Black Diamond Cirque 30 Pack Review
Finding the right ski touring backpack is a combination of balancing personal preference, primary use and fit. Personally, I’ve long subscribed to the less-is-more philosophy when weighing the right design options and choosing a ski touring pack. The fewer zippers, buckles and accessory pockets, the better in my opinion. The clean top-loading style of the Black Diamond Cirque 30 pack caught my attention this winter and I’ve been putting one to the test this spring.
For skiers who share my affinity for minimalism, the Black Diamond Cirque pack will literally help lighten the load. The Keep-it-simple design and quality materials in the Cirque keep it light trim grams and offer a clutter-free interface designed for alpine adventure.
Inspired by Black Diamond’s alpine climbing packs, the Cirque is a no-frills ski pack that meets my fundamental requirements for a dedicated ski touring pack – easy access to gear and dedicated snow tool (shovel, probe, saw) storage. What sets the Cirque apart from other lightweight, top-loading packs? The twist on tradition is in the top closure system.
Black Diamond calls it the CINCH. I call it the flap. Regardless, the system is unique among ski packs. And, I’ll admit, the design is not for everyone. In fact, the first time I loaded and used the Cirque, criticism flowed easily in regards to the flap design. Initially, it felt like it was designed in the reverse of how I wanted it to work. I wanted to fold it away from the back panel rather towards it. And, right out of the gate, the design has a strike against it for many users – there’s no top lid with a pocket for “stuff.” Where is a guy supposed to put his goggles and snacks you might ask? The bottom line is that if you are compelled to ask such questions, you should look elsewhere for your ski pack. But if your day touring program is dialed and you prefer simplicity over gadgetry, keep reading.
First and foremost, the Black Diamond Cirque pack – especially the 30-liter edition – is all about minimalism. It weighs less than two pounds, materials are top-notch and the design is about needing less.
Dropping the top lid in favor of the CINCH top flap cuts weight and defines the choices made in designing the pack. The dedicated snow tools storage is integrated into the main pack body – a move that reduces material and outward complexity. Many such designs leave your shovel and probe getting in the way of routine access, but it works in the Cirque. The tools are separate and out of the way until you need them. What about all of your other stuff? Well, aside from two modest zipper pockets – one on the flap and one somewhat larger pocket inside – everything goes in the main body. Your goggles, for better or for worse, can go in the body of the pack, too. The zipper pocket on the top flap is suited to small, low bulk items. Nonetheless, it carries a load very well and fits everything you need for a full day ski tour.
In this age of airbag packs, it makes sense to build a non-airbag pack that focuses on simplicity and minimalism. That said, the Cirque is “Avalung Ready.” Having proven itself in live burial scenarios, the Avalung is a viable avalanche safety tool and Black Diamond now offers an Avalung unit that can be added to the Cirque – and removed if you use your pack during other seasons. It’s a hundred dollar accessory, but one that has proven to save lives.
Despite my initial questioning of the design wisdom behind the Black Diamond Cirque 30, I’ve come to appreciate it for what it is – a high-quality, but no-frills minimalist ski pack for seasoned backcountry skiers who are more concerned about how a pack handles while chasing alpine endeavors than about having a special pocket for everything they carry with them. It’s available in three sizes – 30-Liter (tested/pictured here), 35-Liter and 45-Liter.
Black Diamond Cirque pack 30 liter – $179; 2lbs