Reviews for packs (and most other stuff) on the internet suck. Some guy gets something for free and talks about how great all the lame features are, internist and it ends up being totally useless to somebody like me, surgeon somebody who knows what they want and how they will use it. So, adiposity since nobody else is going to do it I have to do it myself.
Here's what I'm going to do: give exact weight specs on the thing as modified by me. This is useful, I think, because it represents what you would do if you wanted to optimize the pack for the same purpose. I'm also going to give a bunch of thoughts and impressions that I've acquired after almost 2 years of solid use.
What I wanted in a pack was simple: a streamlined, light, alpine climbing pack. Needs to be big enough to carry stuff in on approaches, and light enough and carry well enough to use while climbing 1-3 day routes. Why Cilogear? Basically because it's light, and it's cheaper than McHale, Cold Cold World, and Wild Things (although now that I look at the CCW Chernobyl it seems pretty good... not too expensive).
Here are the modifications I've made:
- I cut the bivy pad in half because it doesn't fold perfectly flat, and created a hinge with duct tape. I cut a small chunk out of the top so it's not in the way of my head, but but it's still tall on the sides near where the straps attach to keep things tight.
- I cut an internal strap out that went from the middle of the back to the top near the lid on the other side. I'm not sure what that was for.
- I removed the shock cord from top of the lid. It can't hold a helmet, and is pretty much useless.
- I chopped off sternum strap. I just don't like them.
- I've never used the plastic framesheet and aluminum flexible thing. I've never found it necessary.
Here are the Weight Specs:
|Modified Bivy Pad||247||8.71||0.54|
|Lid (with 4 straps)||187||6.60||0.41|
|Body (with 5 side straps)||863||30.44||1.90|
That's 3.19 pounds total.
I don't know what the plastic framesheet and aluminum thing weigh, but they are pretty useless anyway.
The pack is narrow with a pretty low profile which is good for climbing. The bottom of the pack is even narrower still with a weird shape, so packing can be kind of weird, but I stuff my sleeping bag down in there so the shape doesn't matter too much.
The pack carries really well, with everything cinching down tight and staying put. I think this has a lot to do with the compression straps connecting near the framesheet near where the shoulder and hipbelt straps connect. Everything moves together as a rigid unit, which feels really good while walking.
It is easily strippable down to a summit pack (weight 2.45 lb as modified by me) by removing the lid, hipbelt, and associated straps. You could also take out the pad, but I usually like to leave it in so nothing gouges me in the back. My only complaint is that it's still kind of big and baggy, though I guess I could try clipping the thing down small like they say you're supposed to.
I really like the pad and I routinely use it as 1/2 of my bivy pad, taking a half pad (or going without) for the rest. It's stiff and thin, but warm enough to sleep on. The pad compartment is also the hydration compartment, but I've never used it, so I can't comment on it (I always just put a gatorade bottle on some cord on a biner and hang it on my harness or something). It's worth pointing out that a 3/4 z-rest can fit into the pad compartment, but it takes up a lot of volume and feels floppy.
The lid is nice and roomy and fits everything I might need to. The underside pocket seems really light, so I'm not pissed off that it exists, and didn't go at it with my scalpel. There are buckle clips on all four corners of the lid, so you can open it backwards, frontwards, or take it off really quickly.
The skirt material seems super thin, but has held up well. It goes up really high so you can really stuff a lot of stuff in and have a really tall pack. It's a bit tight for use as an emergency bivy sack (haven't actually used it this way).
One unique feature of this pack is the way that ice tools are attached. You slide the pick into a pocket and clip the head in place, then cinch some shock cord around the shaft up higher. This system works and is secure, but the shock cord cincher part broke on one, and also you can't get a tool out with one hand while wearing the pack, like you can for the Wild Things Andinista, which uses tool tubes, which are nice because you can store your baguette in them.
The other unique feature of this pack is the D clip system, which is supposed to be a super innovative way of being able to quickly and easily clip straps and things all over the place to configure the hell out of the pack. I find that I just leave the same straps in the same place all the time. I reconfigure the straps only very rarely when I want to attach something weird. Normally I just have 2 big straps on one side (for a bivy pad) and 3 small straps on the other side.
The D clips seem kind of loose, but for the most part they are very secure. I have had one D clip come undone once: it was one of the corners of the lid, so no biggie. I haven't really found a way to use the D clips on the back of the pack (maybe some people call this the front? the side that faces backwards away from my back) to hold crampons securely, and there is another D clip between the two tool holders that I've never used... maybe I'll cut these off.
The pack also has an internal pocket on the flap that closes the bivy pad compartment. I've found it extremely useful when I'm going super light and don't take a lid, for stuffing a few things like gu and a headlamp.
Stuff that sucks a little bit:
The pack doesn't seem super durable, but for all i've put it through it's holding up pretty well. I think the only holes are from having some pointy stuff inside and then checking it as luggage.
The waist belt fabric tends to rotate a bit around the padding, which moves the straps so that they rub directly on your hips a bit instead of on the padding. This isn't too big a deal, only a tiny bit uncomfortable.
Probably the worst thing about Cilogear is the customer service. It's not actually that the customer service is bad, it's great, it's just that the whole company seems completely disorganized. For this pack I paid for fast shipping, got multiple phone calls telling me the pack was on its way, but still nothing showed up. When I got the pack later I had to return it because it was missing a hip buckle and was torn on the inside. Everything worked out great in the end, and I got free shipping and everything fixed, but it was a pain to go through.
Here are some trips I've taken this pack on, and thoughts I had:
North face of Mt. Langley (trip report): Hiked in to basecamp with it loaded up. Stripped it down for the climb. Felt kinda big on the climb. I carried bulky stuff because Ben had a bullet pack.
Whitney "If at First" car-to-car (trip report): Hiked the North fork trail with it, then dropped the lid, belt, some food at the base, and picked it up on the descent. Worked great.
Frendo Spur: Carried bivy gear for 1-bivy climb, was too freaked out to notice anything about my pack.
Complete North Ridge of Lone Pine Peak in Winter, 29 hour C2C push (trip report): Stripped it down (no lid), went ultra light, worked great.
Northeast Ridge of Lone Pine Peak in Winter (trip report): Wore it for 3 days on the route, chafed my shoulders a bit, possibly due to no sternum strap
I've also taken this pack on a lot of random cragging trips.
I plan to use it on everything I do in the forseeable future, and have no immediate plans to buy a new pack.
I thought i'd be more neutral about this pack, but after writing this review I see how well it held up through all the stuff i've done. The lack of any major complaints must mean that it's doing a great job at what I need it for.
Disclaimer: I paid $170 for this pack with my own money