The Black Diamond Cirque 45 is the staple minimalist option out of all the packs in this test. It is lightweight and simple in design and is compatible with BD’s Avalung. The simplicity causes problems in areas like internal accessibility while skis are in an A-frame carry and we’d like to see a little more fabric reinforcement in areas prone to rubbing against ski edges.
Comfort/Fit The Cirque 45 has a sturdy, supportive back panel and carries weight well while linking jump turns down a steep face. However, minimally padded shoulder and hip straps caused discomfort on really long days while carrying a heavy load.
Ski/Snowboard Carry The Cirque 45 is equipped to carry skis in both the A-frame and diagonal style. However with a pair of skis rigged up in A-frame, the side zip and top access pockets are rendered useless and it’s impossible to get into the pack. The diagonal carry utilizes the same strap and hook that secures the pack’s top flap.
Features The Cirque 45 is simple relative to the other packs in this test. The main body pocket is accessible via a large top opening and a side zip. Avy gear is kept inside the main body, separated from everything else by a flap of fabric. With the pack filled to the brim this can make retrieving avy gear in a pinch more difficult. A small goggle pocket on top of the pack and dual axe carry complete the feature set. Note that lack of a hydration hose sleeve may leave your water supply vulnerable to freezing and clogging on a cold day. And on a final note, the Cirque 45 is compatible with the detachable Avalung Element (sold separately).
Ease of Use The large body pocket is easy to open and close, thanks to a cinch and flap with a metal clasp system. As mentioned before, accessing the main body of the pack can be tricky with skis attached in A-frame.
Durability As can be expected, with a lighter pack comes the potential for long-term durability issues, especially when sharp items like ski edges and ice axes are brought into the fray. The pack’s fabric and straps are on the thinner side, though no specific durability issues were noted during testing.
Skier, runner, and author Ben Conners has been exploring the Rockies since he was a kid. Growing up in the Vail Valley, Ben spent his winters carving turns and summers backpacking in the Holy Cross Wilderness. Ben authored a guidebook on ski mountaineering Colorado’s high peaks and lives with his wife in south-Denver.