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CiloGear 45L and 20L WorkSacks
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By JThompson
Feb 11, 2011

About a year-and-a-half ago I purchased two CiloGear WorkSacks from the CiloGear factory in Portland, Oregon. CiloGear packs have quite a following here in the Wasatch, and I was able to meet company owner Graham while he was here for the Outdoor Retailer show that summer. I was very impressed by his thinking about packs so I decided to try them out.

When I decided to order a pack, I was impressed that Graham corresponded with me personally on the telephone and discussed with me what I wanted to do with the packs, what kind of climbing I do, and what I would require in terms of fit. He has an impressive lineup of packs, all based on the foundation of simplicity and bomber construction, and helping me choose something that was going to work for me and my activities was a major help.

I decided on a 45L for my cragging and alpine climbing; this is a nice, adaptable pack because the removable lid, compression options, and expandable baffle allow comfortable loads whether I’m spending a couple of nights in the mountains, taking some draws and a rope to a sport crag, or anything in-between. For my day-to-day cragging, I usually remove the lid to keep me from taking the kitchen sink with me; the pack still easily fits all my trad essentials, and I can strap a rope over the top when my belay slave isn’t already carrying it for me. I am always amazed at how easy it is to expand the pack to carry food, clothing, and a sleeping bag when headed up high. Graham’s ingeniously simple and flexible compression system is the hallmark design element allowing these change-overs. I have a friend who strips his 30L NWD WorkSack down to its absolute minimum for cragging and backcountry skiing—no compression straps, hipbelt, sternum strap, framesheet or lid—which works very well for him. I like the support of the framesheet and hipbelt. Graham’s design allows you the pack to be easily customized to your preferences.

45L WorkSack w/o lid on day-trip into Lone Peak Cirque.
45L WorkSack w/o lid on day-trip into Lone Peak Cirque.

I knew I had to have a 20L WorkSack after borrowing one from a friend to use as a leader pack for long routes in the Wasatch’s Lone Peak Cirque. Packed with a pair of approach shoes, water, some bars and a wind layer, the pack absolutely disappeared. I knew I needed my own. It is designed with the same flexible simplicity of CiloGear’s larger packs, packed into a much smaller package that rides high between the shoulders. This little gem lets you forget you’re wearing it until you need its contents, which is the ultimate compliment for this type of pack. It has also become my quick-morning-hike-with-the-wife-and-kids pack, and I love to stash some snacks and staples in it for resort skiing with the family. My favorite feature of the 20L is that, using the D-Ring attachment system (part of the compression system), it can be attached piggy-back style to my 45L to add a little easily-accessible volume for longer trips, especially when I would be taking it anyway to use as a leader pack.
(Pics to come)
Three things stand out about both these packs: 1) Customizing their fit is very simple and, once you’ve got them dialed, they carry better than any other packs I’ve worn; 2) Reconfiguring the packs for specific loads is easy, and the packs are remarkably adaptable—especially considering their clean lines and stripped-down appearance; and 3) Their construction is absolutely bomber!

One last story about me and my CiloGear packs. It turns out they’re not completely indestructible. On a recent trip to the desert, my very crafty Chesapeake Bay Retriever learned that climbing packs are often filled with various foodstuffs like sandwiches and bars. Much to my friends’ dismay, this dog also lacks a conscience, forcing everyone to hang their packs to protect against the world’s largest crag chipmunk—short of Yosemite bears of course. I tempted fate by simply closing up my pack and hiding it behind a boulder, and while I was getting thrashed on my next pitch, the little shit chewed through the side of the pack to get at a bag of trail mix. She almost got left at Indian Creek when I went home. Upon arriving, I contacted CiloGear (as usual, Graham himself answered the phone) and asked if it could be repaired. “No Problem!” I sent it in with a few bucks to cover materials and such and it was returned shortly. Graham’s primary concern was that I get the pack back as soon as possible so I could get it back to work—how many company’s can you say that about?
If you see her, hide your pack!
If you see her, hide your pack!

CiloGear is a company that represents things I believe in. When you purchase a CiloGear pack, you’re purchasing from a climber something designed and constructed by a climber for climbers. CiloGear is committed to producing specialized but flexible gear to help climbers climb. They refuse to whore up their packs with eye-candy and needless bells-and-whistles for the masses, no matter how many more packs they might sell. CiloGear packs are made for hard work and hard play. Furthermore, they are made when you order them by a company that works hard to limit waste. Their products are the best, they stand behind their products no matter what kind of abuse you subject them to, and they are people just like most of us trying to find a way to spend as much time in the mountains as possible. Pretty easy for me to give them my strongest endorsement—whatever its worth!


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By Scottie
From Hartford, CT
Jul 29, 2011

Great review!

I have 2 cilo packs and I love them both


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By C Scariot
Jul 29, 2011

i have one (45L(?)) and i'm really happy with it. however, my experience with the company was quite the opposite. i attempted correspondence multiple times (intending to purchase) and never got a real response (only a response promising a response that never happened). anyway, a friend eventually gave me the pack i have now. glad to hear your experiences were more positive than mine. but hey, worked out all the better for me in the long run. got a free pack that i would have purchased had graham responded.


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By Rob Duncan
From Salt Lake City
Jul 29, 2011

I will say they have been going through some growing pains lately, too much of a good thing!

these packs are handmade in the states. well worth getting yourself a pack, if you are able to catch graham on the phone or otherwise.

they are stocked at IME here in SLC.


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By Andrew Martin
From North Jersey
Jul 30, 2011
me

My 45L is one of my favorite purchases of all time. Amazing pack. I also had a great experience ordering the pack. I called with a few questions, expecting to get transfered a lot of spend the entire time on hold, and instead Graham answered the phone. He was very helpful and took the time to get to know me and what I do so that he could best recommend the pack for me. I also beat the crap out of the pack as a backpacking guide for two summers. Not only did it hold up perfectly, but I think it carries big loads as we as my Bora 80 does. The suspension on this pack is second to none for the weight. My next pack will be a CiloGear as well.


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