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Reviews > Packs > Internal and External Framed Backpacks > Cilo Gear 40B WorkSack > Test Report by Rick Allnutt
TESTER INFORMATIONName: Rick Allnutt
Location: Helotes, Texas
Height: 6' 0" (1.8 m)
Weight: 183 lb (83 kg)
Over the last several years, I have become an ultralight camper with a three-season base pack weight of about 8 lb (3.5 kg) and skin out weight of 17 lb (8 kg). In the sometimes dry state of Texas, I have begun to learn how to carry enough water to dry camp for two days. I have completed many section hikes on the Appalachian Trail (AT) in all four seasons, and many trips to state parks, with a total mileage of about 1550 miles (2500 km). I am a gearhead, a hammock or tarp camper, and I make much of my own equipment.
Trail Name: Risk
PRODUCT INFORMATION & SPECIFICATIONS
INITIAL IMPRESSIONSI moved to Texas last summer and discovered how the other half of the hiking community lives. Instead of having a spring or stream to fill my one liter bottle every five miles or so, I faced the possibility of going out backpacking and not having any water other than what I was carrying. That means, even with heat adaptation, about a gallon of water a day. The problem is that water weighs a lot! The ultralight packs that I have become used to were just not up to the task of carrying four to six liters and my lightweight camping kit. I knew I needed to look for a pack that would carry that kind of weight comfortably.
The CiloGear pack is just the sort of pack I need. I hope that with its integrated and reinforced frame sheet, those heavy bottles of water will not dig into my back. The cloth promises to be a bit more rugged too. It was built by mountaineers for their rugged needs and I like the sound of that.
When the box arrived at my doorstep, I could not wait to begin to dig through it and discover what the pack was like. In many ways, it was just what I expected. It was a little heavier than other packs I've used. I expected that. The materials used in construction were thicker and more resistant to stretch. I expected that. What I did not expect was the complexity of the pack's adjustable elements. Fortunately, the information I needed to take full advantage of the pack was handily posted on the CiloGear website in the form of a 19 page manual which explained many of the other features of the pack. So it was that I discovered the straps that had been tucked inside the pack make it very, very adaptable to a great numger of circumstances.
But I am getting ahead of myself. First, I decided to see what I could figure out without reading the instructions. It's probably that American male gene getting in the way again. Directions? Me? So I opened up the pack and discovered the first surprise: there is a support strap in the middle of the pack. It is a diagonal strap that is attached at the upper end to the inside of the same area to which the pack straps are attached. On its lower end, it is attached to the lower center of the inside of the front of the pack. (For this report, I will use the same conventions that CiloGear uses to describe direction. The surface of the pack that rides against my back is the back. The surface of the pack that is seen by someone walking behind me is the front of the pack. The left side is my left side when walking and the right side is on my right. The top and bottom are their conventional meaning.) The internal diagonal strap is used to pull the middle of the front of the pack toward me so that weight is kept closer to my back and to help suspend the weight from higher up on my back. Thus, the shoulder straps apply more of their weight downward on my shoulders and less rearward on my shoulders.
The pack came with the side slip locks attached directly to their matching D-clips. I did not at first appreciate it, but this is one of the useful configurations for the pack. (I have attached a horizontal photo of the pack in this configuration.) If not much needs to be carried on a day hike, the pack can be rigged this way and it, from initial impressions, seems to float on my back, holding a lunch, water bottle, and change of socks close to my back. But it was not until I began reading that 19 page instruction manual that I first understood this. And I must admit that it was about this stage of things that I read the book. That was mainly because I could not figure out how to remove the slip locks from the D-clips. (More on that a little later in the initial review.)
Inside the pack is a clever little zipper pouch for putting small gear that needs to be easy to find. So far, I have used it to store my car keys during a day hike. That zipper pouch is seen in this photograph, in front of which is the diagonal strap that traverses the center of the pack. What was not immediately obvious until reading the instruction manual was that the pouch folds up and behind it is the slot for the frame sheet, and as a bonus, a "bivy pad." The pad is a closed cell foam pad just the right size for summer hammock camping in Texas! Very Cool!
The frame sheet is a heavy plastic material. Sewn to the center line of the frame sheet is a pack-cloth pouch inside of which is a heavy duty aluminum stay. Light weight hikers may have noticed that the frame sheet and its stay have a total weight that makes up a quarter of the weight of the pack system. When not carrying heavy or bumpy loads, considerable weight savings can be had by leaving the frame sheet at home. I love adaptability! The bivy pad is folded double and (unfolded) measures 21 in (53 cm) high and 18 in (46 cm) wide. The folded width is 9 in (23 cm). It immediately occurred to me that a half size three-season ultralight pad 21 in (53 cm) by 36 in (92 cm) may fit nicely in the frame sheet pocket.
The manual helped to expand my horizons on the many possible pack configurations. The most obvious configuration is to open up the side sliplocks and D-rings and stuff the pack full of gear. It seems cavernous when packed that way. I guess that with a winter sleeping bag, and a week's worth of food I might someday figure out how to fill the pack up to that extent. More likely combinations are created by attaching straps to the sides of the pack to pull the pack into a thin configuration. The photos at the beginning of this report show diagonal straps being used to make the pack thinner. In these photos, I have packed two two-liter bottles in the bottom of the pack with my hammock between them. Above them I have a change of clothing, a day's worth of food, and my all purpose poly bucket which acts as my water safe spot and general collector of small gear. Everything fit as a single layer against my back and the side straps snugged the load up against the frame sheet. The total weight was 19-1/2 lb (8.9 k) and it seemed to feel just fine on my back. What I really liked was that it was not pulling me backwards. I was able to walk with a more upright posture than if this weight had been in a loose ruck-sack on my back, pulling rearward with considerable force.
The other very nice addition to this pack system is the top lid. It is a good sized zippered pouch with lots of room for items that need to be easily accessible. This might be rain gear, a cup for water, GPS, phone, and a lunch or snack. The material used on the top of this pouch has multiple layers and according to the website is waterproof. This fooled me since I can pull my breath through at least the top layer of the sandwich of the fabric. I hope the lid will be a fool-proof way to waterproof the top of the pack. One of the problems I have had with top opening packs is the tendency of water to get in the top of the pack. Since the material on the top surface of the lid is waterproof, it will make me much more hope that I will arrive at the end of a rainy day with a completely dry pack. On the underside of the top lid is another, smaller zippered compartment. I had not yet dreamed up a perfect use for that compartment, but another tester suggested its use for map or permit which makes perfect sense. While the top compartment of the lid is accessible without releasing any buckles or straps, the bottom compartment of the lid is only accessible after the lid's buckles have been released.
The top lid is attached to the pack with the sliplock and D-ring system, as are the side straps. These attachment points are spread all around the pack. It is by using them in different ways that the pack can become so adaptable to different uses and different loads. The photos below begin to show how they work.
Other connectors include a short daisy chain attachment on either side of the crampon pocket, designed to hold the handles of two ice tools. The base of these tools can be held in place by two buckles and a loop of material. The top lid of the pack has two male buckle halves on the front edge of the lid and two female buckle halves on the back edge of the lid. In addition, there is a slip lock on the center of the back edge and a matching D-ring on the pack to give it an attachment point when all the buckles are released. If that is not enough attachment points, there are six nylon loops on the upper circumference of the top lid. Oh, before I forget about it, there is a detachable strap with buckle that can be used as a sternum strap too.
As long as I am mentioning attachment points, there are two buckle attachment points to attach a hip belt. The belt was not included in my initial shipment but will be sent to me soon so that I can use it for most of the testing period.
Part of the power of adjustability of this pack is that way that attachment points can be used by multiple straps. In the pair of photos above, the original buckle shown in the first pair of photos is now being joined by another slip lock in the same D-ring. Please note that either a slip lock or a D-ring could be added here. Once there is a slip lock and D-ring attached, either the slip lock or D-ring end of strap can be attached. I have used a pair of these double attachments to hold the straps with buckles which hold down my top lid to the front of the pack.
The hip belt slips between the black pad which rests against my low back. Mating hook and loop patches hold it in place. It is attached to the pack body by two buckles near the bottom end of the shoulder straps. The hip belt is attached with four "suspension loops" on the upper edge of the hip belt.
I had the opportunity to pack up the CiloGear pack for an overnight last night. I had a light and small load, so I closed down one side of the pack and opened the other. This cut the volume of the pack by about half, and the pack cross section looked a lot like a triangle. I did not need to carry the top lid. I carried about 12 pounds, including two quarts (2 liters) of water. The pack rode comfortably on my back. I found the rather stiff pack straps had a tendency to dig into my upper arms until I attached the sternum strap. Then there was just a hint of them pushing on the soft part of my neck. I am getting the impression that a somewhat narrower or softer shoulder strap might be more comfortable for my particular anatomy. I used the crampon pocket to securely carry a liter of water in a plastic bottle. The next time I hike I will try putting a 2 liter soft bag water bottle in that pocket. It may fit nicely. I was very pleased with the rest of the carry of the pack. It really held the pack gear up against my back very closely. That made the walk less tiring.
The CiloGear 40 B pack is the most adaptable pack that I have ever had the chance to work with. I am excited about the possibilities of testing many possible ways of packing gear.
The things I really like about this package are:
- Adaptability on the fly - if I don't like how something is riding, I can change it on the spot.
- Construction appears to be robust and strong.
What I don't like right now:
- I pine for side pockets for water.
- The shoulder straps stiffness and width have caused me a little trouble.
FIELD LOCATIONS AND CONDITIONS
July 19, 2008 – Overnight in Government Canyon State Natural Area, near my home in Helotes, TX, altitude about 1000 ft (300 m). The walk into this site was a 4 mi (6 km) trek on rocky but mostly level ground. Afternoon high was 98 F (37 C) and overnight low about 72F (22 C). I used the pack without its frame sheet and stiffener, and without the lid. Bright moon beginning after I went to bed. Hammock hanging, nice quiet night.
July 5, 2008 – Trip to my old stomping grounds in Beavercreek Ohio, altitude about 1000 ft (300 m). Most of the trip was to visit friends and family, but it included an outdoors overnight. Afternoon high was 90 F (32 C) and overnight low was about 60 F (20 C). Hammock hanging with deer snorting all night long near the campsite. I had to use a closed cell pad for the first time in months because the temperature got down pretty cool. A light quilt was still enough top insulation. On this trip, I used the pack system as my luggage for a 5 day trip. I left the frame sheet and hip belt in Texas. I used the lid as a left hip bag by using one of the tie down straps as a belt.
June 28, 2008 – Overnight in Government Canyon SNA. Afternoon high was 100 F (38 C) and the overnight low about 77 F (25 C). Lots of coyote yipping in the middle of the night. Clear night skies, no rain. After soaking the back of the pack from sweating in the heat, I washed the pack on a gentle cycle in the washing machine.
June 19-21, 2008 – Trip to Fort Davis, TX and Carlsbad, NM. Day hiking in the state park at Fort Davis and between there and the national monument. Total of about 8 miles of day hiking with temperature in the mid 90s F (near 35 C). Altitude was about 4000 ft (1200 m). On 21 June, we hiked about 4 mi (6 km) in Carlsbad Caverns, including a descent of 800 ft (250 m). The CiloGear pack was carried the entire time.In addition to the 3 nights above, I also used the pack while day hiking in Government Canyon an additional 5 times on walks that ranged from 3-8 mi (5-13 km). I also used the pack as carry-on luggage for three trips on airplanes.
PERFORMANCE IN THE FIELDThe CiloGear pack continues to amaze me in its ability to morph into an ideal pack for multiple uses. It has been handy as a backpack for multi-day trips, day hiking, and even luggage for business trips.
I keep my hiking gear in a dedicated closet. When I am about to take a walk or pack for an overnight trip, I reach into that closet for the gear that I will need. I decide what kind of cooking equipment, water bottles, sleeping gear, and shelter I will need for the conditions. The CiloGear pack has taken on the same sort of adaptability that I find in my gear closet. I think about the trip ahead and begin putting together the components that will be most useful for the conditions. I ask myself if I will need a frame sheet for heavy loads, or if a foam pad will be enough. Will the load require a hip belt? Will I need the lid compartment on the pack or on my hip? How much compression will I need to keep the gear near my center of gravity?
The CiloGear pack allows me to completely customize the pack I will carry based on the answers to those questions. To take the hip belt off the pack is a 1 minute operation. To fit the pack's lid compartment to be carried on a hip takes just a few seconds. Removing or installing the frame sheet likewise can be accomplished in a flash.
In the trips I have now taken, my first (slightly negative) reaction to the shoulder straps has NOT been confirmed. Initially, I thought they were stiff enough to cause me difficulty. However, the straps have turned out to be very comfortable to me. Under light loads they are most comfortable to me without the sternum strap fastened. Under heavy loads, the pack is more comfortable with the sternum strap snapped and with the hip belt used to carry about 1/2 to 2/3 of the pack's weight. I don't know if my change in opinion has been because they became "broken in" or if it was part of a learning curve on my part.
I wondered whether the frame sheet's aluminum bar might be a problem in using the pack for carry-on luggage. On one trip, I carried the pack with that bar and the nice folks at both airports that I needed to go through had no questions about that bar when it went through the X-ray scanner.
I have discovered a very handy use for the lid, when it is not attached to the top of the pack. Using one of the straps with a clip, I have found that this makes a great hip pack. I have used it most often when traveling by air - to carry a GPS, book, and travel documents. However, I can imagine it as a great tool for town trips for shopping for a couple day's of food on the Appalachian Trail. In carrying the lid on my hip, I orient the zippers vertically, so that the entire opening is easy to see from the side. If I had a lot to carry, I might put the zipper at the top, though I have not yet carried it for any length of time in that position.
In my initial summary I said that I really wanted a way to carry a water bottle. The good news is that CiloGear has developed a "wand pocket" that works very well for carrying a water bottle. It can be attached to the side of the pack on either side. The version I have is a prototype, so I have not reported on the weight or cost of that device. However, as of this date, wand pockets of three different sizes are available on the CiloGear website under "accessories".
Things I like thus far:Same as I listed at the end of the initial report. Adaptability is the king when I use this pack.
Things I don't like:
Nothing at all. Both questions I had at the beginning have been answered. The shoulder straps have turned out to be very comfortable. And now I have a place to carry water.
FIELD LOCATIONS AND CONDITIONS
September 17-19, 2008 – Three day, two night hike in the Gila Wilderness, New Mexico. The altitudes ranged from 6000 to 7400 ft (1800 - 2300 m). Temperatures were from 45 to 75 F (7 to 24 C). The weather included sun and rain. Total distance backpacking was about 25 mi (40 km).
Over the full test period I used the pack for backpacking on five overnights and as a day pack for about 10 additional days. Non backpacking use has been as my overnight bag on about 5 airplane or car trips.
PERFORMANCE IN THE FIELDThe CiloGear 40B pack has been just the right size for all my travels. For the trip to the Gila Wilderness, I used the reinforced backplane, not knowing how much water I was going to have to carry. It turned out that I never had to walk more than 10 mi (16 km) without a water supply, so using the reinforced suspension was a bit of overkill. However, the pack was very comfortable with two liters of water and a pack full camping equipment. I probably overpacked a little for this trip, as I did not know the countryside and did not know what to expect. Carrying a little extra weight (pack was 22 lb (10 kg) with water) was all the easier with the hip belt and reinforced backplane.
I continue to enjoy the ability to snug up the pack into a day pack sized pack with the side adjustments. Doing so gives me a pack that rides very close to my center of gravity and which is excellent for bushwacking. The cloth of the pack is very sturdy and has not been damaged by Texas cedar branches as I have frequently gone cross country in rough country.
I only used the pack with the reinforcement on a plane one time. The large aluminum stay made it through the security that time, but I did have the pack taken apart one time to make sure it was OK. On the other trips, I left the backplane and aluminum stay at home. Nothing was ever taken apart in this configuration.
I remain very impressed with the wide ranging adjustments that can be made with the pack. For the trip to the Gila, I used the topper and it worked out very well, staying balanced on the top of the pack. As I have said before, this is the equivalent of a dozen different packs in my closet, all depending on what options I strap on and use.
Things I really liked:This pack is the most adaptable pack I have ever used.
The materials are robust and well put together.
What I missed:
Despite the strap on water bottle sack, I really missed a pair of elastic topped pockets on each side to slide a water bottle into.
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