PRODUCT SPOTLIGHT: Mercury and Onyx packs
Innovation is what drives everything here at Black Diamond. If we're not making gear better, stronger, lighter, faster, more durable and easier to use, then we're not doing our job. In this ongoing series of monthly posts, we'll be giving you an inside look at some of our most innovative products through one-on-one interviews with our team of industry-leading product designers and category directors.
This month we sat down with Pack Category Director Nathan Kuder to talk about our new Access Series packs, the men's-specific Mercury and the women's-specifix Onyx. These durable, large-capacity packs come in three different volumes and are built for big-mileage trips and rough trails where comfort and big-load capabilities are essential.
For more information or to load one up for yourself, click here.
What was the design goal in creating the Mercury and Onyx packs?
We set out to combine the unparalleled comfort or our Active Suspension systems with a host of ideal details for full-featured backpacking. We knew that comfort is one of the biggest concerns for backpackers and that we could use our ergoACTIV XP suspension to dramatically outperform anything else on the market. To that platform, we designed a packbody that truly defined modern features: taped seams in water sensitive areas, huge waterproof zippered access, and ideal internal organization.
What kinds of trips are these packs ideal for?
We designed these initially for multi-day backpacking (ideally 3-5 days) and they are excellent for this, but additionally these make excellent travel backpacks as well.
How are the Mercury and Onyx a departure from other Black Diamond packs?
These packs are definitely our most full-featured. Most of our packs take a distinctively minimalist approach, but the Mercury and Onyx celebrate the idea that comfort and ease of use is critical when you spend multiple days carrying and living out of them.
What are the main benefits of an active suspension like this?
1. Constantly balanced loads: By allowing the pack to match your body, the loads being applied directly to your hips and shoulders stay equalized from side to side. This is in direct contrast to typical "static" packs that force your body to lift the entire pack weight asymmetrically with each step. Whereas the pack's weight can be exactly the same, packs with static suspensions feel heavier because of the peak loads applied every time you move. This means no more bruised hips, happier shoulders, and no more need to constantly adjustments straps to change the feel.
2. Reduced friction/hotspots: By moving with your body instead of fighting it, active suspensions dramatically reduce the amount of friction between your body and the pack. No more chaffing on your neck line and no more raw spots on your hips.
3. Natural body mechanics (the biggest synergistic benefit): By allowing your body to move and carry weight naturally, you engage all of the big muscle groups that static suspensions eliminate. Specifically, by engaging your core (including your hips), you distribute the amount of work your body is doing, reducing the amount that is forced onto just your legs. At the end of the day you just feel better (less fatigued), especially your knees, shoulders- which are way overloaded by static suspensions.
Any unique challenges encountered by the design team when building these packs?
The biggest challenge (and accomplishment) was designing the hipbelt and its attachment system that could not only provide the motion we wanted, distribute the weight evenly around the entire belt, and also have the ability to tune the amount of motion to the user's preference. Through lots of rounds of prototyping and testing, we developed a hipbelt with active 3D motion and elastomer "tendons" that dynamically distributes the weight so evenly and so comfortably that it's actually hard to tell how much of the pack's weight you are carrying on the belt. It's possible to carry 90%+ of the weight on your hips and not necessarily notice it.