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.
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.
Dr. Alex Lee lives in Anchorage, Alaska. Alex is a professor at Alaska Pacific University, teaching philosophy and environmental studies. He also works as a sometimes guide, naturalist, writer, and photographer.