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Black Diamond Beta Lite 45 Backpack Review

Black Diamond Beta Lite 45 Backpack Review

The Black Diamond Beta Lite 45 is an ultralight rolltop backpack with vest-style shoulder straps inspired by running packs. Weighing 31.2 oz, it’s made with an ultralight fabric called Ultra 200 and Ultra 400 and seam-taped internally, making it effectively waterproof. It’s set up like a standard ultralight backpack with a large front stretch mesh pocket and two side pockets with an external bivy pad pocket behind the shoulder straps. While the hip belt is removable, you’ll probably want to keep it on a pack with this volume (45L), unless you wear it with a climbing harness.

Specs at a glance

  • Frame: Two Aluminum Framestays (removable)
  • Weight: 31.2 oz
  • Shoulder Straps: Vest-style, S-shaped
  • Pockets: 3 on the pack and 1 inside, 2 on the hip belt, and 3 on the shoulder straps
  • Load lifters: Yes
  • Hydration Compatible: Yes, center port
  • Gender: Unisex
  • Torso Sizes: XS (14″-15.5″), S (15.5″-17/5″), M (17.5″-19.5″), L (19.5′-21.5″)
  • Bear Canister Compatibility: The BV425 and the BV450 fit horizontally in the bottom of the main compartment, while a BV475 fits horizontally in the top of the rolltop. The BV500 can only fit vertically.
  • Material: Ultra 200 (body), Ultra 400 (bottom), 100D nylon ripstop (side pockets), Stretch mesh (front pocket)
  • Mfg. Max Recommended Load: 40lbs (we think it’s closer to 30 lbs)
  • Pros: Waterproof, durable fabric, Vest-style shoulder straps, See-into mesh pocket
  • Cons: No top Y strap, Vest pockets are not large enough to store water bottles

Black Diamond makes a lot of backpacks, although most target climbers and mountaineers instead of backpackers and thru-hikers. Still, it was a bit of a surprise when they came out with a new pack made with Ultra 200 and Ultra 400, a new ultralight waterproof fabric mainly used by smaller cottage backpack makers. True to form, the Beta Lite 45 is a good pack with a large main compartment for storing bulky gear and usable external attachment points. While it’s not completely dialed in for backpacking, I like it and find that the vest-style shoulder straps make it a very comfortable carry at the 45L volume.

You can see the contents of the front mesh pocket.
You can see the contents of the front mesh pocket.

Backpack Storage and Organization

The Black Diamond Beta Lite 45 is a rolltop backpack with three external pockets and a full-length mesh internal hydration sleeve. The top of the pack is significantly wider than the bottom: 20″ tapering to 15″. This makes it easier to find gear buried deep in the main compartment and makes it easier to load. The rolltop has an internal stiffener, but it only buckles closed on the top and not along the sides, limiting the amount of top compression. A single compression strap runs from the back to a buckle at the top of the stretch mesh pocket, providing some utility for carrying overloads but not as much as the Y straps on other ultralight backpacks.

The top of the pack is much wider than the bottom making it easier to find things inside.
The top of the pack is much wider than the bottom making it easier to find things inside.

The front stretch mesh pocket is very tall (20″) and can hold quite a lot of gear or clothing. It is made with tightly woven nylon mesh, which allows you to see what’s inside and helps you avoid leaving behind gear and losing it. The mesh’s tight weave makes it reasonably durable, but it’s not as bombproof as if made with Ultra Stretch Mesh, which is increasingly used on other backpacks made with Ultra fabric.  Despite this, the ability to view the pocket’s contents is a big plus and something that Ultra Stretch Mesh doesn’t enable.

The side pockets are oversized and can easily hold two Smartwater bottles.
The side pockets are oversized and can easily hold two Smartwater bottles.

The side pockets are also oversized and can easily hold two Smartwater bottles. However, they’re only made with 100D ripstop nylon, which is a little surprising given the wear and tear that can occur when you put the pack down or brush past overhanging vegetation. In this application, a more durable fabric like Ultra 200 or Ultra Stretch Mesh would have been more durable.

There is a thin foam pad in a pad pocket behind the shoulder straps.
There is a thin foam pad in a pad pocket behind the shoulder straps.

The pack also has an external bivy pad pocket behind the shoulder straps, which is purpose-made for the pad that comes inside it. Don’t try to remove that pad: you’ll never get it back into the pocket again. It’s intended to be part of that pack, not a removable sit pad, and I don’t understand why they didn’t just sew the top shut.  The purpose of that pad and pad pocket is to cushion your back against the two frame stays housed in the pack’s interior. The pocket is not large enough to store a hydration bladder (like the external reservoir pocket on some Osprey Packs) because it will barrel into your back, although it is a handy place to stash a pack of tortillas and warm them up with your body heat.

Backpack Frame and Shoulder Straps/Hipbelt

The Beta Lite 45 has two aluminum frame stays stored in individual stay pockets, which are removable. Load lifters are sewn to the pack body at the top of the frame stays and provide a very secure anchor. It’s nice to see load lifters on a backpack of this volume.

The Beta Lite has vest style should straps with dual sternum straps.
The Beta Lite has vest style shoulder straps with dual sternum straps.

The Beta Lite 45 has three external pockets and vest-style shoulder straps inspired by running backpacks. However, the pockets are not large enough to store soft bottles, which is a missed opportunity from a design standpoint since this is usually one of the benefits of a vest-style shoulder harness. The vest pockets are still useful: I shove my Garmin inReach Mini2 into one of them and my iPhone into the other, but they’re not optimized for hydration use. If you use this pack, you’ll want to use a hydration system or carry water bottles in the side pockets, as attaching accessory pockets to the vest straps would be difficult, given the lack of daisy chains or other attachment points.

Despite the limitations of the shoulder strap pockets, the Beta Lite 45 is quite comfortable to carry because the load is distributed more evenly across the front and back of the torso.

The hipbelt is lightly padded and attached to the pack with velcro.
The hipbelt is lightly padded and attached to the pack with velcro.

The hip belt has two large pockets to store snacks, a phone, or other odds and ends. It’s connected to the pack with velcro inside a sleeve behind your lumbar area. Besides the pockets and a large central buckle, the hip belt is basic without extra padding or contours to adapt to different genders or hip structures.

External Attachment Points and Compression

The Beta Lite has a single tier of side compression “cords,” which are girth-hitched on one end and attach to cord loops at the other with plastic hooks. They’re threaded with a thick cord, which works, but I find it awkward to use because it’s difficult to tighten. The benefit of girth-hitching the cords to the pack is that they can be removed. Similarly, there are two cords at the base of the pack for carrying a foam pad or tent body, although these are not removable. Other than that, there’s no ice axe loop or obvious way to carry trekking poles except by stuffing them into the pack’s side pockets.

The pack has compression cords instead of straps.
The pack has compression cords instead of straps.

Comparable Ultra and Woven Dyneema Backpacks

Make / ModelWeightMaterial
Hyperlite Mountain Gear NorthRim 5534.4 oz / 975gWoven Dyneema
Superior Wilderness Designs Rugged Long Haul 50L30.7 oz / 870gUltra 400
Hyperlite Mountain Gear Halka 5543.5 oz / 1234gWoven Dyneema
Seek Outside Gila 3500 43 oz / 1219gUltra 400
Black Diamond Beta Light 4531.4 oz / 890gUltra 400, Ultra 200
ULA Ultra 24 Circuit 68L36.7 oz / 1040gUltra 400, Ultra 200
Durston Kakwa 5531 oz / 880gUltra 200
LiteAF Ultra Curve 46L31 oz / 879gUltra 200
Mountain Laurel Designs Exodus 55L18 oz / 510gUltra 200
Zpacks Arc Haul Ultra 60L19.6 oz / 556gUltra 100

Recommendation

The Black Diamond Beta Lite 45 is an ultralight internal frame backpack made with Ultra 200 and Ultra 400, a highly durable and waterproof fabric. It has vest-style shoulder straps, which are comfortable to use, even when the pack is heavily loaded, because they help distribute the weight across your chest, back, and hips. I was quite impressed at how comfortable the carry even with heavier loads. While certain aspects of the pack could be improved, as noted above, the Beta Lite is one of the few ultralight backpacks available today at the  45L volume with a vest-style suspension system and a good option if you need to carry bulky gear and prefer the feel of vest-style shoulder straps. Compare it against the Six Moon Designs Swift X 50L, the Mountainsmith Zerk 40, and the Nashville Packs Cutaway 40, which are also available with vest straps but considerably more “evolved” for backpacking use. 

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Likes:

  • The Ultra 200 and Ultra 400 fabrics are highly durable
  • The interior of the backpack is seam-taped and effectively waterproof
  • The vest-style straps provide better load distribution across your chest and back
  • Wide range of sizes available, including XS (torso length of 14″ to 15.5″)

Dislikes:

  • Vest-style strap pockets can’t hold water bottles
  • Compression cords are awkward to use
  • The foam bivy pad is very difficult to put back in its place if removed.

Disclosure: Black Diamond donated a pack for review.

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3 comments

  1. Thank you for another excellent review.

    Challenge now only produce the Ultra X line (more resistant to delamination…).

    So, are BD using the older Ultra fabric or the new Ultra X version but not marketing it as such?

    TIA

  2. Great review, I noted pretty much all the same things. Could be improved with a top Y strap, and a second side compression strap (thinner ones!!). I might have kept mine if it weren’t for those issues.

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