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.
The Black Diamond Pipe Dream has plenty of room for all your cragging gear.
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.
The padded back panel, sculpted shoulder straps and trim waist belt provide load-carrying comfort during the approach.
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.
Two aluminum buckles and a large Velcro strap provide access to your gear and quickly transform the Pipe Dream into a plush lounging area.
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.
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/