Scoop early look at Black Diamond's take on pivoting, ergonomic, back systems in the form of the new Mercury 55.
Newly arrived for review is the new Black Diamond Mercury 55, the US hardware brand's take on packs that move with your body as you walk. Ben Winston takes us through the basics.
Black Diamond Mercury 55
It’s not everyday you see something genuinely innovative in pack design, but Black Diamond’s new multi-day monsters have some technological wizardry which aim to change the way we think about comfort. Available in men’s and women’s-specific fits, the Mercury and Onyx (respectively) are the latest addition to the growing range of ‘synergistic’ rucksacks on the market (packs which move with the body, to you and me.)
The thinking behind packs like these and the Berghaus Bioflex is that rather than your body being splinted in position, the pack allows a more natural walking motion with your hips and shoulders free to roll and move unencumbered and this, in turn, increases comfort, walking efficiency and stability on uneven terrain.
Big pack, bold design
The packs are available in 55, 65 and 75 litre capacities, sit firmly in the multi-day backpacking category - still a big market stateside - and are all on the large size for their stated volume. While they’re not going to play a cameo role in the lightweight revolution - a medium back length Mercury 55 weighs in at 2,100g - they’re still a reasonable weight for the quality and sturdiness of the build.
But what’s really interesting is the ergoACTIV XP back system, a system which includes a pivoting 3D ball attachment for the hip belt, and SwingArm shoulder straps which move with your body.
Revolutionary back system
The Mercury and Onyx are not the only packs to play with pivots and joints in an attempt to make carrying unfeasible loads more efficient - the longstanding Berghaus Bioflex comes to mind here - but the swinging SwingArm shoulder system is, we think, pretty much unique to BD.
Here, the straps are attached to each other via a cable which runs through the bottom of the back system, so as one shoulder moves up, the opposite strap moves down in a see-saw motion that keeps the weight evenly balanced over both shoulders.
As for the hip belt, it attaches to the pack via a 3D ball joint and this, combined with some elastomer ‘tendons’, mean the pack is free to move remarkably independently of you. In a good way.
Bells, whistles and zips
Black Diamond say this pack is a bit of a departure from their minimalist norm as it sets out to be as comfortable as possible when carrying many days' supplies. Features include waterproof taping on the top and bottom, lots of water-resistant zips - you can access the whole of the main compartment via a long curving zippered panel opening - lots of internal organizer pockets, a retractable trekking pole/ice axe loop, sleeping pad straps and hip belt pockets.
The top pocket is floating to allow you to cram even more in, and of course it’s got all the appropriate holes for the hydration system. Combine this with the quality construction and panache we’ve come to expect from Black Diamond and it adds up to quite a pack. A big and slightly weighty pack, for sure, but one that makes no apologies for its fully-featured self.
We'll be interested to see both how the pack compares with the Berghaus Bioflex 2 system which launches this spring - we have a 45-litre one of those to look at - and whether it lives up to the claims of increased efficiency
Prices for the Mercury and Onyx are distinctly premium at £199 for the 75, £179 for the 65 and £159 for the 55-litre model we have, which reflects the build quality and design work that's gone into them.
More information at www.blackdiamondequipment.com.