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Black Diamond Spring 2020 Gear Review

TAYLOR: Fresh spring air means big adventures are on the horizon. In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, it seems that these adventures are going to need to be solo, backyard, and/or FKT style. That’s fine for many of us because being alone in the woods is what we’d rather be doing anyway! If you do bring a “friend”, Black Diamond’s new lineup of trail gear would gladly be your closest trail companion.

Distance 8 Pack

Black Diamond distance 8 pack

TAYLOR: Black Diamond’s Distance series running packs really take the cake when it comes to quality and thoughtful design. Each of the three sizes has specific components that make it well-suited for any adventure, but particularly suited for technical terrain.

The Distance 8 pack shoots the middle for sizes (4, 8, and 15 liter). A hybrid design provides the best of two worlds and none of the extra fluff. A vest-like suspension gives one of the most dialed-in fits that I have experienced from any piece of gear, let alone a running pack. There are multiple points of adjustment across the chest and on either side under the armpits where the chest straps attach to the main compartment.

Upfront, six pockets make a lot of gear accessible and easy to carry. Everything seemed very evenly distributed no matter what I was hauling around. The only issue I had with this pack was that the pockets that are designated for 500ml soft flasks. They didn’t hold 500ml soft flasks… The opening to each of the chest pockets was too slim to fit without emptying the flask first. The lower pockets held the bottles fine and a bladder can easily be put into use.

In the back, there is an alpine-pack inspired main compartment that is basically resistant to anything because of BD’s Dynex mesh. A roll-top opening makes for easy access to your gear. Even more, for those that frequent technical terrain, secure storage for poles and ice tools is included. This package makes this an incredibly versatile pack that I’d gladly take from trailhead to mountain peak and everywhere in between.

PRICE: $140

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Carbon Distance Poles

TAYLOR: FKT! FKT! FKT! The Carbon Distance Poles are the lightest poles that you’ll find anywhere. Their sole purpose is pushing the boundary of light and fast. One 120cm pole weighs 95 grams or 3.3 oz. Or less than a quarter-pound. Or less than the patty on your Mickey D’s chee if you need that conversion.

They really are the perfect case of ignorance is bliss. I was plenty well-off with the aluminum BD Z-pole. Then, along came the Carbon Distance poles and they ruined me. I mean, I knew there were lighter poles out there, but I didn’t know… you know?

The Distance Carbon poles are fixed length, which is the only potential negative I could weed out during testing, aside from the fact that I’m still thinking about that cheeseburger from the first paragraph. Any type of pole can snap, and a z-pole section can easily be fixed. Not so much a fixed length.

Personally, I don’t mind carrying poles while not actively using them. Which is obviously what you’ll have to do unless you want to somehow carry them in your pack and look like a car-less storm chaser. So, I definitely didn’t mind carrying these. You barely notice them in hand. A balance ring allows for even easier carrying. I wouldn’t hesitate to use these poles for long days, ultras, etc. as long as the terrain doesn’t have a lot of 4th class.

Black Diamond Carbon Distance poles are so light that I took it easy on them initially. They aren’t as toothpicky as they feel, though. They are just as durable as any of the Black Diamond poles I’ve used in the past, and that is saying a lot! With how light they are, the extra rigidity added by being fixed-length is necessary. So, it’s pretty safe to say that getting any lighter than this will be a moon shot. Also, their plastic tips can be switched out for carbide, making them more durable and diverse in use.

Whether you’re thru-hiking the AT or tagging your local peak, the Distance Carbon Poles would be a perfect lightweight and durable option.

ROBBE: I’m with Taylor on this one. Even though I didn’t take these on any rugged excursions in the Rockies like he did, my hikes in the Maryland area proved that these almost don’t exist when in-hand. I haven’t had much experience with carbon fiber anything before because I’m not Mr. Monopoly nor do I have an interest in modding out my 2003 Toyota Corolla. So newsflash– carbon fiber is L-I-G-H-T. It’s actually shocking when you first lift them.

Anyway, like Taylor said, the one-piece design may turn some off, but the fact that they weigh almost nothing offsets any encumbrance you’ll encounter by carrying them.

PRICE: $150

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Sprint 225 Headlamp

TAYLOR: Continuing on with the light and fast theme, the new Sprint 225 is featherweight but still packs a powerful punch. 225 lumens isn’t ideal for long hours in the dark, but it is perfect for adventures that start prior or extend just past the sun’s rays.

Personally, this is the lightest and most compact headlamp that I have ever used. It worked perfectly for its intended purposes.

Being rechargeable, I could get a couple of early morning runs (an hour each that were mostly in the dark) in before needing to recharge. It was also a lamp that I didn’t mind keeping on my head once the sun was up because it literally feels like you’re wearing nothing more than a sweatband. This will live in my running pack or belt for those adventurers that need to start a little early, end late, or for emergency use and it will take up virtually zero space.

ROBBE: I gotta tell you­– I had been a fan of some Black Diamond competitors as my go-to headlamp, but now that I have the 225, I don’t see myself going back any time soon, at least for those early morning or night runs in the 5-10 mile range. It’s the perfect runner’s headlamp.

Impossibly small, ultralight, rechargeable, very comfortable, waterproof, easy to use– do I need to keep going to convince you to buy a $45 headlamp? Okay, I will– the 225 lumens with a 2.5 burn time are all you need. If you need more, you can fine-tune the beam to whatever brightness you want with Black Diamond’s touch technology.

Only downside- the rubber tab that covers the micro-USB charging port wouldn’t stay in on one of the lamps I had– not ideal for rainy situations. Otherwise, this lamp should be essential to any runner.

PRICE: $45

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Icon 700 Headlamp

TAYLOR: If you do happen to need plenty of candlelight P-P-Power for a lot of dark hours, Black Diamond has you covered there too!

The new Icon 700 headlamp is like a well-rounded athlete. Both power and endurance are noticeable attributes– although it is on the hefty side for a modern headlamp.

A segregated battery pack claims responsibility for most of those attributes listed above. It is quite heavy but can be worn on your head comfortably with two adjustable straps (one around the circumference of the head and one that goes over top) to get that perfect fit. I rarely was bothered by excessive bouncing.

The other option is to take the battery pack off of the head strap and clip it to your waist belt, put it in your pocket, or store in your pack. Those options are nice with a lamp that might be used for more than just running.

Weight aside, not many modern headlamps can boast 700 lumens for 7 hours straight! That’s just wacko, man! Of course, there is diminishing light with battery level  (which is easily checked via an indicator on the side of the lamp), but the light did seem solidly bright over a few hours of use.

Options for batteries is a big positive mark for the Icon 700. Use four AA batteries or purchase a rechargeable battery pack (sold separately). Either way, it adds to this torch’s diverse resume.

The lamp itself puts out beautiful, bright, and highly adjustable light. Even though the light itself didn’t seem quite as clean or bright as something like the Petzl Swift RL, the options of lighting are almost endless. Just about any color of the rainbow is available, strobe, and mixed beams of light offer something for nearly every scenario.

Two buttons and a power-tap option made the control of all these options relatively simple. To be honest, I’m not sure what all of these options would be used for, but it’s pretty cool to have the choice. With the being said, the Icon 700 is ready for just about any adventure you throw at it.

ROBBE: Like Taylor said, the Icon 700 is absurdly bright for an absurdly long period of time. Use it as a headlight on a bike or a bright-ass trail headlamp. It is hefty compared to other headlamps we’ve tested in the 700 lumen range. Four double-A batteries on the back of the head can get tiresome. That said, the weight is distributed and held down by the three headbands. For what it puts out and what you’re getting, the lamp is on the more affordable side, as compared to the Petzl NAO+. And while the batteries can be heavy, it’s nice knowing that the flexibility exists to them out for a rechargeable.

PRICE: $100

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Taylor Bodin is a trail and ultrarunner living in Estes Park, CO, with his wife and daughter. He and his wife both love running the trails in Rocky Mountain National Park. When not running, Taylor is a Kindergarten/1st grade teacher, running coach, and youth leader for his church.

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