Review by: j_ung, 2006-05-07
[size=12][b]Full Disclosure: The company that manufactured this equipment provided it free of charge to RC.com and RC.com then provided it as compensation to the reviewer for his or her review. This company does not currently advertise on RC.com.[/b]
My relationship with my two Cilogear Worksacks began as a misunderstanding. Long before I ever took possession of them, I sent [user]maculated[/user] to cover the Winter OR Show of 2005. While on the phone with her after the show, she mentioned, almost in one breath that some company was making shirts from veggie starch… and that a friend of hers was making backpacks hissssss-blort-click-hiss turkey. Given the context – clothing made from food – and the inopportune irregularity of my mobile-phone connection, is it any wonder that I walked away from that conversation thinking of backpacks made with bird flesh? I, a vegetarian, was astounded, confused and more than a little repulsed.
Flash forward to the August 2005 during the OR Summer Show, when Cilogear (pronounced chee-low) proprietor, Graham Williams and I shared a basement floor in SLC. Only then did I realize I had missed a crucial part of my conversation with K-mac: Worksacks are manufactured in Turkey, with a capitol T.
Oooooooohhhh… I see.
Williams started Cilogear in summer of 2004 by teaming up with an established Turkish gear maker, Linosport. Linosport’s packs and clothing have seen all seven summits and it was one of the first companies outside of the US to include Gore-tex in its products. The Cilogear partnership combines Linosport’s manufacturing experience with Williams’ drive for usability and versatility in a climbing-specific pack.
Williams, a self described “usability freak,” brings a focused history of hard climbing to the table, and his Worksacks are the product of that focus. Worksacks are made from 4-7 tough fabrics, depending on the model. The list is actually pretty exhaustive; click [url=http://www.cilogear.com/oem/materials.html]here[/url] for the complete rundown. But the real goal of the Cilogear line up is versatility. Take a look, for example, at the 40L Worksack. Its myriad adjustment options allows for an exceptionally wide range of sizes. The number “40,” in fact, doesn’t begin to describe the pack’s actual size. Fully stuffed, expanded and with the floating top attached, the “40L” pack expands to sixty liters. What’s up with that? Fully stuffed, but not expanded, it measures 42 liters. Close down the straps on one side all the way and you get 32 liters. Close down both sides for a tiny twenty. The alleged “60L” Worksack ranges from 28 liters to 90 – big enough for any backpacking trip I’ve done.
Even if the 60L Worksack weren’t big enough, my collection of two Worksacks allows me to do something rather unique: piggy-back the sacks! Cilogear’s unique attachment points enable me to fill my 60L with heavy gear, my 40L with a sleeping pad, bag and puffy jacket, and then affix the two together for one pack-mulish but highly practical carrying solution. I’m not bushwacking anywhere with that kind of bulk on my back, but for multi-day approaches, it’s worth its weight in extra GORP. Plus, after I establish basecamp, the 40L comes off and becomes a climbing pack.
[i]The 40L Worksack at work.[/i]
Speaking of which, as a climbing bag, the 40L ain’t half bad. It’s a bit bulky for sunny-day rock climbing, but some of its features compensate in wintry conditions. Dedicated biner loops allow the wearer to rack gear on the waist belt. A reinforced 500d Spectra crampon pouch on the back keeps spikes handy while protecting other gear from them. Sturdy dual axe loops work similar duty.
It goes on and on to the extent that the only thing really limiting the versatility of these bags is imagination. But, because they’re adaptable enough to change one’s opinion of what defines versatility, these packs are not entry level, nor are they for people who don’t want to have to think about their gear. In fact, it’s a challenge to figure how these packs work best for you. Whether that’s an asset or a fault depends largely on the wearer. I’ve had both for almost six months and I still wonder if I’ve missed anything. Actually, I’m sure of it. Cilogear doesn’t include anything even remotely resembling instructions; not even on its website. Williams once mentioned a DVD to cover that base, but to my knowledge he has yet to produce one. When he does, it will be a welcome addition and the non-technically inclined should feel free to join the as-of-now-small but ever-growing club of Worksack wearers.
It’s hard to imagine that packs with so many features and customization options can exist without a snag or two. Well, relax. You don’t have to imagine it. I’ll tell you about it. I have no gripe with the durability of the pack’s fabric. I managed to poke one hole in the 60L, but I regard that as my fault – I slipped and fell backward hard onto something sharp. The hole has since grown no bigger. Stitching is another issue entirely. The straps that bear the biggest loads are stitched internally and secure, but Cilogear opted for a one-tack method to hold a few smaller straps in place and they don’t seem to be holding up.
But after speaking with Williams, I don’t think this will continue to be a problem for much longer. He assures me that a new QA procedure is already in the works and that this one area it will cover. Also, a too-short sternum strap, which is missing a buckle that slipped quietly into the night – twice – will be replaced by one that’s a full six inches longer. All of this serves to illustrate Cilogear’s dedication to customer service. This is one company that thrives on feedback from actual users.
Also in the works for the near future is an upgrade package, which will be available to all Worksack owners, regardless of how long you’ve owned the pack or from where/whom you bought it. The package will include a sturdier hip belt and interchangeable unpadded version, a new floating lid and six colored replacement compression straps. The upgrade will sell for $40 ay most, plus shipping and handling.
Click away for additional reviews of both the [url=http://www.rockclimbing.com/topic/107214]40L Worksack[/url] and [url=http://www.rockclimbing.com/topic/104961]60L Worksack[/url]. Both reviews also include Q&A with company President, Graham Williams ([user]crackers[/user]). Author, Kim Graves, includes a fantastic level detail regarding the many straps and pictures of each Worksack in various modes of compression.
[color=red]Edit: I am mistaken! A manual for using Cilogear's Worksacks does actually exist. I'm told it's 15 pages long, in fact. [/color][/size]