Outside magazine, August 1995
Good thing Mr. Spock wasn't much for scaling rock faces: Packs designed for climbing are generally...well, illogical. They're either too big to take to the top or too small for stowing the hardware and extra clothing you need for a full day at the crag. Panel loaders are impossible to access when you're on a precarious perch, and whatever you need to grab out of a top loader always seems to have shifted to the bottom of the pack. Black Diamond has eliminated these brain games with its SuperGenius, a climbing pack that's logical enough to suit a Vulcan.
The SuperGenius takes the classic panel-loading design one step further by extending the zippers so that the pack opens more completely. This "clamshell configuration" makes the contents easy to organize and to see: With a volume of 3,200 cubic inches, the wide-open interior can be packed as intricately as a suitcase, and a roomy, zippered interior pocket keeps chalk, food, or anything else sequestered and handy.
The exterior has all of the quality features that climbers have come to expect from Black Diamond: ice-tool loops, daisy chains, compression/lash straps, and haul loops. But here's where logic truly becomes SuperGenius: There's a mini "Bullet Pack" that zips off the back of the main pack. It's just large enough to hold the essentials--water, energy bars, a sweater, and rain gear--so you can take a large load to your base and then detach the Bullet Pack for a light push to the summit. The Bullet Pack carries comfortably high, out of the way of your harness and chalk bag, and the SuperGenius has a smart suspension system, including a plastic framesheet backed by an aluminum stay.
There are a few areas where the pack isn't so ingenious. One: At four pounds, 5.5 ounces, it's fairly heavy. Two: The advantage of being able to expose everything you've packed can become a disadvantage in foul weather. And three: There's no specific place to carry crampons. But if you need a durable pack to carry loads in accessible, comfortable order, the SuperGenius is only logical.
$180. From Black Diamond, 2084 E. 3900 S., Salt Lake City, UT 84124; 801-278-5552.