Putting the Black Diamond Outlaw pack to the test in Garnet Canyon.
To me, making a backcountry ski pack seems pretty easy. Make it relatively lightweight, easy to attach skis to in different configurations, offer an insulated hydration sleeve and have a separate pocket for my avy shovel and probe. There are some extra features that I like, but can live without, like hip belt pockets, back panel access and a goggle pocket, but include those as well and you have succeeded in making a pack that for sure will be a hit. While some packs on the market these days seem to have all the necessities, it’s the final product that counts and the Black Diamond Outlaw pack scores big on its first year on the market.
Waist belt pockets are large enough for a small camera.
To be totally honest with you, I wasn’t a huge fan of the BD Covert pack of the past couple years. Its’ webbing waist belt, though adequate, left something to be desired and its box like shape was only so-so in the comfort department. The good news is that all of my gripes with it have been addressed in the updated Outlaw, which to start off with comes with a nice low profile, padded waist belt. It also has two pockets to store your trail goodies and are even big enough to stash a smaller sized point and shoot style camera. The Outlaw is 32 liters in size, which is just about right for day to day backcountry skiing and light ski mountaineering.
The Outlaw is outfitted to carry skis or a snowboard (which is nice for those that go both ways) and will carry your skis both A-frame and quiver style. For A-frame, the top buckles are lockable as well…which is a must, because there’s nothing worse than having to stop all the time and tighten straps…or look like a dork with you skis wobbling around with every step you take. I like the fact that the new Outlaw has two big straps on the pack that will let you fine tune how you like to carry your load. Often, I think some packs tend to carry skis a little on the low side and these straps would really help to keep the load up high, as well as vertical or diagonal. The back panel of the Outlaw pack also opens and allows for easy access to your extra layers or hot chocolate buried inside when you have your skis or board leashed on to the pack. It open from the bottom up too (as opposed to the top down), which helps keep things from getting all tangled up with your hydration tube. To add to the carrying ability, the Outlaw also has a minimal, V-snow suspension, which helps it keep its shape and distribute weight. Nothing worse than a flimsy backpack without any shape.
Back access panel opens upward, avoiding problems with your hydration bladder tube.
Nothing too special about the shovel and probe pocket, but it does include sleeves to keep your shovel handle and probe from rattling around. A small drain hole at the bottom allows for snow melt to escape after you dug that pit to assess the snowpack. The length adjustment for the ice axe/ski tail loop is also hidden in this pocket. However, I think using the loop for your skis will be unnecessary since the bigger, horizontal straps should be enough to do the trick. Most of the Black Diamond packs come with an extra strap to add to the system, I think mainly for a snowboard, but whether it is necessary is up to you to decide.
Avy tool pocket keeps your gear organized.
The main compartment of the Outlaw has a pocket for your hydration bladder and the right shoulder strap includes an insulated sleeve to help keep your tube from freezing. The Outlaw is also available in an AvaLung version, which is nice for the sketchier days in the mountains. The fleece lined goggle pocket is a nice feature, but I wonder why a key clip is also included in the same space. Rarely do I even carry my keys on my body in the backcountry though…so it’s not that big of a deal anyway…but I don’t think I would want to stash my keys in the same pocket as my goggles.
There are many packs like the Black Diamond Outlaw on the market right now, but weighing in at under 3lbs, the Outlaw should be one of the lightest AND cleanest in design. Add the Avalung option and it becomes a life saving tool as well. Check it out at BDEL.com.