Gear Review: Cilogear 40l

| Misc
I spent a couple days in the Emigrant Wilderness (trail conditions report to follow shortly) earlier this week. A short trip, but a good opportunity to try out some of my new gear, including Cilogear's 40 liter worksack (the older model).

Cilogear is a tiny company run by a guy named Graham Williams (he's who answers the email when you write to them). Their special sauce is the extreme configurability of the packs. In particular:

  • It's an internal frame pack but the framesheet and backpad fit into a sleeve in the back of the pack, so that they can be removed and the pack used as a frameless backpack. This feature isn't unique to Cilogear, but is nice. The backpad also doubles as a bivy pad.
  • The hip belt can be easily removed to make the pack even more of a simple knapsack. The lid/loft comes off. as well.
  • Instead of fixed compression straps like most packs have, each side of the pack has two vertical rows of attachment points, one on in the front and one in the back. This lets you use a variety of strap arrangements to transfer/control the load as appropriate for how you've packed the pack.

I got a dynamite (super-tough) model on clearance for $80 (just before the new models came out) and then got the upgrade kit, consisting of a new, thinner hip belt, an improved lid, and some extra straps for $40, for a total cost of $120. Total pack weight is advertised as 3.6 lbs, which is heavier than an ultralight pack but still lighter than the much larger the Gregory Forester (just under 5 lbs) it replaces.

Generally, I'm quite happy with this pack. I was carrying a moderate load of around 30 lbs, but I never felt overly weighed down. The pack is narrow and rides close to your back so you're agile over even fairly rough terrain. I definitely felt like that aspect was better than with the Gregory. The hip belt conforms extremely well to your hips. With the Gregory my hips started to hurt after only a few hours (some sort of pressure point over the ischial spines), but with the Cilogear they were never sore at all. After two days, my suprapinatus (between neck and shoulder) were somewhat sore, but this is to some extent a feature of every pack I've ever used and I think is just a feature of wanting to carry a bit more weight than average on my shoulders rather than my hips. It could probably be ameliorated with better pack positioning, as I have a chance to tune this pack a bit. One thing you'd think would be uncomfortable is that the backpad is flat and fairly hard, so you'd expect to have it hurt your spine and also get a lot of sweat collection. Neither seemed to happen much, though.

I definitely like the ability to use this bag as a frameless pack—it's a nice feature when traveling. I haven't come to a decision about how I feel about the strapping system yet. In theory you're supposed to be able to do a lot of adjustments to optimize load carrying but I haven't experimented enough to really think I've done substantially better than the fixed strapping systems on standard packs. Maybe this is something I'll get used to as I work with the pack some more. It's at least not worse.

A few small quibbles:

  • There's a second, smaller rip-stop sleeve in front of the main frame/bivy pad sleeve, presumably to let you put small items in. The top inch or so of stitching on mine has torn out. This isn't a big deal and the pocket still works, but given that it is a small bug.
  • This pack doesn't have any pockets for water bottles in the sides of the pack—though the crampon pocket on the back can be used for this purpose. This means you absolutely have to take your pack off to get a drink (unless you use a drinking bladder, which I don't). On the other hand, my experience with those pockets is that they tend to either be hard to get your bottles into/out of or that they eject the bottles unexpectedly (or both), so that's not as biga drawback as one might like. This does seem like something Cilogear could easily fix,

All in all, I'm quite happy with this pack. It's comfortable and carries well and I expect to use it for future trips rather than my Gregory, unless I really need to carry a lot of stuff). I imagine that the new version is even nicer. If you're in the market for a new pack, I encourage you to check out Cilogear.