Black Diamond has been making rock climbing equipment since the 1950s when legend Yvon Chouinard began hand-forging pitons and selling them from his van in Yosemite Valley. Since then, the Utah-based company was purchased by Clarus Corporation (now operating under the name Black Diamond Inc.) and have branched out into the clothing, skiing and hiking markets. But its core product is still climbing equipment and it makes some of the best in the world. For this review, I took the following to the crags to see if they live up to the company’s excellent reputation: Solution harness; Super Chute rope bag; Freewire quickdraw; and Positron quickdraw.
Price: $74.00 US
Colours: Blue & slate
Weight: 330g / 11.6oz
Available in both men’s and women’s styles
Fusion Comfort Technology in the waist belt introduces three separate strands of low-profile webbing, for good load distribution while reducing pressure on sensitive points.
- Lightweight waist belt with Fusion Comfort Technology
- Breathable and quick-drying mesh padding
- Contoured fit
- Adjustable, releasable elastic risers
- Fixed elastic leg loops
- Four pressure-molded gear loops.
Speedy, double-backed waist belt buckle.
I’ve mentioned in other reviews that I’m a one harness kind of climber. Whether I’m at the sport crag, dangling from a cliff cleaning new lines or wandering up long alpine routes, I only want one harness in my quiver. That typically means I need adjustable leg loops for when I’m wearing three layers in the cold and a few other features not common to ultra-light, non-adjustable projecting harnesses. So when I first saw the Black Diamond Solution, I didn’t think it was going to work for me – but I was wrong.
The Solution is the first thin harness I’ve ever worn that’s actually comfortable. The waist belt is constructed of cushioned, breathable padding with three separate strands of webbing inside that contour around my hip bones perfectly. The leg loops have a similar construction and, because they’re elasticized, they conform to your body no matter how many layers you’re wearing. I was at a hanging belay for 45 minutes bringing up my seconder and the entire time I barely noticed I was wearing the solution, let alone felt uncomfortable in it.
I’m used to the style of gear loops on the Solution as they’re on other harnesses I’ve owned and are excellent for their ease of use and strength. Likewise the removable elastic riser in the back is a feature I’ve come to expect from all harnesses, although the one on the Solution can be tricky to use as you have to line up the hook with a tiny fabric opening. The only thing missing from this harness are loops for ice screw holders and for that reason I’d classify the Solution as a three-season harness. Still, it’s one of the best ones on the market.
Packs down super small and weight next to nothing so it's ideal for ski mountaineering.
Price: $49.00 US
Colour: Deep torch, black, curry
Volume: 25 L
Weight: 490g / 17.3oz
Adjustable courier-style shoulder strap for carrying over one shoulder.
- Barrel compression straps with metal buckles
- Top cinch cord
- Two internal tie-in loops
- Adjustable courier-style shoulder strap
- Funnel or traditional roll-loading
- Holds ropes up to 80 m
- Tarp dimensions: 126 x 146 cm (4 x 5 ft)
A top cinch cord and barrel compression straps with metal buckles for solid compacting
Two internal tie-in loops – one’s coloured green and the other red so you know which end of the rope to grab.
I’ve owned a dozen rope bags over the course of my 25-year rock climbing career and I’ve come to learn there are two main factors to consider when purchasing one: tarp size and packability. As far as I’m concerned it’s pointless buying a rope bag that doesn’t have an embedded tarp – you might as well just toss the rope into your backpack with the rest of your gear. Packability is a bit trickier though – gauging how easy a rope can be put in and, more importantly, taken out of a rope bag requires testing.
The good news is the Super Chute rope bag is easy-to-use when loading and unloading and it does a good job of keeping your rope free from tangles. The secret is the funnel design of the tarp that ensures, most of the time, your rope is properly stacked. Other features I like about the bag include the colour-coded internal tie-ins and the comfortable shoulder strap. However, the dimensions of the bag are larger than some others and, due to its size, it’s hard to toss a rope in it and then throw it all into another backpack for those long approaches.
Therefore, I would recommend the Super Chute for crag climbers who don’t have to worry about long approaches to their favourite spots.
Price: $13-14 US
Sizes: 12cm & 18cm
Weight: 100g / 3.5oz (12cm); 103g / 3.6oz (18cm)
Closed Gate Strength: 24kN
Open Gate Strength: 8kN
Minor Axis Strength: 8kN
Gate Opening: 25mm
The Freewire Quickdraw comes with two wiregate HotWire biners
- Includes a pair of cold-forged HotWire carabiners on the top and bottom
- 18 mm Polyester Dogbone and straight jacket
- Dual wiregates reduce the chance of gate flutter
Equipped with a Straitjacket to hold the rope end of the quickdraw in place for easy clipping.
There’s one main reason why people would want Black Diamond’s Freewire Quickdraw: price. This is one of the cheapest quickdraws on the market and Black Diamond bundles them so you can get a six pack at the cost of about $12 per unit. That’s why you’ll see a bunch of newbies at the crag sporting shiny Freewire Quickdraws on their equally shiny harnesses. These are a great entry-level piece of equipment that will hold up well in any environment.
However, the Freewire does have some drawbacks. For one thing this is not the lightest quickdraw on the market despite the wire-gates. Secondly, because of the “tooth” on each biner, they tend to get snagged on the rope and the bolt hanger when trying to unclip. Definitely a pain when project hard sport routes. And finally, the Dogbone is durable but it also feels slick, like it’s going to slip out of your hand at any moment – perhaps that will lessen with time. I do like that the Freewire has a straightjacket to hold the rope biner in place for easy clipping though.
In short, buy the Freewire Quickdraw if you’re a starving student. But if not, upgrade to the Positron or Hoodwire. colour
Price: $16.50-17.50 US
Sizes: 12cm & 18cm
Weight: 107 g / 308oz (12 cm); 110g / 309oz (18cm)
Closed Gate Strength: 25 kN
Open Gate Strength: 8 kN
Minor Axis Strength: 8 kN
Gate Opening: 22 mm (22mm); 26 mm (bottom)
The integrated Straitjacket insert keeps the bottom biner in the optimal clipping position.
- Straight gate Positron carabiner on top and bent gate Positron on the bottom
- Dual keylocks on both top and bottom biners
- Equipped with an 18 mm Polyester Dogbone with Straitjacket
- Available in 12 or 18 cm lengths
Dual keylocks on both top and bottom Positron carabiners ease clipping and cleaning.
The invention of the keylock carabiner a few decades ago significantly improved the lives of climbers everywhere. No longer would we have to worry about the “tooth” of the carabiner gate getting caught on ropes, gear loops, bolt hangers and stoppers or cams. Instead, the gate inserted like a jigsaw piece into the nose of the carabiner so there wasn’t anything left to catch on items.
The best part about the Black Diamond Freewire Quickdraws is they feature this keylock technology. The second best part is they’re relatively inexpensive. For the purposes of this review I took the Freewires on long trad outings as well as short afternoon sport crag sessions and in every instance they performed excellently. (However, were I to do a foray into the alpine, I’d probably save weight be bringing the Hoodwire quickdraws instead.)
The Freewires were easy to place and to clip. They handled the loops on various styles of gear from nuts to cams no problem and, with the straightjacket on the bottom biner, clipping the rope was never a problem. The only downside was the sheath felt a bit slick to the touch but perhaps that lessens over time. There are definitely better quickdraws on the market but for the price, the Freewires are the best value.
See above for individual product specification.
Black Diamond Solution Harness: 9.5/10
Quality / Price 2/2
Black Diamond Super Chute Rope Bag: 8/10
Quality / Price 2/2
Black Diamond Freewire Quickdraw: 8/10
Quality / Price 2/2
|Black Diamond Positron Quickdraw: 9/10|
Quality / Price 2/2
Did we miss something? Are we totally out to lunch? Let us know what you think. People like/dislike gear for different reasons so chime in below and we'll get a well-rounded evaluation.