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Review of the Black Diamond Element 60 Backpack

Backpacks are a tricky thing – you don’t want too many bells and whistles because they’ll just increase the weight, but you don’t want a garbage bag either. I tend to prefer those packs that fall into the middle of the road: just enough straps to keep everything in place but without dozens of pockets, external cords and an espresso machine. Utah-based Black Diamond offers about 70 different packs so most likely there’s something for everyone in its quiver. (And that doesn’t include the Gregory line of backpacks, which parent company Black Diamond Inc. owns.) In the case of the newly launched Black Diamond Element line, the company is looking to appeal to the “minimalist-minded weekend backpacker” who is looking for a “streamlined and lightweight top-loader.” The Element comes in a 45-litre and a 60-litre option and the equivalent line in the female-specific category is called “Elixir.” Both models feature Black Diamond’s proprietary “reACTIV” suspension system and “SwingArm” shoulder straps that the company says articulate and move with you while you’re hiking over uneven terrain, thus reducing fatigue. When I looked more closely into this system, I learned that what the company is trying to do is have certain parts of the pack move with your body rather than remaining static so that when you bounce and swivel over rocks and roots, the entire load of the pack isn’t forced to move with you. The SwingArm straps have a stainless steel cable running through them that ensures they remain relatively friction free while allowing for greater movement and the waist belt isn’t affixed to any part of the frame, which means it too can move freely without bringing the entire weight of the pack along for the ride.

To read the full review, log on to Backcountry Skiing Canada.

Review of the RAB Neutrino 200 Down Sleeping Bag

I’m a hot guy in bed. That is, my body is like a 6-foot furnace when I’m horizontal for the night. And when I sleep outside, that furnace seems to kick into overdrive. I’ve spent more than one evening lying in a tent wishing I could just tear a hole in the fabric to increase airflow. Suffice to say, I’m really picky when it comes to sleeping bags – I don’t want a quiver of them so I’ve spent 25 years searching for the perfect one. It has to be comfortable but streamlined; breathable but not drafty; light and small when rolled up; and (here’s the kicker) it needs to be warm in the winter and cool in the summer. That last point is a big ask but I have faith. When I was asked to review Rab’s Neutrino 200 down sleeping bag recently, I knew it wasn’t going to fulfill all those qualities (it’s meant for lightweight use such as cycle touring in moderate climates) but I respect the company and I kept an open mind. The Rab brand was started in 1981 by its namesake, British alpinist Rab Carrington and, four years ago, the business expanded into the North American market after opening an office in Boulder, Colorado. Today, Rab offers everything from clothing and packs to tents and, of course, sleeping bags.

To read this entire review, log on to Backcountry Skiing Canada.