Review: Black Diamond Pursuit 15 Daypack

Black Diamond Pursuit 15
$150, 15L/915 c.i., 1 lb. 7 oz./652g (men’s medium)
Sizes: men’s and women’s S-L

From dayhikes up to 16 miles with spurts of running on trails in my local foothills to dayhiking the 13-mile, 3,500-foot Burgess Pass Loop in Yoho National Park, in the Canadian Rockies—cranking up a steep 3,000 vertical feet in 4.5 miles to Burgess Pass and then trotting a fast-paced descent on the rocky and wet Yoho Pass Trail—the Pursuit 15 struck an unusually effective balance between traditional hiking daypacks and running vests that’s most useful to avid dayhikers and mountain scramblers moving fast and light.

The pack’s design marries elements of ultralight daypacks and running vests, trading off some strengths and weaknesses of both to create a hybrid possessing laudable attributes of both pack categories—while keeping it simple, streamlined, and very light.

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The Black Diamond Pursuit 15 daypack harness.
The Black Diamond Pursuit 15 daypack harness.

The fixed, non-adjustable harness consists of wide, unpadded shoulder straps with running-vest-style dual sternum straps to provide better stability and keep the pack from bouncing around when either running, hiking fast, or scrambling in severe terrain. But it also adds the kind of wide, lightly padded hipbelt that’s anathema in the world of running vests but typical of ultralight daypacks. Unlike many hiking daypacks, though, this hipbelt lacks zippered pockets, which would add a bit of weight but especially more bulk to the belt; instead, the belt wraps snugly around your waist and, like the shoulder straps, has open mesh to maximize ventilation for users who anticipate sweating a lot.

The lower end of each shoulder strap anchors into the pack bag at two points—again, for maximum stability and comfort—and similarly, the belt adjusts via a nylon webbing strap that anchors into the wide part of the hipbelt at two points, creating a pulley benefit on each of the belt’s wide wings to better enable the flexible belt to mold itself to your waist. The thinly padded back pad—so flexiblethatyou can fold this daypack in half—also has breathable mesh for ventilation.

The overall design creates a pack that hugs your body nearly as inconspicuously as a running vest—the only difference being the hipbelt, for which you accept slight inhibition of movement for more weight-carrying capacity than a running vest.

True to the Pursuit 15’s focus on stability, thin straps threaded through the pack body and tightened and loosened via a drawcord on the front side create a compression system that’s much more efficient and versatile than you’ll find on many daypacks or vests. That, as much as any other feature, helps the Pursuit 15 stand out as a unique hybrid player in the evolving gray zone between traditional daypacks and running vests.

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The Black Diamond Pursuit 15 daypack.
The Black Diamond Pursuit 15 daypack.

The end result is that the Pursuit 15 carries about 15 pounds/6.8 kilos comfortably, which will probably satisfy many of the types of users who will be attracted to a pack this light and compact.

The three men’s and women’s sizes will allow most people to find one that fits comfortably. (The men’s medium fits my 18-inch torso well.) While the pack isn’t adjustable for torso length, you won’t find such adjustability in any packs this light.

With four vest-style pockets on the shoulder straps, three made with stretch-meshfor breathability and one of them zippered with a more dustproof outer fabric to protect a phone, fans of the Pursuit 15 likely won’t miss the lack of hipbelt pockets: The shoulder-strap pockets provide more storage that’s more easily accessible and carries your phone and snacks where they are least intrusive.

Hipbelt pockets on daypacks and backpacks are popular for good reasons, but those users are generally less bothered by having that weight and bulk at their waist—it’s still less than what’s on their back and they aren’t usually trying to maintain a fast pace with arms swinging poles quickly or the longer strides and greater range of hip and leg contortions that come with moving fast in all terrain, particularly steep and off-trail ground.

The Pursuit 15 also sports stretch side pockets that are easily reached while wearing the pack and can be clipped up against the pack bag to “compress” them to some extent. These aren’t deep enough for a liter bottle—again, for users who don’t want the bulk and weight of one or two liters of water on their hips; they want their water positioned close to the middle of their back, where it’s out of the way and least noticeable. These side pockets are for small items you might want handy: light gloves, a hat, maybe a sunglasses case, things you might put in the lid or a zipperd outside pocket on a traditional daypack.

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The Black Diamond Pursuit 15 daypack.
The Black Diamond Pursuit 15 daypack.

The thin compression straps on each side help secure trekking poles tucked into the side pockets, but that system will function best with folding poles (like BD’s Distance Carbon Z and Distance Carbon FLZ) and telescoping poles that pack small.

The pack bag has as simple a design as you’ll find on a daypack, with a deep, water-resistant clamshell zipper to access the main compartment, which has good space for a 15-liter pack, adequate for the layers, food, and some extras (I could always fit my DSLR and two lenses if I wanted both) for a full day’s outing in spring-summer-fall weather. A zippered, low-volume inside pocket holds small items. A deep, stretch-woven front pocket swallows a jacket and one or two other layers.

The hydration sleeve’s position behind the back pad, not inside the main compartment, enables refilling it without removing other pack contents; but the amount of water you carry unavoidably compromises the main compartment’s space for other stuff. The 100 percent recycled fabrics in the pack body look durable enough for the type of uses a pack like this is likely to see.

Black Diamond Pursuit 15


The Verdict

Marrying features of traditional hiking daypacks and trail-running vests, the Black Diamond Pursuit 15 strikes a nice balance for light-traveling dayhikers, peak scramblers, ultra-hikers and runners, and others who want a daypack that mimics a running vest while offering a bit more space and weight capacity.



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See “The 10 Best Hiking Daypacks,” “5 Tips For Buying the Right Backpack” (which includes daypacks), and all reviews of hiking gear at The Big Outside.

You may also be interested in my “8 Pro Tips for Preventing Blisters When Hiking,” my picks for “The Best Trekking Poles,” and my story “How to Know How Hard a Hike Will Be,” which you can read in its entirety with a paid subscription to The Big Outside or click here to purchase separately.

NOTE: I tested gear for Backpacker magazine for 20 years. At The Big Outside, I review only what I consider the best outdoor gear and apparel. See the Gear Reviews page at The Big Outside for categorized menus of all reviews and expert buying tips.

—Michael Lanza

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