Black Diamond Innova 50 Pack Review

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Spring 2010 saw the entrance of Black Diamond into the world of backpacking. The Innova 50L, a women’s specific pack, was one of its’ first offerings. I have had the opportunity to test out the Innova over the course of the last 2 months while navigating the airports, using it as a carry on, to tackling a few short backpacking trips in California and Colorado. Here are a few of my initial impressions.

Getting a perfect fit out of a backpack can be a challenge for many women, myself included. I found that it was super easy to get a customized fit with the Innova. If you are unsure of sizing, please go to a Black Diamond fit expert because they will have you good to go for your next adventure.

With that said, the Innova comes in a size small and medium with each pack being able to your specific torso length. Which means, no more having to deal with a torso length that can be 2-3 inches off from your measurements, like some of BDs competitors. Rather, the torso length can be adjusted by removing a simple hex screw at the hip belt pivot point with a #4 hex and sliding the suspension vertically along a track and replacing the screw at the pivot point. Also, I’ve been told that you can swap out hip belts as well; let’s say you have a longer torso but smaller waist, get a medium pack but swap for a small hip belt. Viola, a more perfect fitting pack.

Hipbelt removed exposing pivot point and torso adjustment

The adjustments do not end with the hip belt or torso length. The pack straps are also narrower than your typical male pack. I have some pretty broad shoulders, so this generally is not an issue for me. The shoulder straps are super-comfy and are covered in breathable 3D mesh. When cinched down with a decent 35 lb load, I didn’t feel any pinching or rubbing when wearing a simple tee.

The small weighs 3 lb. 10 oz and the medium weighs 3 lb 12 oz. Both sizes weigh a tad more than their competitor due to the suspension system. So what is so special about the ergoACTIV suspension system? The ergoACTIV suspension system is built to move with you as you hike. The pivot point that I talked about earlier is along the waistbelt and rotates with your hips as you take a step on the trail; it not only moves up and down, but also moves like a ball and socket joint (which your hip is) and moves in a circular pattern as well. To keep from feeling like the bag is being tossed from side to side, the shoulder straps are connected via a stainless steel cable pulley system that allows your load to remain stable and in place. The added weight in the pack and suspension system pays off by making you feel like your load is lighter, which is awesome news.

Speaking of weight, the Innova 50L is designed to carry loads of around 35-45 lbs. With this kind of volume and weight carrying capacity, you are bound to find plenty of room for your gear on a 2-3 day outing. The Innova features a pretty bare bones design, which I like. It has one entry point, top loading, and a large internal main compartment. There are two stretchy pockets along the side that you can stuff with a water bottle or thermos even when your pack is stuffed inside. I love having a hip belt pocket for must get to items, ie sunscreen and lip balm.

Other features worth mentioning: hydration compatible with a simple velcro loop and bungee compartment to keep up to a 3L bladder in place. The water hose outlet is a touch tight for some of the beefier mouth valves out on the market, it can be a struggle at times to pull the tubing through. The kangaroo pocket adds cargo space and has been a great place to stash outer layers as you heat up throughout the day. There are also trekking pole loops along the rear of the pack and removable loops to attach your sleeping pad to outside of the pack if needed.

The photo below is of me, a happy hiker. The suspension technology and ability to get a precise fit were two features that I loved in the Innova. I look forward to seeing how the technology performs with added wear and tear. I have only one slight complaint so far, after 2 months I have started to get a squeaky bird sound coming from my hip belt aka the pivot point. Apparently, the folks at BD say that this is a pretty simple 15 minute fix. So far, the sound hasn’t annoyed me too much, rather it is kind of comical while on the trail. Happy Trails!

For more info on the Innova 50 Pack and other Black Diamond gear, visit www.blackdiamondequipment.com.

Shannon: Shannon, our fabulous female tester, takes gear testing to a new level for women. When not at work or school, she is most likely training for a marathon, climbing one of Colorado’s tallest peaks, riding her road bike, or skiing down a mountain slope. Like many women, Shannon gets cold easily, therefore, we try to test the best all weather gear to help her stay warm and dry during all day outdoor pursuits. In the warmer months, Shannon enjoys exploring the Colorado backcountry with her friends and dogs and attempts to escape for as many trail runs as her schedule allows. Shannon is a great women’s tester because she gives readers true insight into how a product may perform for an active woman.
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