As we finally arrived at the top of what looked like a bottomless pow field, I grabbed my hips in a panic, thinking I had forgotten my pack with my shovel and probe. Then I realized I was wearing the Black Diamond Cirque Ski Vest to carry my avalanche gear, instead of my usual inbounds pack with a hip belt. I’ve only recently started using the Cirque ski vest inbounds, due to its smaller, lighter profile. It took about another 10 seconds to realize that I did indeed have everything with me, just the buckles on the vest were not in the spots I was used to. After a good chuckle, I dropped in to enjoy some tasty face shots.
This winter I have enjoyed time spent with the Cirque 22 Ski Vest. I have been using it for morning and evening short tours, as my resort pack, and while competing in this year’s Patrol Race. During the race, I saw at least three other people with the same pack, which only reassures me of its sheer awesomeness. As spring nears its corner, I can also see myself bringing the vest with me on single day volcano missions.
In summer, I enjoy trail running and also own a Black Diamond (BD) Distance 15 running vest. I was really thrilled to see BD come out with a ski version and excited to try it out. The pack itself is fairly small, only 22 liters, but when traveling light it held everything I needed. I was able to fit all the essentials for a 20 mile race, including extra layers, avalanche safety gear, snacks, water, etc and found that the vest carried well even though it doesn’t have a proper hip belt.
Things I loved most about the vest
Front zippered pockets
Having pockets on shoulder straps is amazing. It is the best use of space on a pack. It made smaller items like snacks, buff, gloves, hat, and headlamp really accessible. The overall size of the pack is 22 liters, but the shoulder pockets add enough extra volume to help increase the overall capacity the vest can carry.
I must admit, I have only attempted the ski carry in my garage, not on actual snow — but I am impressed that the carry loop fit my 110 underfoot skis no problem. Even though the pack is more intended towards skimo missions, I appreciate that it can carry larger skis. The back support panel is fairly thin, so the support is fairly minimal. With that said, I found that it works surprisingly well given how light and simple the pack is.
Easy side access compartment
I really liked this pocket for thermos access in the winter. This allowed me to stay hydrated without having to take my pack off on those colder days where I only brought a hot drink. It’s also a great place to put larger gloves that don’t fit into the front pockets. BD advertises this as an easy access crampon compartment — although I haven’t yet used the pocket for that, I can see it working well.
Optional internal divider
I won’t lie, I was originally confused about the internal divider — it wasn’t until Louie, who is much better at this since he himself designs backpacks, showed me that it can be easily zipped open. Once I truly figured out what “optional” divider meant, it improved the side access component since I was able to separate the items I wanted to have side access to from those in the main compartment, and allowed me to keep the two sections separate.
Removable helmet carry
Easy to attach, simple to use, really appreciate the fact you can take it off if you are not using a helmet.
Bright colors in the right places
Brighter colors mark the cord that closes the top, as well as the side pocket, making those parts of the pack easier to locate.
A few things that can be improved
The separate avy pocket is a bit too small
My probe and shovel barely fit into the separate inside compartment length wise. My shovel is a bit longer since it also converts to an ice axe (68 cmm, BCA shaxe) but my probe is standard length (about ~45cm). If the vest was more packed, unless I placed the probe right in the middle of the pocket, it would prevent the top from closing completely. Just another few cm would make a difference! I also like the separation between wet skins and the rest of the stuff and having the pocket be a bit bigger would help with that as well.
No bladder carry
There is a small pocket where a bladder sleeve would normally be, inside on the back panel – I didn’t really find that pocket all that useful. However, I really did miss the bladder pocket! I have tried using the vest carrying soft water bottles in the front pockets instead, but I found I like those pockets for snacks instead.
Only single loop on shoulder straps
There really aren’t any features on the straps to contain a bladder hose or a radio cable, they sort of just end up hanging around your shoulder. Even a single extra cord that allowed me to loop the hose or cable under it would be really helpful! (similar to the ones that exist on the Distance running vest)
As far as sizing of the vest goes, I used the BD fit guide to figure out what size of vest I should get and based on my torso measurements, I selected a size small. The size fit perfectly. I found that the ski vest fit very similar to my running vest. All sizing in DB is unisex.
Overall, I am very impressed with the quality of the Cirque ski vest (and my running vest) made by Black Diamond. I feel like they are one of the few outdoor companies taking risks and bringing different designs to pieces of gear that are very familiar to us all and have not evolved all that much in the past few years. I love the fact of adapting ideas from running vests into ski packs. Keep it up!