Although this backpack lacks a few of the features we’d ideally like to have on hiking trips, its versatility and well-thought-out design make it a great pick for anyone looking for a pack that can do a little bit of everything
Made with durable, 300-denier recycled polyester
TPU laminate exterior and durable water repellent finish
Nicely padded back panel and shoulder straps
Lots of interior pockets/storage compartments
No interior frame
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Patagonia Black Hole Backpack: first impressions
The Patagonia Black Hole Backpack is part of the brand’s extensive Black Hole range, which includes everything from 5-liter fanny packs all the way through to behemoths like the Patagonia Black Hole duffel, which boasts a capacity of 100 liters. It’s also the unisex version of the 23-liter women’s Black Hole backpack, which earned a place on our list of the best women’s backpacks.
All of the Black Holes are built a little bit differently to almost anything else in Patagonia’s range of backpacks. What they have in common is outstanding durability, rugged fabrics, solid water resistance, and awesome eco-credentials.
The Patagonia Black Hole 25-liter backpack is made with tough, 300-denier polyester ripstop fabric with a TPU laminate DWR (what is DWR?) finish that makes it water-resistant enough to keep your gear dry in light to moderate rain showers. On the outside of the pack, there’s a handy zippered top pocket, a large front pocket, a duo of mesh pockets that are large enough to store 1-liter water bottles, and a strip of burly daisychain webbing (see: parts of a backpack) that lets you lash extra gear to the pack with accessory cord or carabiners.
• RRP: $129/£99.99
• Weight: 1 lb 6.92 oz/ 650 g
• Volume: 25L
• Compatibility: Adventure travel, hiking, and everyday carry
• Colors: Classic Navy, Black, Crater Blue
The pack’s back panel is nicely cushioned and contoured to allow for airflow between the fabric and your back, and the shoulder straps have an ergonomic shape that steers them well clear of your neck – something that’s sure to be greatly appreciated when carrying a heavier load. The main downside to this pack is the lack of a hipbelt. While this omission won’t be too noticeable when carrying lighter loads or when walking in flatter terrain, it does mean the pack will bounce around a little when the going gets bumpy, and that your shoulders will bear the brunt of the pack’s weight (more on this in how to choose a backpack).
Inside the pack is where the magic really happens. The first endearing feature is the wide-mouth, bucket-style opening, which lets you see all four walls of the pack clearly by simply flipping back the hood and makes packing and unpacking a cinch. There are also myriad storage options, from an oversize, padded sleeve that can accommodate a 15-inch laptop right through to pen holders and an array of smaller pockets with Velcro or buckle closures. If you're unsure whether or not the Black Hole Backpack's 25-liter capacity will be enough, check out our guide What size backpack do I need?
Patagonia Black Hole Backpack: on the trail
In the 18 months that I’ve owned the Patagonia Black Hole 25L backpack, I’ve put it through the wringer. In that time, it has become my go-to cabin bag on flights and done time as my climbing gym bag for bouldering sessions, occasional crag bag, hiking pack for mellow day hikes, and is now no stranger to hauling a happy assortment of office paraphernalia, toiletries, climbing gear, and edibles on those days when I try to do a bit of everything.
Here’s how it performed:
Let’s start with the bottom line: the Black Hole will never take the place of my regular hiking backpack for days out on more rugged or trails, or on any hike that pips the five-mile mark, and I wouldn’t recommend that anyone buy it instead of an out-and-out hiking backpack if they intend on using it exclusively on the trail. The main reason for this is that it lacks a few comfort-enhancing and hiking-specific features that become increasingly necessary – or at least greatly appreciated – the more time you spend on the move in backcountry terrain, most notably a padded hipbelt and an internal frame. That said, the pack’s back panel and shoulder straps are plushly padded and make wearing it on easier and shorter strolls an absolute pleasure.
I’ve been caught in many a shower when wearing the Black Hole, and each time it has kept my gear dry. The only caveat to its makers’ claim of robust water resistance, however, is that the TPU laminate exterior does not extend to the base of the pack, so you have to be careful where you put it down if you’re out and about in wet weather.
Pockets and storage
Few packs I’ve used have done storage quite so well as the Black Hole. While the fabric doesn’t have as much “give” as the stretchier material used in standard biking backpacks, all those interior and exterior pockets give you an array of options for different pieces of kit. True to its name, the central compartment is, simply put, a large, gaping cavity into which you can throw all your kit with ease.
Perhaps the most endearing thing about this pack is its versatility. There are hiking packs and everyday carry packs that can do what they’re designed to do a lot better than the Black Hole, but very few will be equipped and configured in a way that lets them do both quite so well. Bottom line? If you’re looking for a full-blooded hiking pack, there are better options out there, but if you need a pack that can do a bit of everything, it’s well worth a place on your shortlist.
Former Advnture editor Kieran is a climber, mountaineer, and author who divides his time between the Italian Alps, the US, and his native Scotland.
He has climbed a handful of 6000ers in the Himalayas, 4000ers in the Alps, 14ers in the US, and loves nothing more than a good long-distance wander in the wilderness. He climbs when he should be writing, writes when he should be sleeping, has fun always.
Kieran is the author of 'Climbing the Walls', an exploration of the mental health benefits of climbing, mountaineering, and the great outdoors.