FR: Black Diamond Astral 40 pack- Nancy Griffith
- Hi Kara,
I've posted my FR for the Astral 40 to the test folder. Thanks for checking it out and providing edits.
Here's the link and text.
I'm loving this pack!
FIELD LOCATIONS AND CONDITIONS
<<IMAGE GOES HERE. ALT TEXT = "Sequoia">>During the Field Testing period I used the Black Diamond Astral 40 for three multi-day trips and three day hikes for a total of ten days of testing. Loads ranged from 12 to 20 lb (5 to 9 kg).
Pinnacles National Monument, California: 2 days of hiking with fully loaded backpack; 10.9 mi (17.5 km); 1,260 to 2,100 ft (384 to 640 m) elevation; 28 to 70 F (-2 to 21 C).
Sequoia National Park, California: 1 day of hiking 3.6 mi (5.8 km) and 1 day of snowshoeing 5 mi (8 km) with partly loaded backpack; 6,200 to 6,700 ft (1,890 to 2,042 m) elevation; 55 to 65 F (13 to 18 C).
Hunters Trail, Sierra Nevada (California): 3 days of backpacking with fully loaded backpack; 20 mi (32 km); 3,500 to 5,000 ft (1,067 to 1,524 m); 35 to 65 F (2 to 18 C) .
South Fork American River Trail, California: 10.9 mi; 800 to 1,200 ft (240 to 370 m) elevation; 60 to 75 F (15 to 24 C).
Auburn Recreation Area, California; 3.6 mi (6 km); 500 to 1,500 ft (150 to 450 m) elevation; 35 to 55 F (2 to 13 C).
Forni Lake, Desolation Wilderness, California: 10 mi (16.1 km); 6,600 to 7,100 ft (2,012 to 2,164 m) elevation; 55 to 70 F (13 to 21 C).
PERFORMANCE IN THE FIELD
<<IMAGE GOES HERE. ALT TEXT = "Hunters">>The Black Diamond Astral 40 has quickly become my favorite pack. I like the smaller volume since I can still easily fit all of my gear and have plenty of options for strapping on additional items if I need to. There are several great features that I like enough to be willing to carry the pack's slightly higher weight just to get those features. My expected favorite was the hip belt pockets, but the biggest surprise is that I also am really enjoying the lid. I typically either carry a pack without a lid or remove the lid to save weight. However, with the Astral I am enjoying having this convenience. I especially appreciated it in an hours-long rainstorm.
It poured for several hours while backpacking and when we got to camp we were extremely fortunate to find a gigantic pine tree which was still somewhat dry underneath. I hadn't planned for the rain and had put a library book on top of my main compartment and a paper instruction booklet in the lid. I quickly unpacked expecting to find both items ruined. To my surprise the book was completely dry as was everything in the main compartment and the instruction booklet was only slightly damp. Wow!
However, I later learned a lesson as to how well the pack wicks. Overnight I left the pack under my vestibule on well-drained pine straw expecting it to stay dry. By morning the entire pack was completely soaking wet. By morning the rain had stopped so I hung the pack up for a few hours and when I put it on it wasn't uncomfortably wet. It dried during the day while hiking.
The side pockets are well-placed; I can access them myself without dislocating my shoulders. I store sunscreen, insect repellent, maps and my water bottle in them. I can typically retrieve and stow these items without assistance. However, I do notice that when my pack is extremely full that it can be difficult to stow my liter water bottle without help.
The fit is noticeably designed for a woman and is very much appreciated. I like the narrower shoulder straps and they don't restrict my movement when reaching or scrambling. I could even cast my fishing pole with no restriction. On the hike in Pinnacles there is a section that goes through a lengthy cave section. Although my pack was fully-loaded I was able to maneuver through some tight spaces without have to remove it.
The small torso length is right for me and allows for a really good fit on my back. I have a shorter torso and have difficulty with 'normal' sizing especially those meant for men.
My poles fold so compactly that I cannot use the ingenious pole stashing straps on this pack so I end up using the outer mesh pocket or side pockets for holding them.
The main compartment opening is fabulous; it appears to be like a funnel which makes for very easy loading. Then the roll-top closure is easy to use and feels very secure.
I used the front mesh pocket for my map and hat but haven't yet had the appropriate weather to use it for drying clothing. I used the water reservoir loop on a few trips for hanging my 2L Platypus and had no problem with it. At first it seems odd to not have a sleeve for the reservoir but since most sleeves aren't waterproof anyway, if my reservoir would burst it wouldn't provide much protection for my pack contents. I carry my crucial items (clothing, electronics, and sleeping bag) in a dry sack anyway.
I even used the emergency whistle multiple times on our Hunters Trail trip. It is loud. We (the girls) did a long excursion hike while the guys scrambled down to fish the river. On our way back we used the whistle periodically to see if we could locate them. We failed to do so but it wasn't the fault of the whistle. They had just gone much further downstream for better fishing.
The comfort has been outstanding. Of course my back gets sweaty but the ventilation seems as good as any pack I've tried. My hip bones and shoulders weren't sore the next morning and the weight-distribution feels very comfortable.
The Black Diamond Astral 40 pack is a well-designed women's pack with just the right amount of space and just the right trade-off of features to weight. I love it!
Hip belt pockets
This concludes my Field Test Report. Check back in two months for my Long-Term Report. Thanks to Black Diamond and BackpackGearTest.org for allowing me to participate in this test.
This report was created with the BGT Report Generator.
Copyright 2012. All rights reserved.
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