Is Black Diamond A Good Brand? A Backcountry Gear Review

Black Diamond Website
Black Diamond Website

Is Black Diamond A Good Brand? A Backcountry Gear Review

Named after the most difficult runs you can hit on a ski slope, Black Diamond proves itself with tried and true, quality-tested gear that can take you anywhere you want to go. The company is well-known for making some of the best climbing, skiing, and mountaineering equipment available on the market. If you want to go far, it should be done with Black Diamond on hand.

Is Black Diamond a good brand?

The quality of Black Diamond is world-renowned. With bases in the US, Switzerland, Austria, and China, the company provides serious mountain equipment across all of North America, Europe, and Asia. Climbers love the Camalot cams, mountaineers love their tent designs, and skiers absolutely love skiing on their skis.

So, is Black Diamond a good brand? It depends on what you mean by “good brand”. Their quality is high and the gear you buy from them will surely last and outperform a lot of others in the industry. They aren’t the kind of company that runs purely off a friendly, eco-loving, ethical business model like some of their counterparts. They talk a little bit about sustainability but finding the company’s story and business model is a bit hidden.

It’s not surprising that Black Diamond is less “family-friendly” than other companies. This is one of the outdoor brands that is owned and operated by a larger business and is publicly traded. It’s more about making money than it is about saving the planet. They make money by making high-quality stuff, so it all depends on what you, as a consumer, are looking for.

One of the biggest scandals was when Black Diamond posted on Instagram about the Black Lives Matter movement. The chief executive for Black Diamond is also involved with another company that was producing and supplying the tear gas that was being used on protestors. The internet was fast to point out the contradiction. Even with a huge donation to the movement, the scandal stuck and created a bad name for Black Diamond.

​​Who is the owner of Black Diamond?

Black Diamond was bought by the Clarus Corporation in 2010 for $90 million. Up until 2010, Black Diamond was owned and operated by former employees of Chouinard Equipment. Today, you can buy stock in Black Diamond, therefore becoming a partial “owner”.

How many employees does Black Diamond have?

As Black Diamond is a worldwide company, there’s a large number of employees needed to run such a massive operation. There are over 500 employees worldwide and they are always looking for people to increase the tech that they use in their gear.

A black and white photo of a group of people posing in front of a building.

When was Black Diamond founded?

Back in the late 1950s, Yvon Chouinard (founder of Patagonia) started making climbing gear in his garage and selling it out of the trunk of his car. This was the beginning of Chouinard Equipment, which provided much of Yosemite Valley’s climbers with the gear they needed to climb some of the biggest walls in the world.

After about thirty years of operation, Chouinard Equipment was forced to file for bankruptcy and was sold to some of the former company employees, thus starting Black Diamond Equipment in 1989. Former CEO Peter Metcalf moved the brand from its former home of Ventura, California to Salt Lake City, Utah. They settled in and soon after, in 1996, opened up a European hub in Switzerland.

In 2010, the company was bought out by the Clarus Corporation, making it a publicly-traded business on the NASDAQ.

Is Black Diamond American?

Black Diamond has all of its roots in America. They started in California and later moved to Utah. This doesn’t make them a purely American company anymore though. Today, they operate out of multiple hubs worldwide. They have their main headquarters in Utah, with a global business office in Innsbruck, Austria. 

All of the Black Diamond gear was once made in the US. The manufacturing plant employed over 130 people in Salt Lake City, and today is now just an assembly-only plant. That means all of their parts are made overseas, shipped to Utah, and assembled there. A lot of people wondered about the drastic move overseas, especially as it forced the company to lay off over 70 workers in the process. 

The technology that was being developed quickly started to be too much for the company’s US-based manufacturing plant to handle. They were forced to move overseas where factories were capable of producing more complex pieces, at a higher and faster rate. 

Even before this big shift, the company was always making some amount of their products overseas. It was always using facilities abroad to manufacture things like skis and most clothing. They really haven’t ever been a truly American company after Chouinard Equipment.

Where are Black Diamond headlamps made?

One small piece of equipment that Black Diamond is well-known for is their headlamp series. Their headlamps come in a wide range of lumens, colors, sizes, battery life, waterproofness, and more. They’ve become one of the top competitors when you go shopping for a headlamp, and many outdoor industry professionals sport a Black Diamond headlamp at night. There’s a heavy debate in the field about what headlamp is truly best. 

Black Diamond’s headlamps have almost always been made across the sea. Taiwan and China produce a huge number of Black Diamond’s products, now more than ever, and that won’t change any time soon. It’s truly hard to find anything that’s made in the US anymore and we’re watching the quality of products drop with that shift as well. Fortunately, some of Black Diamond’s gear is still assembled on this side of the water, meaning it can also be fixed here.

Is Petzl better than Black Diamond?

Black Diamond’s largest competitor is Petzl. This is true when looking at all climbing gear as well as headlamps. Petzl has made a huge name for itself over the past years. They’re a more family-centered company that operates out of France. Not only do they make great gear, but they’re also heavily involved in community efforts for social and environmental justice. 

Just like any other outdoor brand, who is the best often comes down to opinion. Black Diamond is well-known across the world and so is Petzl, but Black Diamond has expanded to more territory, such as skiing. All-in-all, it’s impossible to say if one is truly better than the other.

Does Black Diamond own Pieps?

If you’ve ever bought an avalanche kit from Black Diamond, or used any avalanche gear, you may have heard of Pieps. They’re a well-known transceiver company for those who have a passion for recreating in the backcountry during winter. 

While they aren’t owned directly by Black Diamond, they are owned by the same company, the Clarus Corporation. Also owned by this company is ClimbOn! Skincare and Sierra Bullets. So, when you buy stock in Black Diamond, you also buy stock in Pieps. Following a few major and lethal incidents with malfunctioning transceivers in avalanches, Pieps didn’t make a great name for itself. Slowly, they are recovering and helping to fix the mistake they made.

Is Black Diamond affiliated with Patagonia?

As mentioned before, Black Diamond has the same roots as Patagonia. To say that they are related today is similar to saying that humans are related to monkeys. We came from the same ancestors, but aren’t nearly the same today. 

Patagonia and Black Diamond are neither owned by the same company nor are they affiliated in any way today. The only similarity is the roots in Chouinard Equipment. Patagonia came from the same place but was alongside Chouinard Equipment, rather than a part of it. Today, they have completely different missions and practices. Patagonia often encourages people to not buy their gear and is a privately owned, environmentally-focused, business.

A person hiking with a backpack in the mountains.
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