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Black Diamond Beta Light Pack Review

The Beta Light is ideal for fast packing in Nepal’s Khumbu Valley

Black Diamond continues to innovate with their new Beta Light 30 and 45 liter packs

We were lucky enough to get to use the Beta Lights for several trips in 2023 around the Alps and twice to the Himalaya. In the Alps, we used them for standard overnight backpacking trips, carrying around 15kg. But in the Himalaya we got to really put them to the test for what they were designed for: covering lots of ground with an efficient system to operate out of, running some flats or whenever we pointed our toes downhill, and faster all around movement all while enjoying a light set up with just 12kg.

For a pack where everything extra has been stripped away, the Beta Light has a lot of features to mention. What’s left is innovative, fully functional, and just the right amount of not too much. 

Black Diamond Beta Light Features

  • Material: The pack body is made from Challenge Sailcloth 200 (IOW, Dyneema) which, when I was part of the testing program, revealed that even with a sharp knife in hand, the material is difficult to cut. These packs are bomber, and waterproof. 
  • Design: A roll-top closure accesses the main pack body which, love it or hate it, is about as simple as it gets. It also provides a waterproof closing system which when combined with taped seams provides peace of mind in wet conditions. And, I put this very much to the test while descending Nepal’s lowlands in lingering monsoon weather.
  • Cockpit: Running pack (Distance Pack) style shoulder strap harness system. This is what makes the pack shine: everything you need is within reach, and the wide, padded shoulder straps are plenty comfortable. The cockpit’s sleeves hold a soft flask and a phone while a small zippered pocket keeps your snacks handy. 
  • Pockets: 
    • The sides of the main body each have an oversized sleeve for carrying a water bottle, food, hat, gloves, whatever you need access to that’s too big for the cockpit pockets.
    • On the back of the pack is a stretchy sleeve ideal for bulkier clothing, or what I used it for in Nepal, flip flops.
  • Hip Belt: The pack does have a padded hip belt complete with two big zippered pouches. The hip belt is easily removable which I immediately did assuming I wouldn’t use it. But, I found that right around 12kg, the pack does carry better with the additional hip support. And those hip belt pouches offer easy access to more snacks or gloves and windshirt.
  • Structure: The internal structure of the pack is a frame sheet and aluminum stays which can be removed for a custom fit. I decided to keep my 45 liter pack on the softer side for Nepal and removed the stays. I found that not having the stays in didn’t take away the support for 12kg of weight, but for more weight, these would help the pack’s suspension.
  • Weight: The 30 liter weighs 695 grams but can be reduced to 452 grams by removing the hipbelt and internal frame & stays. The 45 liter weighs 890 grams, or 650 grams stripped down. In comparison, a very popular “ultralight” 45 liter pack by a competitor weighs 1362 grams. With the Beta Light, you’re already 472 grams lighter and you aren’t carrying a rain cover.
  • Satellite: There is an optional add-on pouch, called the Satellite, that adds an extra 4 liters of capacity and doubles as a hip pack.
A more traditional light hiking trip in the Alps – everything fit into the Beta Light 45 liter for 3 nights out

What’s the Beta Light for?

Fast packers are going to fall in love with this pack as it ticks all the fast-packing boxes. Beyond that market, it’s an upgrade to traditional pack designs and one that hopefully starts an evolution to more of this type of pack. In addition to the ultralight materials, the running vest style shoulder straps are a major piece of that update, allowing access to essentials on your chest and for weight to be pulled in tight against the torso and distributed across the body through wider foam straps. With this system, the hipbelt, while still playing a role, can be kept looser. Without all the weight on the hips, movement is easier and the user is going to feel a lot more agile. For even lighter loads, try removing the hip belt altogether.

Part running, part hiking, the Beta Light 35 liter pack does both

Black Diamond has also used this design for their Cirque ski packs and I imagine it’ll trickle into other categories as well. Climbers will also enjoy the mobility the pack provides but need to keep in mind that the nature of the running vest shoulder straps has gear on your chest and the line of sight to your feet possibly impaired. 

The 30 liter version is the ideal pack for tours with mountain hut overnights. For the Alps’ Via Valais, Haute Route, or Tour du Mont Blanc, the 30 liter is going to carry more than the bare minimum while also allowing the user to move efficiently through long days.

I used the 45 liter for a month in Nepal’s Khumbu Valley, staying in guest houses, but carrying all my own gear, including sleeping bag (minus a tent and cook wear). I also used the pack as my carry-on for the flights and had no problem due to the size, in fact it’s a great travel pack thanks to all the exterior storage. Being a roll top, the pack compresses nicely.

Finally, the pack is going to work best for those with a “fast & light” mentality. Personally, I feel like the packs will do best with loads lighter than 16kg. All things unnecessary need to be left behind, Black Diamond has done their part in the design of the Beta Light, it’s up to you to maximize the experience by embracing the same mentality.

By Dan Patitucci 

The cockpit
With the cockpit clearly visible, in Nepal the sleeves held soft water flasks, phone, Trail Butter. The hip belts were dedicated to nuts, lip balm, a buff and money. Everything within reach.
The Beta Light in its element, moving in the mountains

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Comments 4

  1. Thanks for the thorough review, Dan! How do these bags compare with the BD Distance series, in terms of carrying comfort? I have been eying the Distance 22 for some time and now these came out.
    Ran

    1. Post
      Author

      Hi Ran,
      They’re pretty different systems for different uses. If you can get everything in a 22 liter pack, the Distance is ideal. But the Beta Lights are really for fast packing with all that goes along with it; more clothing, more food, stove, pad, sleeping bag, etc… And the Beta Light is still going to be able to utilize that hip belt for that additional weight – if you so choose. For me, the Distance 22 is a huge running pack for running/hiking into a peak and climbing, with a helmet, maybe a light rope and some gear. Or, for carrying a bit more on a multi-day trail running tour. I think it comes down to what you’ll be doing with it and how much weight you’ll carry. 12kg in the Beta Light 45 was comfy, not so sure if that would be the case in the Distance.

  2. I do wish these packs had two water bottles on the front, instead of one. The same goes for the Pursuit pack.

    Any comparison between the Beta Light 30 and the Pursuit 30?

    1. Post
      Author

      I would also prefer to have two water flask sleeves in front. Thankfully, my shoulders are flexible enough to get into those side pockets where I kept more water.
      I haven’t used the Pursuit 30 so can’t compare.

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