Friday, October 2, 2020

REVIEW: Black Diamond Cirque 30 pack

Cirque 35 (left) and Cirque 30 (right)

As backcountry skiers, we carry a variety of things in our packs. There's the standard, beacon, shovel, and probe, but there are also extra layers, water, a repair kit, first aid, and the list goes on. While requirements vary by user, I think we're all in agreement that an ideal pack fits and functions well, with lightweight and durability as added bonuses. While I've only had the Cirque 30 pack from Black Diamond a few months, so far it checks the boxes of fit, function, and lightweight. I'll give you a durability report in a few years, but given it's made out of 210d Dynex, I don't expect to run into any issues.

Let's start with fit: This pack comes in a two different torso sizes.
Small/Medium: 16-19" Torso and 26-40" Waist
Medium/Large: 18.5-21.5" Torso and 28-45" Waist

I'm 6 feet, 175lbs, and the Medium/Large fits great (the waist belt sits approximately 1" above my belly button). To note, the waist belt on the 30 is 1.5" webbing, versus the 35 and 45 have padding, a zippered pocket, and gear loop. The contoured shoulder straps feel natural and adjust well from 1-4 layers. The Cirque 35 and 45 feature Black Diamond's Swing Arm technology, which supposedly allows the pack to move more fluidly from side to side as you ski, but I don't notice any movement on the 30 that would necessitate this technology. In short, BD probably didn't include it on the 30 because it's not meant to carry as much weight as the larger packs. None of the Cirque packs come with load adjusters, which again speaks to the well thought out fit. Lastly, there is a minimal foam pad for back padding, which can be removed for packability or use as a lightweight summit pack.

Moving on to function, there is a lot to talk about. The Cirque 30 has many features that I find useful and well designed in a ski pack:
Diagonal and A-frame ski carry (more on this below)
Integrated avy tools pocket with drain holes
Two zippered pockets (one inside and one outside)
Ice tool pick pockets with quick deploy piolet system
Top quick-cinch closure

The ski carry system has two options: Diagonal and A-frame. The diagonal system has a set loop at the bottom and integrates with the main adjustable strap on top. This is quick to setup, and the bottom loop can accommodate a 140mm tail. I have noticed that when the pack isn't fully loaded, the skis can have a bit of swing to them when diagonally carried. While I have yet to try out the A-frame carry, the pack features ski holsters and a glove friendly, top snap closure. The exterior pocket is easily accessible with both carry systems. Unfortunately for snowboarders, there are no split carry capabilities.

The integrated avy tools pocket is accessed by a red snap buckle on the inside of the pack. Inside the pocket you'll find a sleeve for your probe and shovel handle, with space for your shovel blade on top. I find that the buckle is easy to use with gloves and quick to find inside the pack (both essential features). Since this pocket is separate from the main compartment, I will often stuff my skins in there to keep things in the main compartment dry.

Exterior pocket: Perfect for lunch

This pack comes with two zippered pockets - one on the outside and one inside. The outside pocket is strategically located at the top of the pack, features a waterproof zipper, and has become the go to storage for my lunch + snacks. The inside pocket is positioned against the back of the pack, and more often than not, holds my headlamp, multitool, inReach, and radio. This pocket combined with the cinch-top closure makes for an easy radio microphone cord pass through - a key feature for guides or anyone looking to communicate often within their group.

I have not yet had the chance to carry ice tools with this pack, but it seems well designed - having the picks stashed together. Going further, I'm super excited to use the quick deploy piolet system, for when I find myself in need of instant security on an ascent. In short, you can disconnect your piolet (axe) with one hand, while keeping your pack on your back. Ski mountaineers of past have tucked their axes between their packs and their back, on the chance they would need to deploy it mid climb.

The closure system of the Cirque 30 might be my favorite thing about this pack. The top opening is essentially a draw cord that opens and closes without ever having to touch a toggle. To open, simply pull apart the top of the pack. To close, just pull the cord. One strand of webbing runs over the top of the pack to secure everything in place. All of these features are glove friendly. All this being said, I am thinking about replacing my draw cord with something less porous, as I've had a couple instances with it freezing up and making the pack hard to open.

I have yet to use this pack on an overnight, but that's not what it's made for. While this pack is called the Cirque 30, it actually boasts 2136 cubic inches of space, which converts to 35L. For day tours, I think this might actually be the perfect pack size. See below for my daily tour kit:

One drawback to the minimalist features of this pack is the lack of helmet attachment. You could certainly rig something up with the A-frame ski carry points, but that'd be a custom project.


Weight: [S/M] 560 g (1 lb 4 oz)
[M/L] 760 g (1 lb 11 oz)

Volume: [S/M] 28 L (1831 cu in)
[M/L] 30 L (2136 cu in)

Price: $179.95

Color: Torch (red)

--Charlie Lane, AAI Equipment Shop Manager


TTV Blogs said...

Very nice article with lots of information. Thanks for sharing this one with us.

kilts said...

The Ski Shoulder Strap is a game-changer. It simplifies gear transport, making every ski trip more enjoyable and convenient.

Vegas said...

With my Ski Carrier Strap, hitting the slopes is a breeze. It keeps my skis together and my hands free for more fun.