Though the Patagonia Lightweight Black Hole Cinch 20L isn't marketed as a climbing pack, its simple design is appealing for multi-pitch climbers. The simplicity keeps it quite light for its volume, and the durable fabric gives it a useful lifespan. However, some features climbers like are missing, and some folks find it uncomfortable when the going gets steep. Looking for something lighter, cheaper, and smaller? Try our Best Buy Award winning REI Co-op Flash 18. Need some space and durability? Check out the Black Diamond Creek 20, our Top Pick for Durability.
Patagonia Lightweight Black Hole Cinch 20L Review
Compare prices at 3 resellers Pros: Light, durable, simple
Cons: No hip belt, uncomfortable for the broad shouldered
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Our Analysis and Test Results
The Patagonia Lightweight Black Hole Cinch 20L is an exciting pack with a long name. It's a new offering in their "Lightweight Black Hole" line. Despite the fact that it's not explicitly marketed as a climbing pack, it has some attributes that are very useful for climbers interested in long routes.
The Black Hole weighs in at a respectable 16 ounces, tied for third place with the Patagonia Linked and the Trango Ration Pack. It has the best weight to volume ratio of any pack in this review.
The pack body is made of 210d ripstop nylon; alone, this is a fairly wimpy fabric, but the Black Hole has a generous TPU coating which adds a lot of abrasion resistance (and also makes the pack look shiny). This is probably the most abrasion resistant 210d pack in our review. The other two 210d packs are the Flash and the Arc'teryx Cierzo.
This pack has some of the basic features we like to see. There's a small internal pocket with a key clip. The large exterior zippered pocket is one of the best in the review. It pops out from the main pack body like a blister, so the contents are accessible even when the pack is full. Our testers found it easy to get everything they need for a long route in this pack. This is one of a few packs in our test (others are the Mountain Hardwear Hueco 20 and the Creek 20) that we can easily get a helmet into.
Like the Petzl Bug, the Black Hole lacks a loop or clip to secure the top of a hydration reservoir. This lets 2 - 3L reservoirs to flop around unbalancing the pack) or even fold over (compromising water flow). The sternum strap is hard to re-position on its daisy chain, though not nearly as hard as the one on the Patagonia Linked Pack 16L.
This pack has no hauling specific features. Climbers wanting to haul this up tricky terrain will have to settle for the one haul loop or back it up with one of the shoulder straps if they're feeling unlucky.
The Black Hole also came up short in another way. There's no hip belt of any kind. A 20L pack can carry a lot of stuff, especially dense climbing gear, not having a hip belt to at least stabilize that load could be a problem for a lot of climbers.
The more style conscious on our testing team finds this to be one of the better-looking packs for downtown use. The twin daisy chains on the pack can be rigged to carry ice tools, giving this pack some alpine utility. Those daisy chains are the only external carry options; there is no top compression strap to secure a rope. Though this pack is reasonably light, the well-padded back added unwelcome bulk when we tried stuffing the Black Hole into a larger pack to carry into a backcountry objective.
In spite of the missing hip belt, this pack is fairly comfortable on the approach. However, while climbing some of our testers, particularly the broad-shouldered guys, found the shoulder straps to be a bit restricting. One tester experienced significant chafing on his shoulders and above his armpits after a long day of climbing with this pack. Anyone interested in this pack would be well advised to try it on first.
The Black Hole Cinch Pack doesn't have any specific strength; we think it performs most of the tasks we ask of a small climbing pack decently.
At $79, this pack isn't a bad value, but it isn't great either. However, the Linked costs the same and is overall a better pack.
This pack is a simple all arounder. While it falls a bit short on features and comfort, it makes up for that in durability and weight. The BD Creek 20 is more durable and functional but also costs more and weighs more. If you need a bit more volume in your multi-pitch pack but don't want to make the durability/weight trade-off for the Creek (and you don't care about hip belts) the Patagonia Lightweight Black Hole Cinch 20L could be worth trying out.
— Ian McEleney