rob it of the highest marks. This bag’s strongest feature is its comfort, and it’s the second lightest bag in the set.
The Black Diamond Element 60 is a comfortable backpack. The shoulder straps have enough padding for a heavier load up to 40 pounds, and the waist strap is firm enough to add structure without pinching the waist. The mid-back padding is applied in flexible lateral bands, which allows for airflow to the back. The lower back region has ample, pronounced padding. The sternum strap has a slide adjustment, which ranges farther than other bags.
The Element’s storage is very expandable and allows it to adapt to a range of loads and trip types. Both sides of the pack have a Z-cinch, which allow it to compress down when being used for day trips. Another good feature for storage is the back sleeve, which is full-length and closes with a zipper. The Element has gear loops on the bottom, which add storage range for summer trips past the 2-3 night range.
Some of the compressibility that gave this pack high marks in the storage category also help with its stability, such as the Z-cinch straps on each side, which lock down loads and prevent things shifting around inside the body while moving. The height to width ratio skews towards the tall side, but it’s not so drastic to move the center of gravity onto the upper back and make it top heavy.
The durability of the Black Diamond Element 60 inspires confidence, particularly the reinforced fabric of the seams and the tight sewing. The string cinch on the water bottle sleeves could fray, but they’re not weight bearing or essential. The webbing straps on the Z-cinch, load lifters, and brain clips are narrow but well-constructed.
The Element 60 has one gear loop that can be used for an ice axe, which is fastened at the top by a velcro strap, which could become loose at an inopportune moment. There are four small loops on the top of the brain, which can be used to fasten a solar panel, or a cord to hang socks, etc. to dry while walking. One feature unique to the Element 60 are the two large water bottle sleeves, which are tightened with a string cinch. The pack also has two hip pouches and a whistle.
How We Tested It
The packs in this test were used throughout the winter and spring of 2017, during day hikes ranging from a few miles to a summit attempt on Mount Hood. Tests were conducted on Maryland’s Western Shore, in the Olympic Range of Washington State, and in the Cascades of the Pacific Northwest. This geographic diversity of conditions allowed for a look into each pack’s strengths and weakness. Each pack was loaded down with at least 15 pounds.
For more reviews beyond this 2017 test, check out our other backpack tests, our Best 3 Person Backpacking Tents of 2017, along with our sleeping bag tests, and other related hiking and camping gear tests.
The products featured in this test have been loaned to the Gear Institute. For more on our policies regarding editorial objectivity and sample returns, see here.
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- Type of Backpack: Weekend Pack
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