Friday, March 16, 2012

Cilogear Worksack 60L Review

On top of Pfeifferhorn with stripped-down 60 liter Cilogear Worksack

Phil with 40 Liter Worksack

A couple years ago, I was working in a specialty outdoor retail shop here in Ogden, Utah.  A good friend of mine walked into the store with a big grin on his face.  That smile could only mean one of two things; either he had just returned from a climbing trip and had ticked off one of our dream routes without me and was here to gloat, or he had a new piece of dream gear that he wanted to show off to me and gloat.  Either way, I was prepping myself to be gloated upon.

He was holding in his hand a large backpack stuffed to the brim.  It seemed as big or bigger than my 50 liter climbing backpack.  The simplicity of the pack was beautiful, but I still wasn't quite sure why he was so excited.  Then he said, "Watch this!," and began to take pillow after pillow and sleeping  bag after sleeping bag out of the pack.  Suddenly the pack want from a 60ish-liter pack to a tall-but-slender 15-20 liter pack.  I fought jealousy and envy back as I eyed his new toy.  Then he took out the framesheet and took off the hip belt, removed all the straps and showed me the removable bivy pad.  This was the sweetest climbing pack I had ever seen!

And then he really broke the news to me:  "Oh yeah, by the way," he said, "I just got back from climbing Castleton.  I would've called you but I knew you were working.  I picked this pack up in Moab on the way home."

That was the last time I talked to that so-called "friend" of mine, and the first time I started to dream about Cilogear backpacks.  I mean, friends just aren't that cruel, right?  Well, actually that was the last time I talked to that friend for the week, but the next week we went cragging and all was well again.  I am actually grateful to that friend for pointing me toward Cilogear packs.

My Cilogear Worksack

I got my own Cilogear Worksack 60L about four months ago and have done my best to test it out in all different situations.  I have used it backpacking, ice cragging, rock cragging, on multi-pitch ice, and multi-pitch rock, alpine climbing, and even snowshoeing.  I have carried anywhere from 10 to 65 pounds in it and have used it with and without the frame sheet.   In every situation it has performed incredibly well.  The only downside is that the pack that I have is 60L.  There are times that I wish I had a 40L or 30L.  But, the 60L has been able to compress down quite small to carry well with small loads and not feel too big.

Here are some specs:

These weights are from my own scale, but they are almost identical to those found on Cilogear's website.  It's always refreshing to me when companies present their products accurately.  This pack is a medium torso. 
  • 4lb 10oz - The whole pack, including an added wand pocket and all of the straps the pack comes with, and a rope catch.
  • 4lb 2oz - The pack with no straps or wand pocket.  Does have top lid attached.
  • 3lb 10oz - The pack with no straps or lid with connecting straps for lid also removed
  • 2lb 11oz - Same as previous but with framesheet removed
  • 2lb - no framesheet, hipbelt, bivy pad, straps, or lid.

  • Pack is made of some of the best materials available while keeping the pack affordable
  • Reinforced in high-abrasion areas
  • Can transform from expedition load hauler to stripped summit pack
  • reflective trim makes the pack very visible in the dark.
  • Two reinforced haul loops allow the pack to be hauled if necessary.
  • Long, 12" extension sleeve allows for extra large loads or for the pack to be used as a short bivy bag if necessary.  The pack from bottom to top of extension sleeve is 36" long.
  • Ice clipper slots on hipbelt
  • D-loop/Slider system allows for incredible versatility.  Straps can be configured however you want to carry pretty much anything.  Also, strap-attachment points can be used for compression without straps.
  • Crampon pouch and ice tool/ice axe attachments.  Tool attachments can easily carry two sets of tools or tools and an axe.

Pictures, lots of 'em

60L worksack stuffed full.  About 36" tall and probably closer to 75L with the extension sleeve.

Crampon pouch and ice tool attachments.  Ice tool slots easily accomodate multiple sets of tools or axes.  Note the reflective trim.  Yellow strap is one reinforced haul loop.  Gray section on the bottom is an extremely burly material, dimension polyant VX51.  It is essentially 1000d cordura laminated to x-pac fabric.

Fully-loaded pack.  The obvious V-shaped wedge that is the side panel really helps to transfer weight to the hips and lumbar region.  Fully loaded pack is about 75 liters, maybe more.  In case anybody is wondering why I'm squatting, I am taking a picture of myself with the camera sitting on our piano, so I'm crouching to fit the whole pack in the frame. 

Long extension sleeve.  Fully loaded without top pocket is about 65 liters or so.

Pack is now about 50 liters.

Compressed further on both sides.  Pack is now about 35 liters.

Compressed totally.  The pack is now approximatley a 20-liter summit pack.  An actual 20-liter summit pack would feel much lighter and less bulky, but this would work just fine.  It amazes me that somebody could make a pack that is 75+ liters and could comfortably carry 60+ pounds, and then strip down to a 20-liter summit pack.  Definitely a great design!

Ninja pocket.  This pocket folds over bivy pad and framesheet and velcros in place.  To remove the framesheet and bivy pad, just pull up on the ninja pocket.  There is a hydration sleeve below the ninja pocket.

Inside ninja pocket.  The whole pack is a white color on the inside to make it easier to see pack contents in the dark.

Framesheet and bivy pad under ninja pocket

Framesheet consists of one aluminum stay and a stiff plastic sheet.  The framesheet does not come pre-curved but it's easy to shape.

Bivy pad is pretty stiff and comfortably supports 25 pounds.  The foam is about 3/8" thick. 

The pack's interior.  The strap in the middle of the picture is an internal compression strap.  This strap significantly improves the comfort and carry of the pack with heavy loads.  The reflective detail on the strap make it nice and easy to find in the dark.  It's the little things.

The Backpanel.  The adjustment for torso length is with the hipbelt and lumbar pad.  This hipbelt, though minimalistic, is incredibly comfortable.  I have often had a problem with hipbelts rubbing my hips raw under heavy loads.  The only pack hipbelts that haven't so far are the Arc'teryx Altra's hibelt (and their other packs that use the same hipbelt), the new BD hipbelts that are used with their ergoActive suspension, and this hipbelt.  I was surprised when it comfortably supported 65 pounds with no funky rubbing.

Hipbelt removed, obviously.

Ice clipper slots on hipbelt.  I only wish they had dedicated gear loops.  I'm not sure, but Cilogear might be willing to sew some in.

Simple strap attachment for compression

The plastic slider feeds into the metal D-ring to make a compression strap.  This modular system is genius, but takes some practice and is a little difficult with bulky gloves.

Comes with all these straps (except the blue rope catch) which make the compression/rigging options endless.

Zippered underside of lid.

Main zippered pocket of lid.

From Cilogear's website:  We manufacture our packs in house. Our office and workshop is in a building over 100 years old. Our electricity is hydroelectric, from the Columbia river that runs between Oregon and Washington. Our materials are sourced in the USA, and the vast majority of our materials are made here. I doubt that there is a 'greener' backpack manufacturer out there shipping as many units.

The Verdict

If it's not extremely obvious yet, let me say this in the clearest language I know how: This pack is the best climbing pack I have ever seen!  I have used probably 15-20 different packs over the years for climbing, including Black Diamond, Arc'teryx, Wild Things, Osprey, Granite Gear, Dana Design, and others, and I have never  used a pack that carries so comfortably with heavy loads that can also strip down so light and simple for climbing and as a summit pack.  There are some packs that are as simple and climb as well, and there are packs that carry loads as well, but there are no other packs that I know of that does everything as well, and for an affordable price.  My pack retails for $260.  Not bad for what you get.  They do also offer a non-woven dyneema and a woven/non-woven dyneema 60L Worksack, but they are significantly more expensive ($750 and $775, respectively).  They are lighter and significantly more durable than mine, but I think mine is durable enough to last at least 3-4 years of heavy use.

I would give this pack 5 out of 5 stars.  The only thing I would add are dedicated gear loops on the hipbelt and maybe a couple retaining clips on the shoulder straps for the extra webbing from the load lifters so they don't hit me in the face in high winds.  It's not difficult to tuck this under other straps though.

For any climber that wants a well-designed, extremely versatile climbing pack, Cilogear Worksacks are for you!  For a backpacker that climbs, worksacks are for you!  For a backpacker that doesn't climb, these would work fine, but there are probably better options out there for you.

For a lot more information about Cilogear, check out their website

And search Cilogear on YouTube.  Their "Propoganda Films" are very informative.


  1. So tempted. Thanks for the review!

  2. Hey, that pack actually has VX100 on the bottom. We've got to update the website to reflect that information. It's a 1000d Cordura X-Pack. Thanks for the review!

  3. Thanks for straightening me out. Love the pack!

  4. What packs can you recommend for a backpacker who does not climb?

  5. That totally depends on your price range and how big you want to go. What is your price range, do you pack fairly light, and for how many days would you want to use it? I really like the Black Diamond ergoActive suspension if you don't plan to carry over 50 pounds. I've also had good luck with the Arc'teryx Altra 65 for just backpacking.

    1. Not as concerned with price as with getting one very versatile pack. Will normally be under 50 pounds but may exceed that at times. I was set on the Cilogear V60 but your comment on there being better backpacking only packs prompted these questions. Thanks.

    2. The Cilogear packs are about as versatile as packs come. If you want to lighten the pack up for smaller and lighter trips, you can do it. If you want a pack to carry heavy loads, it'll do that too. You can adjust the straps to accommodate pretty much anything. If you want one pack to do everything, this would be a good one. If you want to buy three packs (one for the light and small loads, one for the med loads, and one huge load hauler), you can get three packs that will do these things better than this one Cilogear pack will. If you want one pack to do it all, I can't think of a better option than this one.

  6. Sweet Review, with 2.5 years on my NWD 45 worksack and many peaks bagged, I couldn't agree more. These are the best packs for any type of off trail movements out there. They are even better with the Air Frame, something I would never had believed until I tried it....Cilo packs are game changers in the carry dept., plus the careful blend of fabrics and paneling are unmatched in the pack market.

  7. I'm thinking of getting the 40L Worksack. How does your buddy Phil like his? Anyway was he can post some pictures / review of his 40L?

  8. I write from Australia. I ordered a worksack from Cilogear in May 2013. Its now nearly August, I paid $115 via Paypal and still have nothing despite numerous emails to Cilogear. Originally there was a delay and according to Cilogear I should have seen it after a 7 day turnaround. I needed a bag and ordered one from a store in the UK, that arrived in 2 weeks. Now I am $100 poorer with no Cilogear and not even a reply to the many polite emails I sent. I plan to call them, and have logged a dispute via Paypal, but be warned. I have never been ripped off online with overseas purchases before, so very disappointed a small company with such a hands on approach has stolen my money. If they have a legitimate reason I have yet to hear it. Please consider my comment before making the decision to buy from Cilogear.
    Christian Wilson , Sydney Australia