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CiloGear 30L WorkSack Review

   
Editors' Choice Award

Mountaineering Backpacks

  • Currently 5.0/5
Overall avg rating 5.0 of 5 based on 3 reviews. Most recent review: September 17, 2013
Street Price:   $169 - $500
Pros:  Perfect balance of low weight and durability, excellent features, super comfy for climbing, 4 fabric options
Cons:  Could be too small for multi-day trips (unless you go ultralight)
Best Uses:  1-2 day alpine climbs. multipitch rock, ice climbing
User Rating:     
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  • 5
 (5.0 of 5) based on 2 reviews
Recommendations:  100% of reviewers (2/2) recommend this product
Manufacturer:   CiloGear
Review by: Chris Simrell ⋅ Review Editor, OutdoorGearLab ⋅ August 29, 2013  
Overview
The CiloGear 30L WorkSack has been refined over time until… perfection? The pack's capacity is best for day trips and car-to-car alpine climbing, but can also work for 1-3 night climbs if you’re traveling ultralight. Due to its durability (across all 4 fabric options) the pack also performs very well for rock climbs of all types. This is the most comfortable pack (for technical climbing) we've ever tested. If you’re looking for a do-everything small capacity alpine pack, look no further. However, all Cilo packs are made to order in Portland, Oregon, often involving a delay in delivery. Cilo Gear packs are not widely available at major online retailers so if you can't get to one of their retailers and need something soon consider the Black Diamond Speed 30.

If you want one all-purpose pack that's also large enough for multi-day winter climbs consider the CiloGear 30:30.

If we were to choose two packs for climbing primarily in North America we'd get the Cilo 30L WorkSack and a Hyperlite Mountain Gear 3400 Ice Pack, the latter of which is more comfortable for hiking and lighter than the CiloGear 45L WorkSack.

Check out the complete Mountaineering and Alpine Climbing Backpack Review to see how the 30L WorkSack compares to the competition.

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OutdoorGearLab Editors' Hands-on Review

First, a note about pronunciation
Cilo is pronounced "chee-low", not "see-low" or "silo".

Click to enlarge
Max Neale down climbing on the Evolution Traverse with the CiloGear 30L W/NWD pack.
Credit: Matt Wilhelm

Like all CiloGear WorkSacks, the 30L is offered in multiple fabric options. There are four to choose from:

Standard - This is the cheapest option and was updated in the winter of 2012-2013 to be significantly more durable than the previous version.
Max weight - 980g / 34.6oz
Minimum weight - 590g / 20.8oz
Price - $169

Guide Service - Standard fabrics plus extra durability for $20 more.
Max weight - 990g / 34.9oz
Minimum weight - 590g / 20.8oz
Price - $189

Woven and Non-Woven Dyneema (W/NWD) - Our favorite fabric option, extremely durable and lightweight, likely the best pack fabric in the world.
Max weight - 940g / 33oz
Minimum weight - 505g / 18oz
Price - $500

Non-Woven Dyneema (NWD) - The lightest option. For first ascents and speed records.
Max weight - 785g / 27.7oz
Minimum weight - 480g / 17oz
Price - $450

Click to enlarge
CiloGear 30L WorkSacks in four different materials, left to right: standard, GuideService, W/NWD, and NWD.

Performance Comparison
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CiloGear 30L WNW on the Cilley-Barber, Mt. Katahdin, Maine.
Credit: Max Neale
Weight
Weight is a variable thing for CiloGear WorkSacks. Because you can remove almost every part of any CiloGear pack the total weight of your pack will depend on which features you take along on a particular trip, and what version (fabric option) you choose to purchase. Take a look at the side-by-side comparison table in our Mountaineering and Alpine Climbing Backpack Review to get the full weight specs on all the different fabric options.

The standard 30L WorkSack has a total weight of 980g (34.6oz), and a stripped weight (no lid, no hip belt, no bivy pad, no side straps) of 590g (20.8oz). This gives the pack a weight to volume ratio of 0.6 – 1.1 oz/L (depending on how stripped down your pack happens to be). Overall the 30L WorkSack hits a sweet spot in terms of weight for this capacity of pack by balancing weight concerns, with durability. The Black Diamond Speed 30 for example is significantly heavier, while the Mountain Hardwear SummitRocket 30 is far lighter, but not nearly as durable, comfortable, or versatile. The 30L Guide Service version is slightly heavier than the regular version, and the W/NWD is slightly lighter. The NWD version is the lightest overall.

99% of the time our testers use the 30L without the lid. Add a silnylon or cuben fiber pack liner (or a contractor style trash bag) to keep contents waterproof, if needed.

Click to enlarge
CiloGear 30L WorkSack in the North Cascades, Washington.

If you want to fit several days of gear and food inside a 30L pack you'll need to go ultralight. Start by getting an ultralight sleeping bag and an ultralight shelter.

Durability
Click to enlarge
Will Dean following mixed terrain on the N. Face of Mt. Snoqualmie with the Cilogear 30L WorkSack.
Credit: Todd Kilcup
CiloGear substantially improved the overall durability of the 30L WorkSack when they updated the design and fabrics in the winter of 2012-2013. We found that the primary complaint with the old version was a lack of durability on the side panels, particularly if you were packing skis on the side or doing a lot of climbing on rough rock. The new version has fixed this by beefing up the durability on the bottom – now VX42 (420d Cordura laminated with dacron X-Pac) – and by putting VX21 (210d Cordura laminated with Dacron X-Pac) on the bottom sides and front crampon panel. The upper side panels and lid remain 210 Cordura with dyneema ripstop. By using more abrasion resistant fabrics on the high wear areas and keeping the fabrics lighter on the non-wear areas, CiloGear has struck a good balance between long-term durability and weight. Overall the 30L WorkSack remains a very lightweight pack considering that it’s built to take abrasion, carry ice tools and crampons, and last you for years.

If long-term durability is a major concern, consider the W/NWD version. Though extraordinary expensive the W/NWD packs from CiloGear are ultra-strong, built-to-last in the truest way, AND lightweight. The fabric is non-woven dyneema on the inside and woven dyneema on the outside. Yes, dyneema is the same material your superlight, super strong climbing slings are made of (some people call it spectra). Both the tear strength and abrasion resistance of W/NWD are very very very good. We've tried to beat the crap out of our 30L W/NWD, but even after two years it shows less wear than many alpine packs do after 3 months. Specifically, we've used that pack for: Evolution Traverse in the high Sierra, Regular NW Face of Half Dome, Grand Teton, alpine climbing in the Canadian Rockies, ice climbing in the Adirondacks, backpacking in Glacier National Park, backpacking the Lost Coast Trail (CA), backpacking in the North Cascades, climbing the Southern and Northern Picket range in the North Cascades, the Cilley-Barber on Mt. Katahdin (ME), two months of traveling and sport climbing in Turkey (where one tester deliberately and consistently dragged it on sharp limestone), and countless other rock, ice, skiing, hiking, and city day trips. The W/NWD is dirty, but in excellent condition. We are confident that it is the best pack fabric in the world and we highly recommend it if you have the cash to push the performance envelope.

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The CiloGear 30L W/NW Dyneema WorkSack on the RNWF of Half Dome.
Credit: Max Neale

Comfort
Generally speaking the 30L WorkSack is fairly comfortable. Our main finding concerning comfort was that if you’re planning a one-night trip – and bringing the 30L – you tend to stuff it to the gills a bit. With only a folded foam bivy pad for a frame the pack tends to “round out” a bit in the back. While not particularly uncomfortable, when loaded up full the pack can tend to feel a bit cylindrical against the back. One solution is to take less gear. Or alternatively, take the CiloGear 30:30, which at about 40L is more appropriate for a 2 night trip. One feature we really like is the internal compression strap. This allows you to cinch the load in your pack in against your back by tightening an internal strap that connects the front and back of the pack, bring the load closer to your body and allowing it to ride better on the hips and not throw you off balance.

Compared to other packs of its size the 30L WorkSack is actually rather nice to hike with. It has a padded waist belt for example, something not found on the Mountain Hardwear SummitRocket 30. We found the comfort of the pack to be similar to the Black Diamond Speed 30. Overall the 30L WorkSack was our favorite pack to climb with.

Click to enlarge
CiloGear 30L Worksack, older version in the standard material. Will Dean belaying the author on NY Gully, NW Face Snoqualmie Mountain, Cascades, Washington.
Credit: Todd Kilcup
Versatility
Like all CiloGear packs we found the 30L WorkSack to be a very versatile pack. All the straps are removable, and perhaps more importantly, their location is customizable with CiloGear’s unique strap system. You can rid yourself up to carry skis, or a sleeping pad, crampons, or remove it all for a sleek exterior. The lid, internal bivy pad frame, and hip belt are also removable. The ability to securely carry ice tools and crampons, have excellent abrasion resistance, all while remaining a lightweight pack overall makes the 30L WorkSack our go-to small alpine bag.

Features
The 30L WorkSack has all the features needed in a small alpine pack, none you don’t, and you can remove features when they aren't needed. The ice tool attachment system (the same system found on all CiloGear packs) is our favorite out of all the packs we used. It is extremely simple to use, and extremely secure. Picks are slotted into a fabric slit with the tool neck clipped into place, and the tool shaft secured with a short piece of shock cord and a cord lock. For crampons, you can rig up a length of shock cord to the front of the pack, zigzagging the cord across the front panel, and securing it with a cord lock and overhand knot. We found this to be the most effective crampon attachment method for this pack. Alternatively, you can use two of the straps provided with the pack or strap them to the top of the pack under the lid, on top of the lid, or use the included straps

While the lid has a pocket, the inside of the pack also contains a medium sized hanging pocket. This is big enough for the little things – headlamp, sunscreen, cell phone etc. and it flips up to give access to the bivy pad slot.

The hipbelt is reasonably comfortable and built very tough. (The buckle is unnecessarily gigantic for a 30L pack.) For climbing some of out testers prefer to use the grey strap set as a hipbelt because it's 4+ oz. lighter and performs nearly as well-- it prevents the pack from sliding around and throwing you off balance-- as the larger belt. The large hipbelt can take some weight off your shoulders, but, because this is a climbing pack, the hipbelt is no where near as effective at putting weight on your hips as a backpacking pack, which typically rides much lower. Though this may

The pack is available in one size. Taller folks may want to request the longer shoulder straps. Additionally, CiloGear offers women specific hip belts.

Watch the videos below to see how CiloGear features work.

Best Applications
Car-to-car alpine excursions and one to three night climbs with a light kit.

Value
The standard 30L WorkSack is an excellent deal at $169. The $500 W/NWD version provides unmatched performance and durability; if you don’t lose it first, you can give it to your kid. We don't believe the NWD version is a good value.

Click to enlarge
CiloGear 30L WorkSack alpine rock climbing.
Other Versions and Accessories
CiloGear 45L WorkSack
CiloGear 30:30 Guide Service WorkSack

Skiers- check out the removable shovel pocket and ski strap set.

How To Get It
If no retailers in your area carry CiloGear packs they can be ordered from http://www.cilogear.com/packs.html Be aware that there may be delays; CiloGear is a small company and orders can be backlogged.

Videos

Chris Simrell

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OutdoorGearLab Member Reviews


Most recent review: September 17, 2013
Summary of All Ratings

OutdoorGearLab Editors' Rating:   
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 (5.0)
Average Customer Rating:   
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 (5.0)

100% of 2 reviewers recommend it
Rating Distribution
3 Total Ratings
5 star: 100%  (3)
4 star: 0%  (0)
3 star: 0%  (0)
2 star: 0%  (0)
1 star: 0%  (0)
Sort 2 member reviews by: Most Recent | Most Helpful
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   Sep 17, 2013 - 12:19pm
robduncan · Climber · slc, ut
Best skiing/ alpine climbing backpack out there. I think this thing is just about as good as they could get. Use it and believe it!

Extremely versatile and can be configured in as many ways as you can come up with! Easily can be strapped onto other Cilo Packs to piggy-back big loads to base camps, etc.

I have used the straight up Nylon (cheapest model) and it's been tough and held up to use and abuse.

In spite of the simplicity- I think this is the best carrying backpack I have ever used.

Bottom Line: Yes, I would recommend this product to a friend.
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   Sep 14, 2013 - 08:54pm
Max Neale · Other · Maine
CiloGear deserves special recognition for their W/NWD fabric, which is the best pack fabric currently available anywhere in the world. It's UNBELIEVABLY DURABLE and very light. If you have the cash to push the performance envelope I think it's totally worth it.

The bivy pad slot is also fantastic and better than all other similar features on other alpine packs tested by OGL. CiloGear's included pad is nice because its relatively wide when unfolded. But it's not the lightest option and it's far from comfortable.

Recently I've been using a Gossamer Gear SitLight pad trimmed to fit the bivy pad slot. I find this pad to be more comfortable (thicker and softer, though smaller) than the included bivy pad and it weighs ~2 oz. less. That's a lot!! I punch a few holes in it and tie it, with a few feet of 2-3mm cord, to a Gossamer Gear NightLight pad, which is my favorite closed cell sleeping pad for going ultralight (weighs less, is more durable and more comfortable than the Therm-a-Rest ZLite Sol). The NightLight rolls or folds up and straps to the outside of the pack while the SitLight goes inside the bivy pad slot.

This 2/3 length pad combo costs about $40 and is the lightest available option I know of that's actually comfortable to sleep on. The two Gossamer Gear pads combined weigh only 2.8 oz more than the Cilo bivy pad.

Click to enlarge
The unfolded CiloGear 30L bivy pad (left) weighs 3.2 oz. and the Gossamer Gear SitLite pad (right) weighs 1.1 oz.


Bottom Line: Yes, I would recommend this product to a friend.
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Click to enlarge
CiloGear 30L WorkSack. Shown here in the standard fabrics.
Credit: CiloGear
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