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Shadow 55 ice climbing pack
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Contact: Black Diamond Equipment Ltd.
Shadow 55 alpine pack
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Shadow 55 alpine pack
Black Diamond Equipment Ltd.

I've been looking for the perfect alpine and ice craging pack and the Black Diamond Shadow 55 just may be it. A hungry squirrel ate a hole in the bottom of my previous favorite pack, a Cold Cold World Chernoble, causing it to finally bite the dust. I've tried a number of replacements, but none were as good.

I had pretty much decided to simply spring for the current model of Chernoble, however in the years since I bought my original Chernoble, the design was changed to use tubes to hold the ice axes. Since I've totally switched to leashless, this wasn't an option. In fact finding a pack that would allow me to strap on my leashless tools became a real problem as a majority of the pack manufacturers have gone to the tube method. I was feeling stuck!

Of course I had a bunch of other criteria as well. It needed to be lightweight, hold between 3300 to 3800 cubic inches of volume, provide good support, a bivy pad, be hydration-ready, and have lots of lash points. It looked as if the Shadow was going to fill a majority of those criteria.

The Shadow 55 holds 3360 cubic inches of stuff. That's about 10% more than my 7 year old Chernoble. The Shadow sits so well on your back that you'd never know it was that much bigger and since it's mainly intended for winter use, it was easy to find a use for that extra space. While it doesn't have built-in gear loops, it has slits to incorporate the BD Ice Clippers for your slings or screws.

I have just about every leashless tool available. Since BD makes the radical Fusion mixed tool I was sure that I wasn't going to have a problem with them and I was correct. The Shadow has a unique way of holding ice tools. At the bottom of the pack there are 2 flaps and small straps. You slot the pick of your axe in each flap and the strap clips over the head of the tool, holding it in place. Then a elastic bungee chord on the body of the pack goes over the handle and cinches the tool against the pack. It had no problem accomodating even the radical Trango Madame Hook. I'm blown away at the simplicity, elegance and shear obviousness of the design.

Two additional straps in the middle of the pack are great for attaching crampons to the outside. In addition there are 2 honking plastic loops on the outside, a bombproof haul loop on the back and a bunch of Hypalon daisy chains on the front. A web of bungee on the top flap is useful to hold down a light jacket or the like. Everywhere you want to hang something on the Shadow, there's a place to do it.

The removable Y-rod internal suspension system provides good support even when the pack is heavily loaded. You can easily remove it if you desire, but I found no reason to do so. There was plenty of adjustment in the shoulder and hip straps and I had no problem getting it to fit me with all types of loads. All the straps were right where I wanted them to be and a nice touch was the way that the chest buckle was easily slid up and down for the perfect fit.

Conclusion:  The BD Shadow 55 is as close to perfect as I could ask for in a winter ice craging and light alpine pack. It's handled everything I've thrown at it with ease, from day trips up in the ravines of Mt. Washington to guiding clients at the local ice crag. I've got absolutely no problem recommending the Shadow as the best ice climbing pack on the market.

Details: 3,360 Cubic inches volume, 3 pounds 12 oz, available only in gray. removable internal Y-rod suspension and bivy pad. Constructed of 210d SilNylon. Features Hypalon® daisy chains, ice axe holder that will accommodate all axe styles and shapes, crampon straps, ice clipper slots and waterproof zippers.

Al Hospers
March 2005

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