Black Diamond Bolt Backpack Review

The Black Diamond Bolt is one of my all time favorite backpacks.  I use it on any winter/fall/spring day hike I go on and it is my primary overnight pack for the summer season.  What makes this pack uniquely awesome is the internal aluminum frame that it sports along with a legitimate hipbelt.  This is literally unheard of on a 24 L pack.  Every other 30 L and smaller pack I’ve ever seen comes with a plastic framesheet and a small, lightly padded, hip belt.  The Bolt benefits from these beefed up features by being able to carry loads of 20 to 25 lbs. without any issue.

Black Diamond also included their proprietary reACTIV suspension which allows the pack’ body to move independently of the hip belt.  Making the Bolt not only able to carry heavy loads (for a 24 L pack) but to also be extremely stable while scrambling over obstacles.  Other features included on this pack – such as the ice axe loops, side entry system, hip belt pocket, padded front expansion panel and external water bladder pouch – all point to people who actually know what they are doing on the trail controlling this pack’s design.  Black Diamond has produced a pack that carries gear like no other and is streamlined to take advantage of the best combination of features possible without becoming cluttered and over complicated.

One particular feature I need to elaborate on is the external water bladder pouch.  I didn’t realize how awesome/groundbreaking this feature was until I started using it.  Between the back pannel of the backpack and the frame, accessible though the outside of the pack right below the head pouch zipper, is a pocket that holds your water bladder.  Because of where its placed you don’t need to open your pack up and take a chunk of your stuff out to refill your bladder.  I use a bladder with an inline water filter so quickly stopping at a stream to refill my bladder is a regular occurrence for me and the ability to easily access my water bladder is amazingly convenient. No one wants to wait around for me to unpack a bunch of stuff so I can refill my water.

Showing off the Black Diamond Bolt's externally accessible water bladder pouch.

Showing off the Black Diamond Bolt’s externally accessible water bladder pouch.

I use this pack during the fall, winter and spring as a day pack for intense day hikes that require more gear than a light jacket and water bottle.  I can bring with me an emergency bivy, emergency gear, medical supplies, a down puffy jacket and pants, rain pants and jacket as well as a lunch all with ease.  During the summer time I can fit everything I need for a 5 night trip into this pack with ease (to be fair my summer gear set is super minimal but still).

The only downside to this pack is it’s weight – 2 lbs. 1 oz.  This is much heaver than other packs in this size range.  My previous go to 24 L pack weighed 9 oz. If the load I’m carrying weighs 25 lbs. (roughly the max this pack can comfortably carry) the pack is 8% of my total load weight.  Compare this to my Helium 55 L pack, which weights 2 lbs. 7 oz. and can carry up to 45 lbs., and there is a considerable difference.  Personally though I feel the trade off is worth it.  When I’m carrying an overall considerably lighter load (25 lbs. in the Bolt vs 35 to 40 lbs. in the 55L) I move much faster and generally hike more direct routs that require some scrambling and light bouldering.  The extra stability and comfort the Bold provides over a bare bones, non-supported, day pack allows me to travel the path and speed I like to without thinking about there being something on my back.

Rocking the Black Diamond Bolt backpack on top of Marmot Pass in Washington's Olympic mountains.

Rocking the Black Diamond Bolt backpack on top of Marmot Pass in Washington’s Olympic mountains.


The Black Diamond Equipment Bolt 24L backpack should be considered the “best in class” pack for its size class.

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