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Cilo Gear 20L Worksack Review

   
Top Pick Award

Climbing Backpacks

  • Currently 3.4/5
Overall avg rating 3.4 of 5 based on 7 reviews. Most recent review: August 11, 2013
Street Price:   $65
Pros:  Three variations!!, lightweight, large volume, customizable, climbs well
Cons:  Expensive
Best Uses:  Multi-pitch rock or ice climbing, summit pack, day hikes
User Rating:     
  • 1
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  • 5
 (2.4 of 5) based on 6 reviews
Recommendations:  0% of reviewers (0/4) recommend this product
Manufacturer:   Cilo Gear
Review by: Chris McNamara ⋅ Founder and Editor-in-Chief, OutdoorGearLab ⋅ November 1, 2010  
Overview
This product has been discontinued.
Currently our highest rated Cilo Gear product and also Editors' Choice award winner, is the CiloGear 30L WorkSack. Read our complete Mountaineering and Alpine Climbing Backpack Review to see how this product compared to others.

The Cilo Gear 20L Worksack offer climbers and hikers a lightweight, versatile, and very durable summit pack. The pack is available in three different styles: the normal 20L Worksack ($65, 11. oz.), the 20L Hauly ($85, 13 oz., and very durable), and the 20L Non-Woven Dyneema ($150, 9 oz., and very durable). Each pack is designed for, and excels at, everything climbing related.

What's the difference between the 20L Worksack series and the Black Diamond Bullet? Answer: the Bullet, with its zippered main compartment and exterior zippered pocket, is easier and faster to get things out of. (With the Worksack you have to unbuckle the lid and loosen the main compartment.) Therefore, we recommend the Bullet for people who want a multi-sport pack and the Worksack for climbers.

The REI Flash 18 is nearly as light as the 20L NWD, but is much worse for climbing, and will be less durable than any Worksack. If climbing is not your main concern, however, the Flash 18 may be for you; it's inexpensive.

If you are considering this pack, then you probably are looking specifically for a streamlined, minimalist pack. The Petzl Bug, with its multitude of features and burly design, is the antithesis of minimalist, but is a great pack in its own rite. Consider the Bug if you are looking for a pack with all the bells and whistles and don't mind carrying something a bit heavier.

Cilo Gear is a small company based in Portland, Oregon. Their products are only sold online cilogear.com. If you can't find what you are looking for there you may want to check out a pack which is sold from a variety of major retailers such as the Bullet

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OutdoorGearLab Editors' Hands-on Review

cilogear.com
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The Cilo Gear 20L Worksack is a no-frills, minimalist pack for climbers of all types. The Worksack is the second lightest pack we tested, at 330g/11.6 oz. It also has the largest volume, compresses down super small, and climbs incredibly well (it was designed specifically as a leader's pack). And it is highly comfortable when loaded appropriately.

The body of the worksack is made of a 70 denier cordura laminated in a five ply sandwich with dacron X-Pac (for increased stiffness and resilience), and the bottom of the pack is made of 210 denier cordura with the same X-Pac material (If it's not clear from the name, the X's you see in the pack material is the X-Pac layer). This reinforced bottom makes the pack considerably more durable with only a slight loss in weight. The pack material itself is waterproof, and the padding on the shoulder straps is made of EVA foam that does not absorb water.

Every aspect of this pack is designed with climbing (specifically alpine-style climbing) in mind. The pack has an interior 'ninja' security pocket for keys and small items that folds out so that the pocket can sit on top of a full load and still be accessed. The pack also has a hydration system sleeve, a short reinforced daisy chain ( clip-in points) on the bottom section of the front of the pack, and two external stretch pockets. The pack's handle is brightly colored so you can find it quickly. The cinch closure is secure and easy, and a top hood covers the top of the pack for total weather protection and a streamlined exterior. An ice axe can be creatively rigged to the outside of the pack when needed, see photo above.

The most unique aspect of this pack is its D-clip compression and storage system, which is completely customizable as well as removable (if weight is an issue). The pack comes standard with two straps (10 grams each) that can be attached to fixed D-clips in a variety of manners to either cinch up the pack or to hold items on to the outside of the pack. I found the straps perfect to strap a helmet to the outside, but the options are endless. Check out the photos to get a better idea of what this system looks like. And here's amanual from Cilogear that talks all about the D-clip system.

This pack is also the only pack in the review that was produced in the U.S. (Cilo Gear packs are produced in Portland, OR), with all U.S. sourced materials, and only a % waste of materials during construction of the pack. It is also the only company that you can call up and talk directly to the president/owner about the packs. Your pack will then be built to order and shipped out, all in an average - day turnaround. That's pretty cool.

Other Versions
The 20L Hauly is the burliest small climbing pack we reviewed. Its super strong materials laugh at abrasion and the shoulder straps can be stowed for hauling. Unlike other versions of the 20L Worksack, the Hauly doesn't have D ring clips or side pockets on the exterior. This makes it better for hauling. Yosemite climbers, route developers, and anyone who is hard on their pack will love the 20L Hauly.

The 20L Non-Woven Dyneema version, at 9 oz., is ridiculously light, yet also insanely strong and durable. The $150 price tag makes it a bit of a luxury, but there's no doubt it's the highest performance summit pack out there.

Click to enlarge
Ian Bell totes the Cilo Gear 20L Hauly on the Incredible Hulk.
Credit: Max Neale
Dislikes
The main downside of the standard Cilo Gear 20L Worksack is its durability. The pack is made to be as light as possible, and this means that it will not hold up to hauling or severe abuse like some of the other packs reviewed. Get the 20L Hauly if you need something really durable (we believe this version is best for most rock climbers).

The 20L Worksack has a few additional shortcomings that should be noted. First, the pack does not have a key clip, so extreme care has to be taken if you are accessing the security pocket while on a climb and have the only set of car keys inside. Second, the hydration system port is located above the pull-cord closure, which means that you have to leave the pull-cord slightly open if you want to have the tube feed out of the backpack.

Unless you live in the Pacific Northwest, you also won't be able to see, touch, or try on a Cilo Gear pack unless you buy one. You can only order directly from Cilo Gear (either online or by phone).

Best Application
The 20L Worksack and the 20L NWD are meant to be leader's packs for long alpine routes and are best when paired with a larger pack (30L) for the follower. Of the three variations our authors (who do more rock climbing than ice and alpine climbing) prefer the 20L Hauly because it's very durable and can also be used alpine climbing (it weighs . ounces more than the standard 20L Worksack).

Value
All 20L Worksacks are reasonably pricey for a small daypack, but they're also the only packs reviewed here that are made in the U.S., of U.S. sourced materials. For alpine climbing, where every gram counts, this pack or any other Cilo Gear pack is worth your hard-earned dough. If you go sport cragging it might not be worth the expense.


Chris McNamara, Dan Sandberg, and Max Neale

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OutdoorGearLab Member Reviews


Most recent review: August 11, 2013
Summary of All Ratings

OutdoorGearLab Editors' Rating:   
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  • 5
 (5.0)
Average Customer Rating:   
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  • 5
 (2.4)

0% of 4 reviewers recommend it
Rating Distribution
6 Total Ratings
5 star: 17%  (1)
4 star: 0%  (0)
3 star: 50%  (3)
2 star: 17%  (1)
1 star: 17%  (1)
Sort 6 member reviews by: Most Recent | Most Helpful
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Aug 11, 2013 - 08:50am
 
opensea · Hiker · Sydney Australia
I just received my CiloGear Guide 20L worksack after 3 months of waiting. I live in Australia, and at first the order looked good, got an order number and waited for the tracking of the shipment. Some time later I wrote and got a reply that my pack would be started in production in 7 days. My PayPal account was then debited of the funds. More waiting. Then none of my emails were replied to. More waiting. A few months passed. I wrote about 25 emails in succession to see if they would reply. Then a Facebook 'bombing' campaign on their page, with my complaint all over their page so they could see my message everywhere…extreme I know, but it cost me over $110 AUD and there was nothing delivered. I then called them and when I finally got through they assured me it would be sent to the address on the order. It was May 2013 when I ordered and August 2013 when the goods finally arrived.
I know they are a small operation, but I paid good money and expected what I paid for. Thats all. Its not my problem how they run their business. I now have my worksack. Nice, yes. Worth the wait? I'm not sure. I needed a small strong light pack and ended up buying a Deuter from the UK which came in 14 days. I'll keep the CiloGear sack, but I dont think I could cope with buying from them again. Its hard to know if they really want customers, I buy online from many overseas dealers and this has by far been the worst service I have received. At least the pack is of decent quality.
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   Feb 25, 2011 - 07:09pm
elic · Climber
Just my 2 cents about cilogear.

I decided to go with this brand due to many good reviews and light weight. So far ordering process was a nightmare! By the time I ordered it I have been told that it would take 1 week. Called back 2 weeks later they were just about to send it (at least I have been told this). Again 2 more weeks later nothing! I called again the person who picked up the call told me that he was away for couple weeks and don't know what is going on and promised to call me back in one hour, as you can imagine it never happened. Called again next day by 3pm there is already no one in the shop and only option to leave a voice mail.

So one month later 300$ paid no backpack no communication, no idea what is going on ….. lets see what is next

Do not know what is the backpack like but I know the service is unacceptable especially for small company with pricey gear

Bottom Line: No, I would not recommend this product to a friend.
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   Dec 2, 2010 - 03:29pm
msiddens · Climber
Yep- same experience I had. Bought it and sold my bullet. First day out, the fabric tore between my back and shoulder blades. No idea how but the pack had no other wear. Again, very well made, great pack but durability issues aside lacked some features I found helpful which are stnd on other packs.

Bottom Line: No, I would not recommend this product to a friend.
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   Dec 2, 2010 - 12:48pm
ajc · Climber · oakland,ca
Totally agree with what brawa said on the durability.

I have a hard time finding even a pack this small that fits me wall.
The BD bullet and most small packs cut into my arms.
This one is a great size and fits me pretty well.
But its now covered in seam grip to patch all the holes in it.
The first hole formed on my first day of climbing.

Oh and the seams on the bottom are not really well sewn. One side is bunched up a little and more exposed to wear.

Maybe when it finally dies I'll see if cilogear could make me a new one out of cordura and a heavier duty stretch material for the pocket.

Bottom Line: No, I would not recommend this product to a friend.
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   Nov 12, 2010 - 07:44pm
brawa · Climber · SAN
I agree with Cory (below) and the reviewer. It's a nice minimalistic pack that carries a lot more than you'd think and carries it well, but it got thrashed the first day I did anything technical with it. Both mesh pockets tore and the main pack material is abraded in spots (but still looks very lively). I guess it's obvious that the stretchy mesh won't hold up to any abuse, but it's there and will thus be abused. To carry a rope, I just tie a butterfly coil backpack like I would if I wasn't wearing the pack--it's OK.

I bought one before they increased the price by $25. Maybe I should've anticipated it's lower durability and sheltered it when possible. I figure at $75 you can buy an REI Flash AND BD Bbee or Bullet and decide each day whether you want lighter or burlier.

I did have a very good experience asking questions and placing my order with Cilogear, and they were fast. Although I'm mixed on this bag, the 30LWS is high on my list for when my current 30L bag wears out.

Bottom Line: No, I would not recommend this product to a friend.
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Nov 12, 2010 - 07:07pm
 
Cory H · Climber
I bought a 20L worksack for use as a leaders pack on long multipitch rock climbs. I think this review is spot on. It climbs great and is super light, but is quickly getting thrashed from chimney and ow pitches. Also I tried securing a rope under the lid which ended up ripping the stitching that secures the buckle out. That said I still Like this pack, I can fit shoes, jacket , h2O, and food in it and I hardly even know it's there when climbing! If only it was more durable… Maybe I'll try the bullet after this one dies.
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Cilo Gear 20L Worksack
Credit: Cilo Gear
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