*Update, May 31st 2010*
Black Diamond should include Seam Grip, nylon repair tape and a Speedy Stitcher with the Sphynx 32. I’ve had the backpack for 9 months now and it’s limping it’s way to a quick retirement (or back to BD). I love the idea of this backpack – the design is great but the reality is that this backpack is not going to last that long.
Both general durability and quality control seem to be issues with this backpack. While there’s no doubt that I qualify as a “hard user” of gear, the pack has 100+ days of use in the last 9 months, the rate at which the pack is coming undone is a bit rapid.
Here’s a list of some issues:
- The bottom of the pack has only a single layer of fabric meaning that any small holes that form in the outside layer show through. There are at least 6-8 small holes in the bottom and your gear gets soaked when you set the pack down on damp or wet ground.
- Numerous small holes in the body of the fabric, which all began as scuff marks
- I tore a hole in the body of the pack (along the side) in Red Rocks last fall. The hole unraveled, and being close to a seam the fabric panels began to separate.
- Stitching is coming undone where the shoulder load adjuster strap meets the frame/backpanel
- The eyelet on the drawstring ripped out. Since I started using the bag the collar has always been stiff and difficult to close. In order to get the collar to cinch closed you need to pull hard. This has forced the eyelet out of the fabric and now the fabric has begun to tear along the top of the collar.
While my Cold Cold World Chernobyl hasn’t completely bit the dust I felt that it was time for a new backpack earlier this summer. As a guide and frequent recreational climber my pack gets absolutely tooled on. Most packs seem to last about three years before they have really mushy straps, holes all over the bottom and broken buckles and zippers. After a lot of looking, I feel like I’ve found what I’ve been looking for in the Sphynx 32 from Black Diamond.
Criteria I used to select a suitable pack
I like having one pack that will fill most daily needs year-round – rock, ice and alpine climbing. This pack must:
- be in the 2500-3200 cu in (40l-50l) range
- be light yet durable (obviously a pack cannot completely be both of these things)
- have crampon straps
- have ice axe holders that accommodate standard piolets, conventional ice tools, and leashless tools that don’t have a hammer or adze.
- have a removable waist belt, framesheet and bonnet so that the pack will climb better when you’re wearing a harness or doing a summit attempt.
- be reasonably priced – I wear them out faster than most other users.
- be made in the USA.
I am more or less flexible on the other details.
My last pack, the Chernobyl, came pretty close to filling all of those criteria. It didn’t have a removable waist belt. The waist belt on that pack was fairly soft though, so it would mold over the top of a harness just fine. Also, I was really happy to buy a pack made by Randy Rackliff in North Conway, NH from the guys at Rock and Snow here in New Paltz. I had to add a framesheet and an aluminum stay to the Chernobyl to make it stiffer though. The pack flopped around like a dead fish if you had anything at all in the lid when the pack was empty. I feel that the Cold Cold World line of packs needs a bit of revamping. Their design is classic and minimalist, which is great, but some upgrades would make them nicer and more competitive with other comparable climbing packs on the market.
Up until the day I got the Sphynx 32 I was very happy with my old pack. It served me well for hundreds of days of hard use. The Chernobyl is about 50L and I felt that it was bigger than I needed for most day-to-day use. Back in the spring Alpine Endeavors became a Black Diamond partner, meaning that we receive pretty solid discounts on most BD products. I initially ordered a Sphynx 42L thinking that this would be the perfect size for daily use at the crags and in the winter ice climbing. I was surprised when I received it and found that the Sphynx 42L was actually larger than my Cold Cold World Chernobyl.
I immediately ordered the Sphynx 32L because I had the feeling that it would be the right size. I wasn’t disappointed; it’s smaller than the 42L, and a bit smaller than the Chernobyl.
I’ve been using the pack for three months now and I’m very happy with it. It has everything I need and nothing extra. It seems durable so far, and very minimalist. The waist belt is beefy enough to carry weight well, and you can replace it with a lighter weight waist belt for when you’ll be wearing the pack with a harness. The lid holds my lunch, first aid kit, sunglasses and a few other small items easily. The main compartment design is very nice and very minimalist. It has an upside down teardrop shape which makes dropping your gear into the pack really easy. I can fit a full single rack (to 4″) with runners/draws, a harness, two pairs of shoes, chalkbag, two 1 liter water bottles, a shell, a lightweight puffy jacket and a helmet very easily. The rope fits securely under the lid to round things out. There’s also a hydration sleeve which I use for storing my set of RP’s and two smaller cams for thinner climbs. One of the nicest features about this bag: you never have to fuss with a floppy spindrift collar at opening to the main compartment.The lid on the pack is fixed so there’s no need for a spindrift collar that can expand the pack’s volume.
The Sphynx 32 is almost exactly what I was looking for. I thought that I would miss the floating, removable lid and the spindrift collar but I don’t. The ease with which you can load the Sphynx makes me think that I might avoid spindrift collars on all of my future crag packs. The pack isn’t made in the USA like my Cold Cold World bag, it’s made in the Phillipines (which helps to explain the very affordable price). Otherwise this utilitarian pack is great, and I’d recommend it to anyone who’s looking for a simple pack that will work for rock, ice and alpine climbing.