Ski Touring Backpack Review — Black Diamond Cirque 45

Post by blogger | March 30, 2018      
Black Diamond Cirque 45.

Black Diamond Cirque 45.

The Cirque ski pack, offered in 30L, 35L, and 45L sizes, is the ‘Helio Collection’ pack that Black Diamond has designed for lightweight ski touring and mountaineering. The Cirque combines simplicity with a smart alpine inspired design. The 45L has impressed me as a large, yet versatile do-everything ski pack.

Cirque is made of durable lightweight Dynex and weighs in at just over 1000 grams. The semi-roll top is simple and easy to get in and out of, unless you have skis on your pack. A side zip lets you access buried goodies. The pack is super comfortable to wear thanks to the BD “SwingArm” system—allowing the shoulder straps to swivel free from the actual pack. An AvaLung element comes on and off quickly (the pack comes “AvaLung Ready,” the element is sold separately).

I have, in the past, had packs for years before someone has told me I am using some thingamajig incorrectly, or not making use of some fancy dohickey integrated into the design. The Cirque design, on the other hand, feels simple and intuitive. An easy-to-use diagonal ski carry repurposes the roll top hook to give a quick way to stash your sticks. An external helmet carry and double ice axe carry are both simple. An internal pocket easily stores avy gear.

BD also makes a detachable brain (the “Cirque Lid”) that can be added to Cirque packs for a bit more storage. I haven’t tried it out.

BD Cirque out for a day of pow skiing Turnagain Pass, AK.

BD Cirque out for a day of pow skiing Turnagain Pass, AK.

I have found the Cirque comfy, light for the size, versatile, and functional. It is big enough to use for multi-day trips, but the design is streamlined enough and cinches effectively to feel great on day trips. I have taken it touring, climbing, and dog walking, and it performs well.

The trade-of for the Cirque’s minimalism is the zipper on top being a bit on the small side, no back panel zipper, and no dedicated zipper for the avy gear compartment. While some might gripe about these omissions, I think BD did a good job of simplifying this piece of gear to its most essential function. A good pack should carry things and be relatively ignorable, in this regard the Cirque 45 succeeds.

Shop for a Cirque


Please Enjoy A Few Suggested WildSnow Posts


15 Responses to “Ski Touring Backpack Review — Black Diamond Cirque 45”

  1. Bryan March 30th, 2018 9:54 am

    Respectfully, this review contains none of the detailed analysis that I hope to find when I visit WildSnow.

  2. Lou Dawson 2 March 30th, 2018 9:59 am

    Thanks Bryan, you’re right. I like Alex’s review because it’s brief and more kind of “basic” but that’s not necessarily what I think is best… I’ll see about adding some details, as well as being sure our next pack review is more fleshed out. Appreciate the feedback. Lou

  3. Cody March 30th, 2018 10:45 am

    ^^^ this right here is what keeps Wildsnow great. Honest commenters and honest staff.

  4. Craig March 30th, 2018 11:50 am

    I agree with Bryan, not a Wild Snow quality review (no detailed pictures, no exact weight or size, etc.) I kept trying to scroll down for more than just rehash of marketing literature. Kudos for acknowledging it.

    I tried this pack and wanted to like it since I love simple and paired down packs like this. However, I couldn’t get past the weird hip belt pocket that kept brushing my arm as I toured. Has anyone else found this with the pack?.

  5. Brian Story March 30th, 2018 11:55 am

    I have the 30L pack. It is not an every day pack, but I have found it excellent for light and fast days in the mountains. One significant downside is that the nylon side panel has already ripped from ski edge abrasion after just a handful of days of A frame ski carry. Have others found this to be an issue? If so, I would consider the lack of durable material a major downside.

  6. Charlie March 30th, 2018 1:08 pm

    I’d agree that this is missing the level of detail that I usually expect from Wildsnow. Even a few photos of the unique top opening and a little more stories from in the field use would go a long way.
    To add some info, I have the cirque 35 and have used it for about 40 days of skiing and ice climbing. I absolutely love it, mainly because of the simplicity and the innovative opening at the top of the pack. It’s a one step operation to open or close the top so you’re more inclined to pack your stuff well instead of trying to stuff everything into the brain of a normal toploader.
    I have two minor gripes with it. First off the hipbelt pocket can get in the way of accessing gear loops while climbing so I might just cut it off. Secondly I wish they had a separate strap at the top for the diagonal ski carry instead of utilizing the top strap for two purposes. It looks slick at first but it becomes a hassle to get into the pack when your skis are attached diagonally.

  7. Alex D March 30th, 2018 1:46 pm

    Hey Alex L or anyone else who has used this pack a fair bit. Do you notice any issues with carrying a full load since it appears this pack doesn’t have the normal load carry adjustment straps on the shoulders?

  8. Charlie March 30th, 2018 1:54 pm

    I’ve carried up to 25 pounds or so and I haven’t had any comfort issues. It’s definitely more of a climbers pack than a backpacking pack as the back panel isn’t fully rigid and it doesn’t have the load lifters you’re referring to. If it’s well packed, it does a good job of staying close to your back and transferring weight to your hips.

  9. Alex March 30th, 2018 5:32 pm

    Just checkin in. Apologies to those who were hoping for more detail…I meant this to offer ‘first impressions from the field’, but certainly see the desire for more info.

    Brian, I have been pretty hard on this pack and not had the abrasion issue. The dynex is lightweight, so there is definitely a trade off, but I have shredded lighter packs with less use, so I am hopeful the cirque will hold up well for the weight…. I agree with Charlie that there are some issues getting in easily when skis are diagonal carried, but the top strap does not hook on the same spot for the ski carry as for the regular roll closure, so I have actually been a bit more concerned with the challenge of keeping the lid fully closed when using the diagonal carry with a full pack.

  10. Truax March 31st, 2018 8:48 am

    FWIW I carried this pack on a 5 day trip into the winds this summer -with LW skis and boots. I also own the 35 which is nearly identical except for volume. While the material could be more durable, the design and function is about the best that has come out in years IMO. With caveats, of course 😉

    The easy access top lid/opening, that patagucc pioneered in their alpine packs is quick, functional, and easy. Sometimes a frozen cord requires some gentle persuasion, but not a deal breaker.

    I personally haven’t had any issues with the hip belt pocket. I find it quite useful.

    As for diagonal carry, the top dual purpose strap is a good idea but can loosen up with heavier skis. Mine will often loosen and sway with 0G 108s (with SSL2.0s) but will tend to stay put with MTN Explore 95s or smaller. I tended towards just Voile strapping the skis to the upper if I knew they were going to be on my back for any length of time.

    I’ve had to seam grip some holes, mainly from a-frame carry. With a bit more durable fabric on the sides/diagonal carry, and maybe some other minor tweaks- this pack is a sure winner.

  11. Lou Dawson 2 March 31st, 2018 9:39 am

    As for detail, I think this post does work as a “first impressions” type thing, but I totally agree we owe you guys and all our readers the classic “dozen photos” of details with commentary. I’d say that is especially so with the Cirque, as BD clearly has a winner here. So we’ll work on it. Again, thanks for the feedback, couldn’t do this without you guys. Lou

  12. OMR March 31st, 2018 3:56 pm

    I’ve used the Cirque 45 all winter and it’s mostly a great pack. I’d grade it an A-. It’s light-weight, comfortable and still looks brand new after 30+ days of use. That said, I baby all my gear so I rarely have equipment failures.
    My biggest complaint is the BD “quick access” roll top. I’m splitting hairs but it is annoying. I’m still not use to that draw string closure. It’s a hassle to stow the long draw string when the lid is cinched down tight. BD tried to simplify the opening and closing of the lid, but I find myself fighting it. Plus, several times I have snagged the lid on a branch while skinning and the lid was yanked wide open, and my camera bag then fell out. Yes, this was a rare scenario but it could’ve been an expensive loss if I hadn’t noticed.
    On the positive side, I often carry my skis in A-frame mode, and the C-45 works great for this (I hate the diagonal mode – on any pack – it creates a backward imbalance). The C-45 has compression straps on the sides that make the A-frame possible. The smaller Cirques may not have those compression straps. The C-45 has a side zipper, which is great for accessing deeply buried gear, and, again, I don’t think the smaller versions have that side zip (I might be wrong so do your research). I also love the ‘goody-pouch’ on the waist belt. I’ve never noticed it snagging my arms as mentioned above.
    Bottom line, it’s my favorite ski pack.

  13. Matt Kinney April 1st, 2018 1:02 pm

    While an Avalung option might be nice, it seems to me that when skiing off peaks or for steep touring, an airbag pack should be a priority. I find myself confused as to which pack to grab when I head out the door these days, but I end up reaching for the airbag no matter.

    I have a much lighter BD Helio day pack for non-avalanche terrain tours and spring time but it’s not designed to carry skis, though for a short boot I could rig up something. Every new BD pack I’ve ever owned has something weird about it and it’s usually an “innovation.”

    Wow…they opened a BD store in Anchorage! Hope to visit soon.

  14. Craig April 4th, 2018 9:46 am

    Crowd sourced gear review. Thanks Charlie, Rruax and OMR.
    Looks like I may need to have another look at this pack despite my initial impressions about the wierd waist belt pocket.

  15. brian harder April 16th, 2018 8:28 pm

    I might as well chime in here since I think about some of the points in the comments nearly every time I use my Cirque 35. Overall, it’s a good pack, not perfect, but light enough and roomy enough for me to use when I need plenty of room for gear. If it’s mid-winter in AK and I need warm clothes just in case, a rope, climbing gear, etc. then this is my go-to.

    I’ll never complain about fabric durability on packs meant to be light. Some abrasion and holes are just part of the price of admission. How many shredded CAMP packs are out there? Most of them but they continue to see heavy use because they’re so damn light.

    I’m not in love with the lid idea. It really never seals completely and I’ve filled my bag with snow more than a few times when transitioning on steep pitches. Lids and spindrift collars are more effective. Also, the lid itself is pretty small and expands little. In addition, the lid strap doubling as the diagonal ski secure strap is a compromise, at best. Mine loosens with regularity. The Voile strap is a good fix. Plus, like others have pointed out, you can’t access the top of the pack with skis on in diagonal configuration. I don’t typically us an A-frame but the addition of the locking buckles on the side seems like a nice idea to keep things snug if you do.

    Although I typically shun avy gear compartments as they add weight and bulk, I don’t mind this one for some reason. Super easy to get into and it holds other stuff I carry just in case (repair kit, extra straps, TP/lighter, etc). I think it’s a bit over-built in terms of fabric and some weight could be dropped here.

    Someone mentioned the long draw string up top. It bugged me at first but then I simply stopped futzing with it and let it hang where it wants and I got over it. I think the act of opening the top compartment draw string is pretty clever.

    One should mention the tool quick release feature. I’ve watched my partner use it a few times and it’s pretty slick. You need a clean shafted tool for it to work smoothly but it’s still cool.

    I happen to like the zippered pocket on the hip belt. I’ve never brushed against it or anything like that. Nice place to keep my chamois for my glasses and some snacks.

    The side zip is handy for water bottles and I like being able to access it when sitting on the pack at stops.

    That’s all I’ll add for now. Cheers.

Anti-Spam Quiz:

While you can subscribe to comment notification by checking the box above, you must leave a brief comment to do so, which records your email and requires you to use our anti-spam challange. If you don't like leaving substantive comments that's fine, just leave a simple comment that says something like "thanks, subscribed" with a made-up name. Check the comment subscription checkbox BEFORE you submit. NOTE: BY SUBSCRIBING TO COMMENTS YOU GIVE US PERMISSION TO STORE YOUR EMAIL ADDRESS INDEFINITLY. YOU MAY REQUEST REMOVAL AND WE WILL REMOVE YOUR EMAIL ADDRESS WITHIN 72 HOURS. To request removal of personal information, please contact us using the comment link in our site menu.
If you need an emoticon for a comment just copy/paste off the following list, or use text code you might be familiar with.

:D    :-)    :(    :lol:    :x    :P    :oops:    :cry:    :evil:    :twisted:    :roll:    :wink:    :!:    :?:    :idea:    :arrow:   
Due to comment spam we moderate most comments. Please do not submit your comment twice -- it will appear shortly after approval. Comments with one or more links in the text may be held in moderation, for spam prevention. If you'd like to publish a photo in a comment, contact us. Guidelines: Be civil, no personal attacks, avoid vulgarity and profanity.

  Your Comments

  Recent Posts

Facebook Twitter Email Instagram Youtube


  • Blogroll & Links

  • Welcome to Louis (Lou) Dawson's backcountry skiing information & opinion website. Lou's passion for the past 50 years has been alpinism, climbing, mountaineering and skiing -- along with all manner of outdoor recreation. He has authored numerous books and articles about ski touring and is well known as the first person to ski down all 54 of Colorado's 14,000-foot peaks, otherwise known as the Fourteeners! Books and free ski touring news and information here.

    All material on this website is copyrighted, the name WildSnow is trademarked, permission required for reproduction (electronic or otherwise) and display on other websites. PLEASE SEE OUR COPYRIGHT and TRADEMARK INFORMATION.

    We include "affiliate sales" links with most of our blog posts. This means we receive a percentage of a sale if you click over from our site (at no cost to you). None of our affiliate commission links are direct relationships with specific gear companies or shopping carts, instead we remain removed by using a third party who manages all our affiliate sales and relationships. We also sell display "banner" advertising, in this case our relationships are closer to the companies who advertise, but our display advertising income is carefully separated financially and editorially from our blog content, over which we always maintain 100% editorial control -- we make this clear during every advertising deal we work out. Please also notice we do the occasional "sponsored" post, these are under similar financial arrangements as our banner advertising, only the banner or other type of reference to a company are included in the blog post, simply to show they provided financial support to and provide them with advertising in return. Unlike most other "sponsored content" you find on the internet, our sponsored posts are entirely under our editorial control and created by WildSnow specific writers.See our full disclosures here.

    Backcountry skiing is dangerous. You may be killed or severely injured if you do any form of ski mountaineering, skimo randonnee and randonnée skiing. The information and news on this website is intended only as general information. Due to human error and passing time, the information, text and images contained within this website may be inaccurate, false, or out-of-date. By using, reading or viewing the information provided on this website, you agree to absolve the owners of Wild Snow as well as content contributors of any liability for injuries or losses incurred while using such information. Furthermore, you agree to use any of this website's information, maps, photos, or binding mounting instructions templates at your own risk, and waive Wild Snow owners and contributors of liability for use of said items for ski touring or any other use.

    Switch To Mobile Version