Hands-on Gear Review
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Street Price: $65
Pros: Three variations!!, lightweight, large volume, customizable, climbs well
Best Uses: Multi-pitch rock or ice climbing, summit pack, day hikes
Manufacturer: Cilo Gear
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, 11.5 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
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 (3 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 3% 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 2-3 day turnaround. That's pretty cool.
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.
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).
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 2.5 ounces more than the standard 20L Worksack).
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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Most recent review: August 11, 2013
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