I’m a backpack collector.  Perhaps even the Imeldo Marcos of backpacks.  Each pack I own has features that distinguish it from the others (that’s what I tell my wife anyways) and I often spend a lot of time choosing which pack is optimal for a given trip into the mountains.   Over the years I’ve had packs from most domestic manufacturers and quite a few international companies in search of a pack that carries well, is light, and can withstand the serious abuse that I seem to subject my gear to.  I think I just found a pack that can replace (yes, replace!) a couple packs in the arsenal.  My wife and gear closet are going to thank me.

I’m really picky when I’m packing for fast-and-light summer alpine routes and my  technical guiding adventures.  Most packs are either too small or are too heavy.  I hate having stuff outside my pack (except my crampons and ice axe), since I hate looking like an over-prepared Boy Scout.  Fortunately, I think I found the solution this summer in the new CiloGear 30:30 pack.  Even if you read no further, just understand that it’s awesome.

The 30:30 on the first ascent of The Misunderstanding on Mix-up Peak.

Sure, you say, Kurt you’ve been a CG fan for years.  True.  You know why?  Because CiloGear makes killer backpacks for alpine climbing, period.  I’ve been using them for about five years now and have loved each pack.  My first one was the V2 60 liter that I got back when they were based in New York and being produced in Turkey.  The next couple packs in my arsenal were 30Ls, 60Ls, and whatever I could borrow from friends (45s, a 75L, a 20L)—those loaning programs didn’t last long!  Five years later and I’m still psyched on them.

Anyways, late this summer I got my hands on a prototype of the new 30:30.  I’d been in the market for something a bit bigger than the 30L that I could use on overnight guiding trips in the alpine or for routes where I wanted to carry a big rack and the rope inside.  I’ve been using the 30:30 almost exclusively for the last four months and have a couple thoughts on it.

Adjusting the pack mid-route in the Sierra

Volume – It’s perfectly sized (about 40 liters) for carrying everything that I need for a multi-day alpine route.  Sleeping bag, pad, stove, rack, tent, guide-sized first aid kit, a luxury item (liter of wine)–it all goes in with room to spare.  I was even able to cram a bear canister into it while in the Sierra (I filled the canister too)…and then I stuffed a 60M rope, sleeping bag, pad, rack and clothing into the pack!  It cinches down to be about 20L (I think) and that’s perfect while climbing technical terrain.

Profile—A lot of packs are too short and squat or are a towering top-heavy mess.  Neither of these profiles work well on technical terrain. The short ones put the weight far from my back and change my center of gravity, while the top heavy ones put the weight on my shoulders, making me feel like I’m teetering like a dirtbag on his way home from happy hour.   The 30:30 is a good compromise for me. It’s taller (but skinnier) than the 30L, but not as wide as the 45 and 60Ls.  I can fully articulate my arms without the pack hindering movement, something I appreciate when I’m thrutching up grovel-ey alpine thrashfests.  I know that I’m going to dig it while swinging ice tools this winter.

Waist belt—I like packs with removable waist belts since they get in the way of a harness. I also try to avoid climbing technical terrain with a pack that’s so heavy I need a waist belt.  The 30:30 comes with the standard 30L waistbelt that I find quite comfortable.  However, there is a new Pod Hipbelt system that has a 1.5” webbing belt with two removable hip pads that’s better.  It feels just like the standard belt on the approach, but with a little work I can strip it to just the webbing belt while on route. And it’s super light.  Awesome.

The lid—I like a big lid on a pack. I want all my navigation gear, lunch, radio, and other necessities within easy reach. The 30:30 comes with a good-sized lid.  It’s larger than the stock 30L lid, but smaller than the 60L lid and has a big opening that makes it easy to get into.  Of course, it’s possible to swap any other CiloGear lid onto it as well.  Well done.

The suspension—All the packs I’ve gotten from CiloGear carry extremely well.  I’ve got a longstanding issue with my collarbone and these packs are the only ones I’ve used in the last five years that aren’t painful after a couple hours.  Anyways, the 30:30 comes with the standard CiloGear foam bivy pad…but there’s more! A new option here– an optional inflatable pad that can be combined with or swapped out for the foam pad.   It’s like a tiny inflatable sleeping pad—super light and super comfortable.  The air pad made my pack way more comfortable since the pointy items in my pack (cams, ice screws, tent poles, etc), were cushioned more than with the bivy pad alone.  It comes with a little bulb to blow up the pad, but it’s easy enough just to puff into the hose to inflate it.  On approaches where I had a heavier pack and needed more support, I used the foam and inflatable pads together to make a system capable of carrying 40 pounds (though only for a few hours).  The two pads together are also a reasonable option for a light alpine bivy pad combo for my sleeping setup.

Approaching Sahale Peak with a loaded pack

My complaint?—I really like packs with a crampon pouch on the outside (especially 25-40L size range).  I think strap systems are tedious and I’m tired of poking holes in my stuff when I put crampons on the inside.  The pouch is also a great place to store poop bags on the hike back to the car. So I would like to see one of those.I ask a lot from my packs.  It’s nice to have one that excels in a variety of uses…from alpine guiding to ice climbing to glacier slogging.  I see the 30:30 becoming my go-to pack for all of my one to three day mountain adventures for quite a long time–much to the chagrin of the other packs in my gear closet.

Quick Stats
Item:  CiloGear 30:30 backpack
Days used: about 50
Locations used: Sierra, Cascades
Volume: about 40 liters
Yea or Nay?   Yea!