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The Black Diamond Pipe Dream - Is This The Perfect Cragging Pack?
I’m living the Pipe Dream with BD’s new cragging pack.

At first glance, it’s easy to dismiss the Pipe Dream as some crazy vision of a deranged furniture designer. After all, the pack’s rectangular shape and foam-padded construction make it a perfect mini-sofa substitute. But it’s this unconventional design that makes the Pipe Dream arguably one of the best cragging packs currently available.
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The Black Diamond Pipe Dream has plenty of room for all your cragging gear.

Unlike mountaineering or alpine climbing, cragging usually involves a short approach (less than 30 minutes?) and once you’re at the cliff, you’ll climb a number of routes at a small section of the crag before moving to another area. A friend of mine coined the term cluster-climbing to describe this tactic. And what will most climbers do between attempts and redpoints? Usually find a smooth spot to rest and recharge before the next burn. And this is where the Pipe Dream excels. Not only does it allow you to easily carry a full sport or trad rack, but once you’re at the crag, the Pipe Dream unfolds into a plush padded area suitable for donning shoes, sipping coffee and even enjoying decadent energy boosting snacks like prosciutto and grapes – yes, it’s that civilized.

If this concept sounds familiar, it’s because the Pipe Dream is based on the Black Diamond Spot that was designed by Boone Speed and Mike Call in the early 90s. While it was a brilliant product, the original Spot was rather Spartan and eschewed such superfluous details like pockets or a flap for the bottom (it used a strap-and-Velcro affair to keep items in the pack). It was not perfect, but it worked so well that I used an early prototype as my go-to cragging pack for over a decade. I only retired it because the ballistic nylon shell fabric was wearing out.

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The padded back panel, sculpted shoulder straps and trim waist belt provide load-carrying comfort during the approach.

Compared to the original Spot the new Pipe Dream is significantly more refined. The most obvious differences include a proper lid with a cavernous pocket and a burly contoured bottom flap that ensures nothing falls out of the pack. The harness and back panel also receive an update with thermo-laminated construction for carrying comfort with minimal bulk. BD has also added more foam in the pack body, which increases lounging-comfort and ensures the pack maintains its structure.

At the cliff the new Pipe Dream did not disappoint. It easily accommodated a full rack of draws, harness, food, three litres of water, a 60 m rope and four pairs of shoes (one of many vices), and there was still plenty of room left for a warm jacket. And while this load may not match the cartilage-crushing weights encountered on expeditions or big walls, the Pipe Dream’s harness and structured body provided excellent comfort and control during the approach. In fact, it seems that the foam-filled body creates the same load-transferring effect found on packs that have more traditional plastic/aluminum-stay back panels. In this respect, I think the Pipe Dream punches above its weight and can easily handle substantially heavier loads.
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Two aluminum buckles and a large Velcro strap provide access to your gear and quickly transform the Pipe Dream into a plush lounging area.

Between redpoint attempts, the Pipe Dream provided a great spot for resting, and on more than one occasion I noticed that friends were very willing to sample the pack’s lounging comfort while I was on the wall. This last fact is not that surprising, as I had noticed a similar effect when I used to bring my old Spot to the crag.

One thing I particularly appreciated was the Pipe Dream’s detachable Velcro lid-pocket. This simple feature ensured that I didn’t have to worry about crushing any expensive electronic necessities when I was in recovery-mode. Finally, BD has added two small organizer loops inside the pack. And while I never found them necessary, I’m sure certain Type A climbers will be ecstatic with this organization option.

In it’s current format, the pack is almost perfect for my needs. I would maybe add a small keychain clip in the lid pocket, but beyond that, I can’t think of many improvements. (I've just found out that production versions of the Pipe Dream will have keychain clip in the lid.)

As for who should buy the Pipe Dream, I think that any climber who’s honest about how they crag, will appreciate this pack. The pack carries well, it has plenty of volume and it offers a comfortable place to rest between climbs. Consider that you can also use it to protect any sketchy starts as well as use it as a sleeping pad during a road trips, and it’s clearly one of the best options for any rock climber.

Highly recommended.

The Pipe Dream will be available early 2015 and will retail for $169 US.

Check out Black Diamond's full line of gear at http://blackdiamondequipment.com/
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Gus Alexandropoulos is a freelance writer who has been involved in the outdoor industry for over 25 years. During his career he has been the editor at Canada’s national climbing magazine, as well as the gear editor for a national cycling magazine, triathlon magazine and running magazine. His work has been published in Canada’s national newspaper, The Globe and Mail, and he has been a guest on television and radio broadcasts. His passion for climbing began in Ontario in the mid 80s and he continues to travel extensively in search of crisp conditions and steep rock.