Black Diamond Cirque 35 Pack — Review

Post by blogger | December 28, 2018      

This post sponsored by our publishing partner Cripple Creek Backcountry.

Cruising up the Cascadian Couloir last spring. Thanks to Nick Webb for the photo. Click all images to enlarge.

Cruising up the Cascadian Couloir last spring. Thanks to Nick Webb for the photo. Click all images to enlarge.

Since graduating college as an industrial designer, backpack projects have been a frequent part of my work. One overarching thing I’ve learned is that there is no perfect backpack. Everyone has their own taste; their own ideas.

So, how about my take? Simplicity sums it up. However, there are a few features that I can not live without.

When I first laid eyes on Black Diamond’s Cirque ski packs (and the related Blitz climbing packs), I was impressed. BD made a simple, light pack that retains a few key features, with more style than the typical lightweight sack style sack.

I took a new Cirque 35 pack down to New Zealand last fall, and have been using it intermittently ever since. I prefer using an airbag pack most winter days, but on lower hazard days I like carrying something lighter. I’ve been using the Cirque quite a bit in the spring and summer as well. It’s seen a fair amount of use and abuse.

Helmet holder.

Helmet holder.

The most important feature of the Cirque is its weight. We measured it at 2 lbs, 6.7 oz (1097 g), size medium, (BD’s claimed weight is 2 lbs 6 oz) Nice and light, enough said. Due to it’s light weight, the pack doesn’t have a “ton” of features, it’s obvious the design team at BD thought carefully about what to include with the pack. It is not an SUV, it’s a track car, stripped down, lightweight, what you need to go as fast as possible.

The helmet net stuffs into this hidden pocket when not in use.

The helmet net stuffs into this hidden pocket when not in use.

There are lighter packs out there. Many ski mountaineering racing packs are around a pound. A few things bump up the weight of the Cirque. For one, it has volume — 35 liters. BD does make a 30 liter version that is more stripped down that weighs 1 lb 11 oz (760 g). Also, the pack has moderately durable fabric compared to many ultralight packs. The fabric is not super burly, however I haven’t made any holes.

The pack has one large compartment, accessed by a top opening that’s a unique take on the classic drawstring closure. It’s easy to open and close, and more secure (and weatherproof) than a basic drawstring closure. There’s also a single strap you can hook to close everything up tighter. I rarely use the strap; the drawstring works on its own. The strap works well when the pack is full, or as a rope strap. Admittedly, the closed pack isn’t entirely snow or weather proof. On stormy days a small amount of snow can intrude into the top opening. Black Diamond sells a top lid for the pack, as an accessory, which I haven’t tried, but it could up the snow/rain resistance of the opening. Overall, the opening is a cool aspect of the pack. It is light, and super fast.

The shovel pocket is simple, just an interior divider with a simple buckle closure. Nice. There are also two small zippered pockets on the pack, one inside at the top of the back panel, and another on the top exterior of the pack, both big enough for sunglasses or other small items.

Detail of the super solid diagonal ski carry system. It's the best stock system I've ever seen on a pack.

Detail of the super solid diagonal ski carry system. It’s the best stock system I’ve ever seen on a pack.

Diagonal or a-frame? That is a question as hotly debated as fold or crumple. Luckily, the Cirque swings both ways, and does it well. The a-frame carry is straightforward, utilizing the included loops and compression straps. All good, but I’m more of a diagonal guy. I’m perpetually dissatisfied with the diagonal carry options on most packs, and usually end up using a ski strap, which almost always works better than the OEM option. The Cirque, however, might be the first pack I’ve used where I’m satisfied with the stock diagonal carry system. You strap your skis with the same webbing strap that closes the pack. This brings the connection directly to the top of the back panel, keeping the skis tight even when the pack is not entirely full. This solves my main gripe with most other diagonal carry mechanisms. The system is simple, light, and ingenious.

That’s about it for the features of the pack. Few, but they’re well thought out and just what I want. We all have our tastes, so the Cirque is obviously not for everyone. For one, if you like organization more than saving weight, this simple sack isn’t the right choice. My main gripe is that it doesn’t have an airbag option. Take this pack, put a lightweight, removable airbag system in it, and you’d have the best ~30 liter airbag pack on the market (and possibly the lightest). Hear that BD? Do it!

We’ve also reviewed the 45 liter version of this pack. Check out Dr. Lee’s take on it here.


Please Enjoy A Few Suggested WildSnow Posts


15 Responses to “Black Diamond Cirque 35 Pack — Review”

  1. John December 28th, 2018 9:47 am

    Thanks for the review Louie. The Cirque 35 has been on my list for a while as a midsized do everything pack.

  2. Atjas December 28th, 2018 12:12 pm

    Great review. Where is this back manufactured?

  3. Craig December 28th, 2018 12:12 pm

    For all the discussion of the lid closure, you should put more photos of it to illustrate. I almost bought this pack but the weird waist belt pocket just didn’t work for me as it stuck out too much and I always hit it with my arm.

  4. VT skier December 28th, 2018 2:04 pm

    My Cirque 35 was made in the Philippines.
    I like the waist belt zip pocket, at least the first time I skinned up with this pack. Perfect fit for my Lumix camera, so I get some pictures on the fly.
    Better than having to stop ,take off and open up my pack, to get a camera out, then having to later catch others on the skin track.
    Helmet holder seemed a bit small for my Kong helmet, but that is a dual certified one.

  5. kevin December 28th, 2018 5:36 pm

    I have found there are two kind of people. People who like top loading packs and everyone else. Personally I like lots of pockets and built in organization. I like my fleecy goggle pocket and easy access to the bottom of my pack. This year I have been using the Dakine Poacher 32. Yes it must weigh twice as much, but whatever I need is always at my finger tips. At first I thought the pack was slightly too small for a big day, but have decided it is pretty much perfect.

  6. VT skier December 28th, 2018 9:37 pm

    One other feature I forgot to mention, their is also a side zip on the pack that allows access to the one large compartment..A really useful feature
    So you can stuff your skins in the pack without having to open the top at all. Or have a shell ready to pull out, topping a ridge.
    Zipper for this side access is just visible (below compression strap) in first picture.

  7. al carnuba December 29th, 2018 9:33 am

    Louie: Using similar criteria to the above pack review. What is your favorite airbag pack in the 35-45 L (with airbag ) range? FYI I prefer top loaders too. I suspect you have quite a collection to choose from. Thanks

  8. Sky Shoe December 29th, 2018 2:48 pm

    I will need to look at one of these. The only ski pack I’ve never grown to hate is a North Face Patrol 35 from 2010, bought in Vancouver. It’s still going strong but it seems like it can’t last forever. The diagonal ski carry is one of the attractive features. The newer ones haven’t looked as attractive to me.

    It looks a little light so it might not have the same longevity. Seems like this Patrol pack weighs over 3 lbs.

  9. Håkan MacLean December 30th, 2018 8:43 am

    I’m missing pictures of the nifty lid closing mechanism / ski holder strap?

  10. Lou Dawson 2 December 30th, 2018 9:28 am

    Yeah, we should have those in the review, working on it. Lou

  11. Jussi January 1st, 2019 12:00 am

    Can you access the main compartment when carrying skis in a-frame?

  12. VT skier January 1st, 2019 12:26 pm

    I think you could access the main compartment; carrying skis A-frame, using the side zipper.
    Just for info, the two fixed loops at the bottom of the pack, for A frame carry, will just fit my Scott SG 105 skis. Those skis are 105 under Foot.

  13. Louis Dawson January 2nd, 2019 11:21 am

    Thanks for the questions, sorry for the delay in replying. It’s a bit hard to access the pack when skis are in A-frame mode. The easiest way is to go in through the top opening (un-doing the strap holding the ski tips together helps) . The side zip is pretty hard to get to with skis on the sides of the pack (works great with diagonal carry though).

    As for my favorite similar airbag pack, I don’t really have one. Most, if not all of the top-loading airbag packs I’ve seen are very large and heavy. I currently use a BCA Float 32. Although it’s a clamshell style pack, it’s light and simple enough that it works well for me. I’m also currently working on a review of some of the new BD airbag packs, which are looking pretty sweet.

    I’ll also get some more photos into the review today.

  14. Nick January 6th, 2019 8:14 am

    I love this pack! This is my second or third season with it and until this season, it was my sole ski pack (I now rotate it out with an airbag pack on certain days). I have gone through a number of ski packs in my couple decades of backcountry skiing. This one, I can say without a doubt, is my all-time favorite ski pack. I’ve used it for everything from meadow skipping to big ski mountaineering missions, and we were even able to fit everything needed for the Haute Route into it comfortably. To me, it strikes the perfect balance between weight and functionality. The design is simple without lacking any useful features (though admittedly I’ve never seen a huge need for features beyond a good diagonal carry and a divided avy tool compartment).

    Really can’t sing the praises of this thing enough. Has 100+ days on it of all different varieties and is still no worse for the wear. And like Louie said, the diagonal carry really is the best I’ve seen as well.

  15. carlo April 25th, 2019 4:16 pm

    it has a rigid back frame?

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