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Reviews > Packs > Internal and External Framed Backpacks > Cilo Gear 40B WorkSack > Test Report by Christopher Nicolai

CILOGEAR 40B WORKSACK
TEST SERIES BY CHRISTOPHER NICOLAI
LONG-TERM REPORT
November 02, 2008

CLICK HERE TO SKIP TO THE FIELD REPORT
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TESTER INFORMATION

NAME: Christopher Nicolai
EMAIL: thebootfitters at yahoo dot com
AGE: 33
LOCATION: Seattle, Washington & Minneapolis, Minnesota USA
GENDER: M
HEIGHT: 5' 11" (1.80 m)
WEIGHT: 172 lb (78.00 kg)

I have been backpacking for 10+ years in locales from Chile to Alaska. I have experienced temps from -30 F (-34 C) to 100 F (38 C), heavy precipitation in virtually all forms, and winds exceeding 75 mph (120 km/h) - in everything from desert to rainforest to glaciated peaks. Most of my trips are 1-4 nights climbing/backpacking less than 15 miles/day (24km/day) in the Pacific Northwest Mountains or canoeing in Northern Minnesota. I prefer to pack a tarp and minimal gear -- less than 20 lbs (9 kg) -- for backpacking, but may carry twice that on alpine climbs or winter trips to accommodate suitable gear and shelter.


INITIAL REPORT

PRODUCT INFORMATION & SPECIFICATIONS

Manufacturer: CiloGear
Year of Manufacture: 2008
Manufacturer's Website: www.cilogear.com
MSRP: US$160

Listed internal volume: 20 L (1,220 cu in) with both sides fully compressed; 42 L (2,560 cu in) normally stuffed; and 60 L ( 3,660 cu in) with extension all the way up

Listed Weights:
Pack bag: 845 g (29.8 oz)
Lid: 190 g (6.7 oz)
Hip belt: 160 g (5.6 oz)
Bivy pad+framesheet: 400 g (14.1 oz)
8 straps: 140 g (4.9 oz)
Total listed weight: 1,935 g ( oz)

Measured Weights:
Pack bag: 870 g (30.7 oz) -- All attachments that are not sewn onto pack body have been removed.
Lid: 154 g (5.4 oz)
Hip belt: 164 g (5.8 oz)
Bivy pad+framesheet: 528 g (18.6 oz)
* Bivy pad: 131 g (4.6 oz)
* Plastic sheet: 244 g (8.6 oz)
* Aluminum stay: 153 g (5.4 oz)
8 compression straps with Dee-clips: 140 g (4.9 oz)
* Short black Dee-clip straps (each -- 4 total): 14 g (0.5 oz)
* Longer red Dee-clip straps (each -- 2 total): 15 g (0.5 oz)
* Red quick-release buckle straps (each -- 2 total): 21 g (0.7 oz)
Detachable sternum strap with quick-release buckle: 19 g (0.7 oz)
4 straps to attach lid to pack: 45 g (1.6 oz)
Ice-axe cords + cord locks (each -- 2 total): 4 g (0.1 oz)
Total measured weight: 1,928 g (68.0 oz; or 4 lb, 4 oz)

Measured dimensions:
Sidewall of main pack body: 22 in (56 cm) tall; 10 in (25 cm) deep at the top & 8 in (20 cm) deep 8 in (20 cm) from the bottom of the pack (the sidewall is slightly tapered, with the bottom 8 in (20 cm) tapered a bit more than the upper portion)
Width of front & back of main pack body: 10 in (25 cm)
Height of sil-nylon pack extension: 11 in (28 cm)
Top lid: roughly circular -- 13 in (33 cm) diameter; 3.5 in (9 cm) high
Foam bivy pad: 18 x 22 in (46 x 56 cm) and 0.25 in (0.6 cm) thick -- pad is folded in half length-wise to fit inside the bladder pouch along the back of the inside of the pack
Plastic frame sheet: 8.5 x 22 in (22 x 56 cm)
Aluminum stay: 18.5 x 1 in (47 x 2.5 cm)

Pack materials (from the "Materials" section on the manufacturer website):
Sidewalls, crampon pouch, & center panel on back of pack: Cordura / Dyneema 500d Ripstop Nylon -- This material is a 500d Cordura with a Dyneema ripstop pattern. The Dyneema is the white thread sewn in a grid pattern.
Front panel of pack body (middle): VX42 -- 400d Cordura nylon laminated in a five-ply sandwich with Dacron X-Pac.
Front panel of pack body (sides) and Ice-tool pockets: VX21 -- 210d Cordura nylon laminated in a five-ply sandwich with Dacron X-Pac.
Bottom of pack: VX51 -- 500x1000d Cordura nylon lamintated in a five-ply sandwich with Dacron X-Pac.
Pack lid: VX07 -- 70d Cordura nylon laminated in a five-ply sandwich with Dacron X-Pac. Heavy parachute cloth SilNylon 1.9 oz -- 70d Cordura nylon impregnated with silicone on both sides.
Extension sleeve and hydration bladder pocket: Parachute cloth SilNylon 1.1 oz -- This material is 30d Cordura nylon impregnated with silicone on both sides.

THE SHORT STORY

This pack is billed as a lightweight alpine climbing pack. While it is not the lightest alpine pack on the market, it appears to be solidly built with heavy-duty materials that should withstand abuse in an alpine environment. The unique Dee-clip compression system and removeable components allow the pack to adapt to a wide variety of load shapes and sizes, as well as a variety of carrying styles. While the several loose threads found along the pack seams are a bit annoying, I do not see any indications that they will affect the durability of the pack. Overall, I am excited to take this pack out and see what it can handle!

READING THE INSTRUCTIONS

No instructions were included with the pack, but the manufacturer's web address was printed on the postcard included in the package. On the home page, there is a link to the 19-page instruction manual in PDF format.

This comprehensive instruction manual includes easy-to-follow step-by-step instructions for setting up the pack, including how to bend the aluminum stay, connect the hip belt, and fit the pack properly. There are instructions for using the unique Dee-clip compression system -- both with and without the included straps -- as well as instructions for attaching the lid and other components to the pack.

The instruction manual includes a few "tips and tricks" for using the pack from both the designer of the packs and from users of the packs. While the manual suggests a few specific configurations for using the Dee-clip compression straps, it places an emphasis on trying a variety of methods until the user finds one that works for the specific loads being carried.

I was able to easily follow the instructions to bend the frame to get a properly fitting pack without any outside assistance. However, to be fair, I have been previously trained in a gear shop to fit packs and have some experience doing so.

PRODUCT DESCRIPTION & IMPRESSIONS

GENERAL PRODUCT DESCRIPTION
-------------------------------------------------------

The pack arrived in a box with a few Cilogear postcards. The pack was compressed with the Dee-clips on the sides clipped through the slip-locks. The hip belt was found inside the pack. The extra straps were found in the zipped compartment of the top lid.

IMAGE 1
Front and back of assembled pack


IMAGE 2
Included straps


Once I unclipped the sides to expand the pack, my first impression was that it was, in essence, a very simple top-loading rucksack with a floating lid. Truly, it can be used as a simple rucksack. However, further inspection revealed some of the unique features that make this a very versatile pack.

The four sets of Dee-clips and slip-locks that are spaced up the sidewalls of the pack allow the pack to be compressed (such as when the pack arrived) to hold smaller loads close to the back. These Dee-clips and slip-locks can also be used in conjunction with the extra Dee-clip compression straps to create myriad pack configurations for compressing and controlling the load.

IMAGE 3
Illustration of compression using Dee-clips and sliplocks


IMAGE 4
Proper connection of straps


The extension sleeve offers a significant increase in volume for handling bigger loads. The extension sleeve contains two closure cords, each with a cord lock. One is at the top of the sleeve; the other is found about midway up the extension sleeve. Depending on how full the pack is, one or both of these closure cords.

IMAGE 5
Not extended vs extended


There is an internal vertical compression/control strap attached about midway down the center of the inside of the front of the pack and in the center of the top of the back of the pack (below the extension sleeve). This compression strap has a quick-release buckle and can be used to pull even bulky, oversize loads close to the back.

Inside the pack, there is a small zippered pouch (10 x 7 in; 25 x 18 cm) for easy and secure access for small items. This pouch also serves as a flap that velcroes over the water bladder pouch, which also holds the removable plastic frame sheet and foam bivy pad. Just above the zippered flap, sewn into the extension sleeve is an opening for a bladder hose.

IMAGE 6
Inside the pack


The back of the pack has a "crampon pocket" sewn roughly in the middle. This 9.5 x 5.5 x 2.75 in (24 x 14 x 7 cm) pocket is specifically designed to carry crampons on alpine climbs, though it could conceivably be used for a variety of other uses as well. It is open at the top and has large drain holes at the bottom.

IMAGE 7
Crampon pouch


Directly below the crampon pocket are two fabric slots specifically designed to hold secure the curved picks of technical ice-climbing tools. To secure the shaft of these tools, a length of flat black webbing with a quick-release buckle is sewn to the pack just outside of the ice-tool pockets. Farther up the sides of the back panel of the pack on both sides, a short loop of thin cord with a cord lock is attached to the pack to further secure the shaft of the ice-tools. Again, these features could conceivably be used for other uses than those for which they were designed.

IMAGE 8
Pack body with technical ice tool attached


The hipbelt was sent detached from the main pack body. It contains a large swatch of hook and loop fabric that is designed to secure to the inside of the padding attached to the harness side of the main pack body. The inside of the padded section that fits in the small of the back contains hook and loop fabric as well. This allows the user to adjust the hipbelt higher or lower to fine-tune the fit of the harness system.

IMAGE 9
Hip belt attachment and pad thickness


The shoulder pads of the harness system are sewn to the pack near the top and have an adjustable buckle that connects to the flat black webbing that is sewn to the pack near the bottom. Both the hip belt and the shoulder pads have relatively thin padding (0.25 in; 0.6 cm).

The top lid contains one large compartment accessible immediately behind the head as the pack is worn via a watertight zipper. The bottom of the lid contains a smaller zippered pocket accessible only when the lid is at least partially released from the main pack body. The lid attaches to the main pack body via four quick-release buckles. The female sides of quick-release buckles are sewn to the harness-side of the lid, while the male sides of the quick-release buckles are sewn to the part of the lid farthest away from the body. The lid also has six small loops of webbing sewn around the top, suitable for attaching a length of bungee cord to secure additional items on top of the lid.

For visibility at night with headlamps, a strip of reflective material is sewn along the top of the zipper of the main compartment of the lid, at the top of the reinforced bottom section of the pack on the sidewalls, and in the center portion of the two ice-tool pockets on the back of the pack.


PERCEPTIONS / IMPRESSIONS
-----------------------------------------------

The materials used in the construction of this pack appear to be "bomber." In other words, even with potentially abusive use in abrasive alpine environments, I don't expect this pack to experience material failures. The SilNylon used for the extension sleeve is the only material that seems to be susceptible to abrasion or tearing, but this portion of the pack will generally be covered with the lid when in use.

All of the seams on this pack appear to be stitched solidly. None of them appear to be at risk of blowing or pulling out under normal use. However, I noticed that many of the seams have loose, dangling threads. I plan to trim these loose threads to minimize the risk of them getting caught during use. I will regularly inspect the seams during the testing period to ensure that they do not begin to unravel.

I noticed that the pouch sewn onto the plastic framesheet is not centered on the framesheet. It is offset considerably to one side. I haven't determined yet whether this will affect how I carry the loads, but it is defintely something that I will look for.

Unfortunately, the pack didn't arrive in time for me to be comfortable with taking it on an overnight summit climb of Mount Rainier last weekend, but I was able to load my entire gear pile for the trip inside the pack and walk around a bit. I need to spend a little more time with the compression straps in order to find a comfortable way to carry a full pack of glacier climbing gear. I plan to have this dialed-in after using the pack several time so that I can feel comfortable using it for another planned glacier climb near the end of July.


TRYING IT OUT

I have already used the pack as my carry-on luggage for an overnight business trip. Since the pack has more capacity than I needed for an overnight trip, I played around a bit with the compression system to find a comfortable configuration for carrying the light load that included a laptop computer. Eventually, I attached the top lid to the back of the pack and connected the bottom two Dee-clips and sliplocks on the pack. This allowed me quick and easy access to my travel documents and plastic baggie with liquids and gels via the zippered pouch of the lid. It also allowed me to access the laptop computer quickly through the top opening without having to unclip the lid. This configuration carried fairly comfortably.

I also loaded the pack with my full load for climbing Mount Rainier and walked around the house for awhile. Unfortunately, I did not have sufficient time to fine-tune the fit of the pack to a point with which I was comfortable to take it on a real climb. I suspect that after a couple day hikes with a loaded pack, I'll find a way to secure and carry the load comfortably.

TESTING STRATEGY

My primary concerns with using a new pack are fit and comfort. I will spend some time prior to using the pack on any trips to make certain that I can adjust the fit of the pack loaded with various amounts of weight so that it is comfortable to carry. The CiloGear packs are unique in the way they can be adjusted with the patent-pending Dee-clip system. I will spend some time reviewing and practicing the use of the Dee-clips to fine-tune the pack adjustments so that I can do so with little effort in the field.

I will pay particular attention to the following details when inspecting and using the pack:

Quality of construction - Though I plan to snip the loose threads before taking the pack on any "real" trips, I will continue to watch the areas that had loose threads to make certain the seams stay intact.

Durability - I will take good care of this pack, but during the normal course of use, it is likely to experience some abrasion, wear and tear. I will make observations during use to determine how well the pack is holding up to the use.

Ease of use - I will pay particular attention to how quickly I adapt to using the Dee-clip system on this pack to compress and control the loads being carried. I will also note how easily this pack carries my "standard" climbing and backpacking loads.

Comfort - Though any pack will fit differently on each individual, I will offer assessments as to the relative comfort of this pack with various load weights and types of loads in various environments. Is it equally comfortable while carrying it in extended mode (assuming it is well-packed)? Does it allow any ventilation between the pack and my back? Does the framesheet and pad offer sufficient protection from the contents of the pack poking me in the back?

Size/Shape - The pack is slightly tapered toward the bottom. Based on the type of gear that I carry, what is the range of trips that this pack is capable of handling? Is the shape of the pack conducive to carrying my gear?

Versatility - Is this pack equally functional when used in extended mode as it is compressed down to it's smallest size using the Dee-clip system? Can it really be used without the attached hip belt or without the framesheet to lighten the weight of the pack? Can it carry skis well? Is it easy to find ways to attach various gear to the outside of the pack? Can it be worn effectively while rock or ice climbing with a harness and gear slings?

Waterproofness - The fabrics are waterproof, but to what extent will the construction allow moisture to enter through seams? Since I will be using the pack for multi-day alpine climbing and ski outings, the more waterproof, the better.

CONCLUSION

I am excited to take this pack into the field and see how it handles. Thus far, I am impressed with the range of volumes that it appears that it can handle, as well as the heavy-duty construction and materials. I am a little concerned about the loose threads found in this pack.

This concludes my initial report. My field report will be posted in August. Please check back then for an update after some actual field usage with the pack. Many thanks to CiloGear and to Backpack Gear Test for allowing me the opportunity to test the 40B WorkSack.


FIELD REPORT

PREFACE

I feel that two background items are worth noting to readers of this report, as they certainly have affected my experience with testing this pack...

First of all, while I do not intend to make any direct or even indirect comparisons to other packs, I believe it is important for the reader to note that I have been carrying custom-built packs for over five years. These packs have been built specifically for my dimensions, my frame, my body type, and my intended uses -- all according to my specifications. In short, I am attempting to communicate that my standards for pack fit, comfort and function may be a bit higher than "average."

Secondly, there are at least two varying schools of thought with regard to how and where the weight of a pack load should be transferred by a backpack -- primarily on the shoulders or primarily on the hips. Without getting into a technical discussion of physics and anthropology, the gist of the two concepts are outlined briefly below:

1) In aboriginal cultures throughout history, evidence suggests that heavy loads have often been carried on the head or over the shoulders. Modern-day moving professionals use straps to carry the heaviest loads over the shoulders, as research and experience suggest that this is the most stable and effective way to carry heavy loads and places the least long-term strain on the human body.

2) The human spine isn't designed to carry heavy loads and can suffer compression over time from shoulder-beared loads. The large bone structure of the hips and legs is better suited to support the weight of a load over the long-term.

Granted, these two ideas are not necessarily in direct conflict with each other and most pack designs implement some combination of load transfer to the hips as well as to the shoulders. Additionally, the human body has generally proven to be quite adaptable, and can typically deal with either of these load transfer methods if given time to adjust.

Most of my pack-carrying experience has involved transferring a significant portion of the load to the hips via a suspension system and a hip belt. Based on comments made by the owner/designer of CiloGear ("Crackers" often posts his comments on "Summitpost.org"), my understanding is that CiloGear packs are designed to carry most of the load on the shoulders. This is new territory for me, and the bottom line is that my body is still adapting to this new method of load transfer. This colors some of my comments found later in the report.

Finally, I want to be clear that while I mention the specific weight limits that I found to be comfortable with this pack, every individual and every situation is different. Please only use my comments regarding a "comfortable carrying weight" to be a guide -- not gospel.

THE SHORT STORY

I have found this pack to be comfortable in most situations and able to adapt easily to a wide variety of uses -- from dayhiking to rock climbing at the crag to multi-day alpine outings and even as a versatile carry-on piece of luggage for airline travel. It has proven to withstand the abrasion of granite blocks and shows no signs of wear after several weeks of use. For the majority of my outings with the pack, I give it glowing marks!

However, when attempting to stretch the carrying capacity of the pack, my experience was less than pleasant. I have been able to overcome most of my initial criticisms through greater familiarity with the pack, though I still experience a few issues that are worth mentioning. (Read further for more details.)

LIKES
----------
* Extremely adaptable and versatile pack!
* Very durable thus far, with all indications of long-term durability!
* Very comfortable pack for lighter-weight loads!
* The reflective strips! (It may seem minor, but these things are awesome for finding the pack at night with a headlamp.)

DISLIKES
--------------
* No apparent way to effectively transfer enough load to the hip belt when carrying heavier loads.
* The close fit between the pack and the back minimizes venting and causes my back to quickly overheat.
* When hiking fast with lighter loads, the hip belt would slip up over my hips. Without using the belt when moving very quickly, I found the pack to bounce up and down on my shoulders.

FIELD LOCATIONS & CONDITIONS

I have used this pack in a variety of environments for a variety of uses. See below for details:

* As a carry-on piece of luggage for airline travel -- six total round-trips. I carried between 20-40 lbs (9-18 kg) in the pack during the various trips.

* Day hiking and scrambling on and off trails in Washington State, USA -- seven total outings, traveling roughly 60 mi (97 km) total. Elevations ranged from 250 ft (75 m) to nearly 5,000 ft (1,500 m). Temperatures ranged between 36 & 86 F (2 & 30 C). Terrain ranged between dry, desert washes to thickly forested trails to scrambling on boulder fields above tree-line. I carried a wide range of bulk and weight in the pack -- from less than 10 lbs (4.5 kg) to over 40 lbs (18 kg) in order to test the pack in a variety of configurations.

* Day hiking and scrambling on and off trails near the Blue Ridge Mountains in Virginia, USA -- two total outings, traveling roughly 12 mi (19 km) total. Elevations ranged from 500 ft (150 m) to over 3,200 ft (975 m). Temperatures ranged between 60 & 90 F (15 & 32 C). Terrain ranged between dry forested trails to scrambling on boulder fields. I carried only water, snacks, and a light jacket in the pack.

* Carrying rock climbing equipment to a climbing crag (mostly on trails) near Taylors Falls, Minnesota, USA -- one outing. The elevation was roughly 800 ft (240 m) and the temperatures were roughly 70 F (21 C). The pack contained roughly 40 lbs (18 kg) of water, snacks, and rock climbing gear. On my last climb of the day, I carried the pack while ascending an 80 ft (24 m) section of an easy climb (rated 5.5).

* Overnight backpacking trip with a short day hike on trails in the North Cascades of Washington State, USA -- one outing, traveling less than 3 mi (5 km). The elevation was roughly 1,500 ft (460 m) and the temperatures were 50-75 F (10-24 C). Terrain was mostly flat trails. I carried about 40 lbs (18 kg) of food and family camping gear.

* Multi-day alpine climb, attempting to reach the peak of Mount Olympus in Olympic National Forest on the Olympic Peninsula of Washington State, USA -- one outing, traveling over 40 mi (64 km). The elevation started at 600 ft (180 m), and we climbed as high as 7,400 ft (2,250 m). Temperatures were as warm as 80 F (27 C) on the approach, and just above the freezing point at the low end. The terrain ranged from well-traveled flat trails through a mossy rain forest to a narrow trail on the lateral moraine of a glacier to steep snow/glacier travel. I carried as much as 48 lbs (22 kg) of climbing and camping gear on the approach, but less than 15 lbs (7 kg) during the summit attempt.

IMAGE 10
1) Airport; 2) Day hike; 3) Scrambling; 4) Heavy load

IMAGE 11
Much lighter load as a summit pack!

GENERAL OBSERVATIONS

PADDING
--------------
I was initially concerned that the thin shoulder pads and hip belt may not be comfortable. After several weeks of use, I have found this not to be an issue -- except when carrying heavy loads. Recognizing that everyone may have a slightly different perception of weight, I will define "heavy" as anything over 40 lbs (18 kg) for purposes of this discussion. Both outdoor trips during which I exceeded this weight, I noticed the shoulder pads digging into my shoulders and several pressure points under the hip belt. With loads lighter than this weight, I barely noticed the padding. In a good way.

The stiff foam of the bivy pad between the pack contents and my back has proven to be sufficient in keeping an items from poking me in the back.


VENTING BETWEEN PACK AND BACK
------------------------------------------------------
Owing to the close fit between the pack and the body, there is little opportunity for air to flow through. As a result, my back overheated shortly into most hikes and quickly saturated the back of my shirt and the back of the pack with perspiration.

Presumably as a consequence of hiking on warm days with little ventilation and soaking up my lovely perspiration, the fabric on the back of the pack is beginning to develop it's own personal odor. Before my next use, I plan to rinse the pack thoroughly with warm water and let it air dry in an attempt to minimize any odor.


SUSPENSION
---------------------
I have not yet attempted to carry the pack without at least the foam pad insert for suspension. (This is partly because I like the convenience of the foam for a sit or bivy pad.) I have, however, tried both with and without the plastic framesheet on several occasions. When the pack is packed properly (lighter, bulky items near the bottom and outside of the pack, and denser, heavier items closer to the body and higher up), I honestly cannot distinguish a big difference between carrying a load with versus without the framesheet. On the other hand, I have noticed the bottom of the aluminum stay pressing into my tailbone on a few occasions. (Perhaps this means I need to adjust the curve of the aluminum stay to get a better fit.) In my opinion, CiloGear could market the pack without the framesheet and offer it as an accessory for individuals that desire one.

Due to the inherent design of the pack, I have not been successful in my attempts at transferring more of the load off my shoulders and onto my hips. For anyone accustomed to carrying more load on the shoulders, this may be fine; but for me, heavier loads felt burdensome on my shoulders. My attempts to transfer the load included adjusting the configurations of the Dee-clip compression straps as well as adjusting the tri-glide back and forth on the load stabilizer straps of the shoulder pads. I also tried adjusting the tightness of the sternum strap, shoulder pads, and hip belt. No matter what I did, I could not use the pack's suspension system to comfortably carry loads heavier than 40 lbs (18 kg).

To be fair, the pack was not necessarily designed or intended to carry heavier loads regularly. Considering the smaller size of the pack, it is challenging to keep all the heavier, dense items close to the body -- especially since most items in an overnight alpine climbing pack tend to be more dense. Furthermore, I was happily surprised at the effectiveness of the internal compression strap at managing the load inside the pack.


USE WITH HYDRATION BLADDERS
--------------------------------------------------
The pocket for the framesheet is well suited to hold hydration bladders -- even up to 4 quarts/liters! However, the transition of the hose from bladder to the exterior of the pack seems a little awkward to me. The hose must first pass around the interior zippered pocket before accessing the hose port to the outside. Without considering design implications, it seems to make more sense for the hose to pass directly from the bladder pocket to the outside of the pack. Additionally, while not essential, some form of bladder attachments would help to keep the bladder in a consistent position within the pack.


ICE TOOL ATTACHMENT SYSTEM
------------------------------------------------
I have not ever seen a smarter, more secure system to attach ice tools to a pack! The placement of the secondary cord attachments makes it much more suitable for carrying shorter technical ice tools rather than a full length general mountaineering axe. However, it still works fine for a longer axe as well.


DURABILITY
-------------------
Okay... I can't claim to be a hard-core, everyday climber. But in the several weeks that I've been using this pack, I have put it through the paces. It has survived drops on rocks and brushes with abrasive granite without any visible wear. I am impressed! Even the sil-nylon extension collar is unscathed.

The pack has a large haul loop on both the front and back of the pack, but I still often find myself picking up the loaded pack by grabbing a handful of the extension collar. I do this partly out of convenience and partly from a desire to test whether the seams and material can handle the strain. So far, I am not disappointed.


USING THE DEE-CLIPS AND COMPRESSION STRAPS
----------------------------------------------------------------------------
With bare hands, I find that making adjustments to the straps and clipping or unclipping the slide-locks through the Dee-clips is quick and simple. With lightweight liner gloves or thin insulated gloves, it is still relatively easy. Like most things that require dexterity, thicker gloves and mittens hindered my ability to change the configuration. However, I still found it easy to pull the compression straps tighter -- even with heavy mittens. (Note: I have not yet had an occasion to use heavy mittens in the field with this pack. This observation is from tinkering in the house only.)

I have found a configuration that works well for me for most of my loads. I use a short compression strap on both sides linking the bottom-most slide-lock and Dee-clip. Then I use another short compression strap linking the second Dee-clip from the bottom to the third slide-lock from the bottom. For smaller day pack loads, I often compress the top pair of slide-locks and Dee-clips and use the compression straps to cinch up the bottom of the pack.


CRAMPON POUCH
----------------------------
This pouch is truly a slick and convenient place to carry crampons on any approach where they may be needed at a moment's notice. The only drawbacks I have found to carrying crampons in this pouch are that there isn't a built-in system to secure the crampons (a cord with a cord lock, for example), and the fact that carrying steel crampons on the back of the pack can shift the entire load a bit too far back. With a little ingenuity and good packing methods, these drawbacks can be mitigated. I have also found this pouch to be a great place to keep water bottles or a pair of sandals.


WATERPROOFNESS
------------------------------
I was disappointed to have just missed a classic Midwest thunderstorm downpour by mere minutes with my loaded pack recently. So, instead, I took that loaded pack (sans lid but with the extension collar cinched tightly) and held it under the heavy spray of a garden hose for a full five minutes. While the contents of the pack were not bone dry, I was impressed at how little moisture entered the pack. I only noticed a few damp spots near the top and close to a few seams. Extended rain may produce different results, but I would trust the pack to keep the contents relatively dry in a short downpour without a pack cover.

PERFORMANCE IN THE FIELD

AS CARRY-ON LUGGAGE
-------------------------------------
Though this is certainly not the primary focus of the pack design, I have found this pack to be nearly ideal for my use as a carry-on piece of luggage. I typically remove the framesheet with the aluminum stay (though I haven't found it to be an issue with security at airports). I also typically remove the hip belt. This allows the pack to fit more securely in the overhead luggage bins without excess straps hanging or flying around. I have found the pack to comfortably carry up to forty pounds without the hip belt for the relatively short distances I walk getting from the car to the airplane and back.

The crampon pocket works well for holding a water bottle to fill up after passing through security. While I have used the pack in several different configurations for use as a carry-on, I find that leaving the lid behind (or stuffing it in the top of the pack for a separate compartment) and cinching the drawcords is the simplest. Then I can use the Dee-clips and straps to compress the pack to match whatever load I may be carrying on a given day.


AS A DAY PACK
----------------------
True, it is more weight and bulk than I need for most of my day hikes. But the beauty of this pack is in its compressibility and adjustibility. Compressed all the way down, with all side clips linked together, it is a great size for a hydration bladder, light insulation, a rain jacket, a few snacks, and a few key essentials.

I have carried the pack for day hikes both with and without the hip belt. As previously mentioned in this report, I find that the hip belt has a tendency to slip up my hips when I use it with lighter loads. On the other hand, when jogging down inclines without the belt, the pack bounces considerably even with the shoulder straps tightened down. Consequently, I won't consider taking this pack on a trail running adventure.


AS A WEEKEND BACKPACKING PACK
--------------------------------------------------------
Other than the multi-day climb described below, I have only used this pack for day use and one overnight trip. However, it worked very well for carrying gear to the campsite for my overnight trip. For me, it is a great size for overnight or multi-night backpacking trips.


AS A MULTI-DAY ALPINE CLIMBING PACK
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On my trip to Mount Olympus, carrying as much as 48 lbs (22 kg) of gear, I stretched the limits of what can comfortably be carried in this pack. As a result, there were instances on the 18-mile hike back to the car that I was literally cursing the day I applied to test this pack. It is definitely conceivable to execute a multi-day climbing trip carrying far less weight, but I don't think I will ever select this pack again when I opt to carry a climbing load greater than 40 lbs (18 kg).


AS A ROCK CLIMBING PACK
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This pack is a little large for my taste to be a "leader's pack," but it works great as a load-hauler to bring the rope and gear on the approach to a crag. It can easily fit anything needed for a day of trad climbing or top-roping.




TESTING STRATEGY

I will continue to use this pack for my day hike outings over the next several weeks to determine how it continues to hold up to the wear and tear of regular use. I have at least one more overnight backpacking planned -- on the North Shore of Lake Superior. Assuming my total pack weight is less than 40 lbs (18 kg), I will plan to use this pack on my attempt of Mount Shuksan later this month. I am also hoping to find time to take the pack on an overnight ice-climbing adventure before the testing period is over.

CONCLUSION

This concludes my field report. Please check back in early November for my long term report. Thanks for reading!


LONG-TERM REPORT

LONG-TERM TEST LOCATIONS AND CONDITIONS

Since writing the field report, I have used this pack in a variety of environments for a variety of uses. See below for details:

* As a carry-on piece of luggage for airline travel -- five more round-trips. I carried between 20-40 lbs (9-18 kg) in the pack during the various trips.

* Day hiking and scrambling on and off trails in Washington State, USA -- four additional outings, traveling roughly 40 mi (97 km) total. Elevations ranged from 2,000 ft (600 m) to over 7,200 ft (2,200 m). Temperatures ranged between 30 & 70 F (-1 & +21 C). Terrain ranged from thickly forested trails to bushwacking through heavy underbrush to scrambling on boulder and scree fields above tree-line. I carried a range of bulk and weight in the pack -- from less than 10 lbs (4.5 kg) to roughly 25 lbs (11 kg) in order to test the pack in a variety of configurations.

* Overnight backpacking trips on the Superior Hiking Trail in Northern Minnesota and in the Alpine Lakes Region of the Cascade Mountains in Washington State -- two additional outings, traveling roughly 22 mi (35 km) total. Elevations ranged from 800 ft (250 m) to over 5,000 ft (1,500 m). Temperatures ranged between 25 & 70 F (-4 & +21C). Terrain was primarily forested trails, with a few small sections of scrambling or bushwacking. My starting pack weight for both trips was approximately 22 lbs (10 kg), with food, water, and lightweight camping gear.

PERFORMANCE IN THE FIELD

During this phase of testing, I didn't attempt to stretch the comfortable carrying capacity of the pack, and I was rewarded with a pack that very comfortably handled the weight. I did not use the plastic framesheet with the aluminum stay on any of these outings; nor did I miss having it.

The pack has experienced plenty of scrapes with abrasive rock while scrambling (and climbing during the field testing), yet it still shows very little sign of wear. It has proven to be a very tough little pack during the testing process!

Some of the loose threads that I noted in the initial report have started to unravel slightly -- particularly in the area around the bladder hose opening in the extension skirt of the pack. However, nothing appears at risk of falling apart.

The slight unpleasant odor that I noted in the field report diminished after rinsing and drying the pack. However, it started to return again after a few more trips. I will continue to rinse and dry this pack between future uses. This probably is a good practice to follow even if the unpleasant odor doesn't develop, simply to keep the pack clean.

I started to use the crampon pocket for items to which I wanted relatively easy access -- including maps and an additional layer. It was nice to be able to have access to some items without having to open the pack. I also used the pack lid during both of my backpacking trips during this phase of testing. The lid stayed centered on the pack, balanced the weight well, and was a convenient place to store other items for easy access. I was also able to stuff my rain jacket between the lid and the main pack body for easy access when rain was threatening.

The Dee-clip strap configuration that I ended up using most often was with two straps on either side of the pack connecting to one point on the back of the pack, like a sideways 'V.' See the picture on the right below for an example of this configuration. I found that I had a wide range of control and adjustability with the straps like this.

IMAGE 12
Two strap configurations. I like the one on the right.


IMAGE 13
After the trip. (My daughter loved my CiloGear 30L WS!)

SUMMARY

This is not the lightest pack I've ever used. This is not the most comfortable pack I've ever used. This is not the most durable or highest quality construction I've seen in a pack. However, it has a great balance and blend of these characteristics, which make it a great pack for a broad range of uses in my opinion. Because of the versatility and ease with which the pack configurations can be changed to accommodate different loads and different volumes, I feel that it is particularly well suited to single day or lightweight multi-day alpine climbing trips. Though by no means is it necessary to limit the CiloGear 40B WorkSack to such specialized use, because it even excels as a versatile carry-on for airplanes. The strengths of this pack really shine through when durability and adjustability are required.

CONTINUED USE

I plan to continue to use this pack for day or short overnight climbing and scrambling trips during which I expect to encounter rough conditions. I think this pack is very well suited to such trips.

Thanks again to BackpackGearTest and especially to Graham at CiloGear for allowing me to test this great pack!

This report was created with the BackpackGearTest.org Report Writer Version 1. Copyright 2008. All rights reserved.

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Reviews > Packs > Internal and External Framed Backpacks > Cilo Gear 40B WorkSack > Test Report by Christopher Nicolai



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