Hands-on Gear Review
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Street Price: $259 - $700
Pros: Great features, 3 different fabric options, great weight to volume ratio
Cons: Less comfortable than HMG Ice Pack for hiking.
Best Uses: Multiday alpinism, ice climbing
With excellently designed features and a great weight to volume ratio this is a superb choice for multi-day alpine climbing as well as general rock and ice cragging. The pack is available in three fabric options that range from durable and lightweight to super light and super durable; Cilo uses the best alpine pack fabrics in the world. However, their packs are not carried by major retailers and generally need to be purchased directly from the Portland, Oregon manufacturer, which often involves a delay in delivery.
This pack is neither as comfortable for hiking and skiing nor as light as the Hyperlite Mountain Gear 3400 Ice Pack. Thus, our testers find that the Cilo 45L is best suited to multi-day technical climbing. Check out the Mountaineering and Alpine Climbing Backpack Review to see how the 45L WorkSack compares to the competition.
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OutdoorGearLab Editors' Hands-on Review
The CiloGear 45L WorkSack is a much talked about alpine pack. The NWD and W/NWD versions perhaps evoke a bit more curiosity due to the sky high prices and space age looks. Is it really worth the price for dyneema? In this review we’re going to look at the overall design of the 45L WorkSack and spend some time talking about the different fabric options CiloGear offers – their regular fabric set up for the 45L, the W/NWD (Woven / Non-woven Dyneema), and the NWD (non-woven dyneema). For the record, the specific pack we tested was a NWD version. A couple things to note: the NWD version has been slightly updated for this fall (2013). The front panel will be taped/glued together from now on. This is a design change CiloGear has been working on for over a year and makes the front panel design stronger and lighter overall.
The 45L WorkSack is available in the following fabrics:
Standard - 210d Cordura with Dyneema Ripstop in main side panels. VX21 (210d Cordura laminated with dacron X-Pac) on bottom sides. VX42 (420d Cordura laminated with dacron X-Pac) on center panel and bottom.
Max weight - 1800g / 63.5oz
Minimum weight - 790g / 27.9oz
Price - $259
//Woven and Non- Woven Dyneema (W/NWD)// - Our favorite fabric option - extremely durable and lightweight. Probably the best pack fabric in the world. Check out our 30L WorkSack review to see the 30L W/NWD pack we tested in action
Max weight - 1725g / 60.8oz
Minimum weight - 650g / 22.9oz
Price - $700
Non-Woven Dyneema (NWD) - The lightest option. For first ascents and speed records.
Max weight - 1690 / 59.6oz
Minimum weight - 625g / 22oz
Price - $495
Because of the three different 3 different fabric options available, the overall weight of the CiloGear 45L WorkSack will depend on which fabric you choose. All three options however, are comparatively light considered against the competition. In other words, even if you go with the standard fabrics, you are still purchasing a relatively lightweight alpine pack for the capacity. There are indeed lighter 45L packs out there, but the 45L WorkSacks are built with durability it mind as well as weight, and can actually accommodate loads a lot bigger than 45L due to a large collar and the overall shape of the pack.
The weight to volume ratio of the 45L WorkSack is .48 -1.4 oz/L. That’s a huge spread and that’s because there is indeed variance in the options available, and the fact that these packs can be stripped down heavily. On one side of that spread is a NWD WorkSack stripped all the way, on the other end is a fully equipped WorkSack with the standard fabrics. Keep in mind however that with a huge collar and a floating lid, the actual working capacity of the WorkSack is much more than 45L, approaching 60L perhaps, so the true weight to volume ratio of a standard fabric fully equipped 45L WorkSack is probably a bit lower than 1.4oz/L. Take a look at the specs listed per fabric in the beginning of this review for the nitty gritty. The basic breakdown is that the standard fabrics make the pack 27.9oz fully stripped, and 63.5oz fully built up. The NWD version will save you about 5oz of weight overall, so not a huge difference to many people. The W/NWD version is a bit heavier than the NWD, but still lighter than the standard setup.
How does all this compare to the competition? We find that the 45L WorkSack has a great weight to volume value overall compared to other packs. With a shape that gets a bit larger up top and a big collar, you can carry a whole heck of a lot with this pack, yet its simple design keeps the weight down overall. Due to the total carrying capacity of this pack, it might be worth checking out the CiloGear 30:30 if you’re looking for a weekend alpinism pack. The 45L WorkSack can carry more than you might think, perhaps actually too much room for most trips taken by the average weekend alpine climber. The Hyperlite Mountain Gear 3400 Ice Pack also has a stellar weight to volume ratio making it a top choice as well for people insistent on light gear.
Want to go ultralight? Get an ultralight sleeping bag and an ultralight shelter.
This again depends on which fabric option you spring for. Lets look at the standard fabrics first. The 45L WorkSack has the same standard fabrics as the 30L WorkSack – a 210 denier Cordura with dyneema ripstop on the sides (and on the lid), reinforced with VX21 (210d Cordura laminated with dacron X-Pac) on the bottoms of the side panels and VX42 (420d Cordura laminated with dacron X-Pac) on the center panel and bottom of the pack. This is a fabric combination that offers a good balance of lightness on the upper sides, with bomber durability on the bottom and front (where your crampons will lay perhaps). For reference, the Wild Things Guide pack, which some point to as a model for durability, is made exclusively from VX21. In other words, CiloGear is trying to work a balance here, and we like it.
Non-woven dyneema – is it what it’s hyped up to be? There is a lot of debate swirling around the internet on forums and blogs about whether fully dyneema packs are worth the money. In our testing we came to a few conclusions we’ll share with you here. The NWD version of the 45L WorkSack is $495 dollars (and about to go up a little bit with the new design). That alone will probably highly influence your decision whether or not to buy one. Yes, the fabric is extremely lightweight if you consider how strong its tear strength is. Its abrasion resistance however is less than you might want on a pack you pay this much for, but CiloGear tries to remedy that by using that they call “scrim NWD” on the high wear areas of the pack (bottom, ice tool pick sleeves, and as a nice touch on the section of extendable collar that holds the grommet with the pull cord). This scrim NWD is bare NWD with a 200d dacron face fabric. It is very, very durable. In addition, although you may get holes in the bare NWD sides of the pack (and quicker than you might like considering the price) those holes don’t tend to get bigger easily at all due to the tear strength of the dyneema. We put a small hole in our NWD pack rather quickly (with a ski edge evidently), but it has not grown. For patching we recommend Cuben repair tape and patches from Z-packs.
The bottom line is this – for the vast majority of people, the standard fabric options are the best choice when it comes to CiloGear packs. The standard fabrics are varied throughout the pack to offer a balance of bomber durability where needed, and lightness where durability is less of a concern. Older versions of the WorkSacks were less burly, and a lack of long-term durability was a common complaint. It seems like CiloGear has taken this to heart and now offers the WorkSacks in a standard fabric version that is indeed durable. If you really do need a super durable pack but want to keep it relatively light, spring for the W/NWD versions, but be prepared to hit the wallet really hard. See our review of the 30L WorkSack to read a more detailed discussion of the W/NWD fabric. The NWD packs, because they are less durable than the W/NWD version are the most risky in terms of return on investment. They are the lightest of the 3 versions, but not by huge margins, and are relatively delicate considering the price you pay financially. Many people argue that the weight savings you get from a NWD dyneema pack are negligible considering the price and the lifetime of pack compared to a much cheaper 1000D Cordura pack. It's certainly worth noting that the Hyperlite Mountain Gear 3400 Ice Pack is about $200 cheaper than a NWD WorkSack and also has a brilliant weight to volume ratio. Like the NWD used by CiloGear, the Cuben fiber hybrid fabrics used on the HMG packs are more susceptable to abrasion than high denier nylons.
Our view is this: If you can afford a full dyneema pack, go for it. Carefully consider both the NWD and the W/NWD fabrics from CiloGear and make the right choice for your use (go for the W/NWD if you value long-term use and abuse). If you can’t afford the price? Don’t sweat it. The standard fabrics are more than adequate for most peoples use, and the overall weight of the 45L WorkSack in the standard fabrics is still very light compared to the competition with similar durability. Ultimately, these dyneema fabrics are a new player in the pack world, and we should be excited about the design opportunities they present to the industry. Yes, they might be too expensive right now for you or I to reasonably purchase, but their existence, and the dialog they create, is productive overall for the future of gear innovation.
The 45L WorkSack has a two part frame – a plastic framesheet to which is affixed an aluminum stay, and a foam bivy pad. Both of these are removable. We found that this system is both versatile and comfortable – you can keep the framesheet in if carrying a large load, and remove it if it’s not needed to save significant weight. The hip belt is large and comfortable for load carrying, but is also removable for easier harness access when climbing (it has ice clipper slots for racking gear if you choose to keep it on). One feature that adds comfort that many CiloGear owners tend to talk about is the internal compression strap. This allows you to internally cinch down a load, bringing it closer in towards the back.
The 45L WorkSack is a very versatile multidaypack. The term “multidaypack” should be emphasized here. If you’re looking for a 1-3 day alpine pack, but like the CiloGear design, you might be better off with a CiloGear 30:30. The 45L WorkSack is a bit bigger than many people might imagine, expanding to be larger than 45L by a bit. That being said, if you need a multidaypack the 45L WorkSack is hard to beat in terms of versatility. It can be stripped of much of its weight for climbing, but has a supportive frame and loads of space fort heavy load carrying.
Many of the features here have already been discussed. The fabric options, the frame, the capacity have all been discussed above. What about the alpine pack basics? The ice tool attachment is one of our favorites, simple to use and super secure. The top closure under the removable lid is a simple drawstring cinch with a removable top strap for rope holding. The strap system is like all CiloGear packs – a set of included straps that can be rigged at your discretion and with your creativity via the d-ring buckles sewn onto the pack as anchors. We appreciate this system as it provides a degree of customization, and versatility depending on the trip at hand. Some people, particularly people who have never used the system before find it a bit finicky, and over-hyped, arguing that there is rarely the need to rig up anything other than the standard two-straps-per-side set-up. Over time, we’ve found the system to be beneficial. A quick example: on the 30L WorkSack, we were able to use the included straps to rig a waist belt alternative (a ½ strap that buckled) that was better for a particular climbing trip than the included padded belt, or the altogether lack of a belt. In the end the system just gives you options.
On the interior of the pack is a single zippered stash pocket. In the removable lid there is one pocket. There is a hydration port as well.
Multiday alpinism, ice climbing.
The 45L WorkSack in the standard fabrics is a great value for those looking for a larger 45L multidaypack. Of the two more expensive fabric options, the NWD and the W/NWD, the W/NWD is a better value over the long term, as it is much more durable and will last forever.
Other Versions and Accessories
CiloGear 30L WorkSack - A better option for many. The 30L is the perfect size for alpine day trips and 2-3 day trips if using a light and compact kit.
CiloGear 30:30 Guide Service WorkSack - A great all around size, about 40L. Great for weekend alpinism.
You can order accessories for your WorkSack here. The framesheets, both plastic and air-inflated are compatible with the 45L and the 30:30.
How To Get It
CiloGear packs are only carried by a few smaller retailers. If you can't find one in your area, they can be purchased from the website . Be aware that there may be some delays, CiloGear is a small company and orders may be backed up.
— Chris Simrell
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Most recent review: September 19, 2013
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