Review of 40B
Review by: btreanor, 2008-08-05
This is a review of Cilogearís 40B Worksack. It retails for $160, weighs in at 1735 grams or 3 pounds and 13 ounces (but see below), and is, obviously, 40 liters (but can compress as small as 20 liters and extend as big as 60 liters).
Iíve been using the pack for about 5 weeks for everything from cragging with my kids to multi-day technical climbing trips in RMNP.
I generally wear gear out--and Iím damn handy with a Speedy Stitcher--so my previous pack (a Cold Cold World Chernobyl, which is also an excellent pack for which I have nothing but praise) lasted a solid 15 years of serious abuse before finally being put out to pasture with some needy Scouts. Despite this, I actually have experience with several Cilogear packs because, in addition to replacing the Chernobyl, I had another pack stolen in a home burglary. Moreover, I used to work as a guide and over the years the company I worked for was given packs by a variety of companies for guide use. So I have also used and carried packs by Dana Designs, Gregory, Black Diamond, and several others Iím forgetting at the moment.
All this is to put the following statements into perspective. The Cilogear 40B Worksack is hands down the best pack I have ever used. It is one of the few pieces of gear that I purchased at retail cost and I would gladly do so again. Finally, in 25 years of very heavy, active outdoor recreation, the 40B Worksack is the only pack that I did not immediately cut things off of or sew things onto, an assessment that has stayed mostly true after 5 weeks of heavy use in RMNP this summer (see below for my few, insignificant, modifications).
I know there have been lots of threads about Cilogear here (thatís how I hear about the packs), but Iíll make some general comments about the packs. Then Iíll have something to say about the improvements on the new packs. Finally, Iíll have a few suggestions and comments about the packs. Iím not a particularly Ďtechyí guy, so no photos here. Unless Graham or one of the other Cilogear fans like Kim posts some photos, I suggest folks go to Cilogearís website for visuals.
(1) First, a list of features (old and new): removable plastic and aluminum framesheet; removable foam Ďbivyí pad (God help you if you have to bivy on this, or any other, removable bivy pad); set up for use with a hydration bladder; removable waist belt; ice-clipper slots on the waist belt; set up for helmet attachment on top of lid (cord not included); internal security pocket; universal ice tool attachments; crampon pocket; endlessly configurable compression straps with the slip-lock/dee-clip system; extension sleeve on pack; removable and extendable lid; no front panel zipper (something present in other Cilogear packs, but which I never liked personally); an internal compression strap; and lots of other common pack features (e.g., two zip pockets in the lid). You should notice the number of times I wrote ďremovableĒ; this is a pack that you can really customize for your intended use.
(2) These packs are lightweight, really lightweight. This may not be apparent at first. However, in my opinion, the framesheet that comes with the pack is completely unnecessary for people who know how to load a pack. The nice, firm (removable) foam sheet is more than enough support if you know what you are doing. Iíve carried massive, backpacking-guide loads in the V2 60L without the framesheet, and I canít ever imagine needing it in something the size of the 40B. That is not a criticism of Cilogear; the framesheet might be useful for certain user groups or applications. Iím just saying I never use it and I suggest you evaluate the weight of the pack minus this, the heaviest component of the package. With the framesheet, the 40B weighs in at a 1735 grams/3lbs.13oz.; however, according to the website the ďpad + framesheetĒ weighs 400grams. Assuming (I am not sure) that the framesheet is about 3/4 of that weight, that would put the pack that I configure and use at about 1365 grams (I only use 4 of the 8 straps it comes with) or about 3 pounds. It can go even lighter if you remove more for a particular use.
(3) Given what I just said about the framesheet, it should be obvious that I think these packs carry really well. No pack will every make a truly heavy load comfortable, and you should view with suspicion any review that says any pack makes a heavy load ďhardly noticeable.Ē That being said, the 40B (without the framesheet) carried my share of the technical rack, one of the half ropes, a 20 degree bag inside a bivy sack (both in a compression stuff sack), a shorty ensolite, harness, shoes, chalk bag, Jetboil and fuel, an old puffball pullover, a rain shell, a helmet, a lightweight ice axe, two to three days of food, a full 1.5 liter water bottle, and other odds and ends (headlamp, knife, sunscreen, etc., etc.), and carried it all very well (without extending the rig past the standard 40L configuration).
(3) The 40B is a very functional size, small enough for cragging but big enough for a couple of nights out on a technical route.
(4) Unmatched configurability. The flexibility, compressibility, and expandability are really amazing. It takes a bit of time to wrap your head around all the possibilities and to dial in what works best for you. However, the slip-lock and dee-clip system is the best, easiest to use, most secure, and most useful/configurable system I have ever come across.
(5) The packs appear very durable. Of course, only time will tell if they match the lifespan of my CCW. However, Iíve beat the heck out of the V2 60L for over a year, and the 40B looks to me like it will absorb a bunch of abuse and last a long, long time.
(6) Finally, I would rather support a climber-owned small business than a large corporation. I donít want to get into an argument with others about this. Iím glad to have the big guys fund R&D on ropes and gear, and I support and use gear from several large companies. However, all things being equal I would rather support a climber and his family than have my money pay for slick advertisements in Climbing and Rock and Ice, or, worse, Outside.
(7) Following on #6 above, itís nice to be able to talk to the owner of the company if you have any questions or problems. Graham runs a great business, and went out of his way to call me at home and then express me the pack to arrive in time for my move to Colorado this summer.
(8) New changes that improve the packs include:
(i) Very nice grommets for the cords in the extension sleeve, which make these cords and the sleeves much smoother and more durable.
(ii) A move from tool tubes to universal tool attachments. Nice.
(iii) Using small cord rather than shock cord for the ice tool attachments. This works very well and seems much more secure and durable than the old shockcord (which many other manufactures still use).
(iv) Oral straps are not longer standard, but are special order items. Iím happy about this as I was never too into the oral straps, despite how clever they were.
(v) The new internal Ďsecurityí pocket. I love this thing. I used to always sew another small zipper pocket into the lid of my packs to hold important items that get lost in the main lid pocket. I donít like to use the Ďsecondí lid pocket, under the lid (also on Cilogear) for these items either, as it seems too big and I often use it for maps, a guidebook, or other items. Cilogearís new pocket is the perfect place for things that you want to stash away for the entire climb or trip, things you wonít need until you are done (car keys, ID, insurance card, lift pass in the Alps, maybe a phone, etc.). Because this lightweight pocket is completely separate from the other pockets you will be opening and closing on route, everything is safe and secure (and out of the way) until you need it. Brilliant.
(vi) Iím sure there are all sorts of other changes in the fabric, sewing, etc. but Iím not that much of a gearhead to notice. Ask Cilogear if you have questions.
(9) Here are some comments (non-critical) and criticisms (though they are not very critical!), just so I donít seem like too much of a fanboy.
(i) I did end up adding zipper pulls to the pack. I donít know if others will do so, but I like having them on. Cilogear does use some massive zippers, so they will be pretty easy to use even without pulls on them and even with gloves on.
(ii) The reflective trim on the pack messes up my nighttime photos by reflecting the flashóruined some awesome bivy photos from this summer. However, the first time I stumble to a gear stash by headlamp, Iím sure I will be really glad that that reflective tapes is on there. So, again, this is not really a criticism of the packs. Iím just bummed about that photo.
(iii) There is no label on the outside of the pack. Just to be clear, I absolutely love the fact that Graham does not make me a walking billboard for his company, despite how much I love the pack. I really respect this business decision. I wish more gear and clothing was label-free. Still, given how much I like the pack, Iíd be glad to give his business a bit more visibility.
(iv) I think that the optional rope-catch would be a very good addition to the 40B. Not that Cilogear has to include this. They offer it as an accessory, I just need to get one eventually.
(v) Iím not too sure if I want to add shock cord on the lid to secure a helmet or not (the 40B comes with the slots to rig this, but not with the cord set up). Iíve never used this system and it looks kind of weird. Anyone have any experience with this? Any suggestions?
(v) Finally, to CilogearÖ You have this pack dialed in. As the company grew, you obviously found things that needed to be redesigned and fixed. However, as someone who has been with you since the V1 packs, I would really suggest that you slow down now that you have such a beautiful and streamlined design. You donít want to go the way of iPod and come out with version 4.1.2 two weeks after you released 4.1.1. I plan on using my 40B until it dies, but constant revisions of any product (iPod/iPhone is a classic example) encourages consumption. Iím sure that this is not Cilogearís intent, but did feel like I wanted to voice this concern. I would suggest that you sit on the alpine packs for a bit (again, given that the current design is so dialed) and focus on other developments, like the Rocksack (or whatever you are going to call it). After a few years, if there is something you really feel you need to change you can introduce V5 packs. Just my opinion.
(vi) Cilogear should work on its website. Offer more photos on site, not on Piscaweb. Give all the size and weight information in one clear table, etc. I think this will be important because Cilogear is a small company that cannot afford big, full-page adds in the rags. Thus, all your advertising is either (a) word of mouth or (b) your website. You clearly have good word of mouth following, and lots of folks recommend your packs. You also have a good presence on various climbing chatboards. You should spruce up the website to help showcase your products.
(10) A mini-review of the 20L pack. I got one of these sent with my 40B because someone broke into our house and stole my wifeís laptop, apparently by carrying it out in my old Lowe Summit pack. The 20L is a nice pack to use as a leaderís pack, for a bouldering session, or for a day trip soloing in the Sierras. I would like it a bit better if the circumference was a tad larger, mostly so my laptop would fit without such a struggle when I use it in town. Nevertheless, this is a solid little pack that is a perfect summit pack or Ďtechinical stuff sack.í I used it twice this summer as a stuff sack for my 20 degree back and bivy sack, and then had a light pack for the second to wear to carry some water, a couple of bars, light shells, headlamps, and approach shoes.