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Arc'teryx Cierzo 18 Review

Arc'Teryx Cierzo 18
Price:   $99 List | $74.25 at Zappos
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Pros:  Lightweight, relatively durable, rope strap, external pocket
Cons:  Uncomfortable, no water bottle pocket, compression system is difficult to use
Bottom line:  Specialized pack for rock climbs and technical ascents.
Editors' Rating:   
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Manufacturer:   Arc'teryx

Our Verdict

The Arc'teryx Cierzo is a simple pack designed with climbing in mind. Many climbers will prefer its specialized features over other packs in this review. The rope strap was one of our favorite features and lets you load down this pack easily. The design of this pack is very similar to the REI Co-op Flash 18 that won our Best Buy award but the Cierzo is a little more comfortable. Both of these packs favor simplicity over features.

A benefit of this design is that they can function as stuff sacks when backpacking or pack-rafting. Non-climbers may miss the lack of features like water bottle pockets and front loading accessibility that make life convenient. After months of use, we think that the Cierzo shines when used for climbing applications, but doesn't perform as other day packs for less technical demands. Buy it if you want a small, durable, and simple backpack, and don't mind the lack of specialty unnecessary features.

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Our Analysis and Hands-on Test Results

Review by:
Jeremy Bauman

Last Updated:
December 2, 2016

The Cierzo's specialized features make it a great pick for long rock climbs or use as a summit sack on longer expeditions.

Performance Comparison

The string compression straps are clearly seen. In practice  they felt insecure and were difficult to use. You can also see the two ice tool attachments.
The string compression straps are clearly seen. In practice, they felt insecure and were difficult to use. You can also see the two ice tool attachments.


As you can see  the rope strap makes carrying a rope easy  but as you can see  it pulls back on our reviewers shoulders.
As you can see, the rope strap makes carrying a rope easy, but as you can see, it pulls back on our reviewers shoulders.

The Cierzo's low comfort level is its most noticeable drawback. The biggest problem with the Cierzo is that the straps are super narrow. Unless the pack was positioned perfectly, the straps dug in and caused discomfort. Wearing the pack high on your back with the waist strap around your belly yielded the most comfortable carry, but overall we were disappointed with this pack's comfort when compared with the much cheaper Flash 18.

As you can see  the straps on the REI Flash are much wider than the Cierzo that subsequently has more rigid straps. These straps tended to pinch. Also notice  that the back distance from the waist belt to the top shoulder strap is a couple inches shorter on the Cierzo.
The shoulder straps taper aggressively and caused undue pinching. It is best to wear the pack high to avoid this.


At 13 ounces, the Cierzo is one of the lightst daypacks we tested and is just 3 ounces heavier than the REI Co-op Flash 18. Those three ounces give the Cierzo an edge on durability and features over the Flash. This pack is built for minimal approaches and use as a daypack for technical endeavors; bring it on your next backpacking trip as a summit sack or while traveling. No matter the case, the Cierzo won't weigh you down. With that said, for three more ounces, you could be carrying the much larger and more comfortable Granite Gear Virga 26.

The string compression straps are clearly seen. In practice  they felt insecure and were difficult to use. You can also see the two ice tool attachments.
The string compression straps are clearly seen. In practice, they felt insecure and were difficult to use. You can also see the two ice tool attachments.


After months of use, we conclude that the Cierzo works best for its designed purpose—multi pitch rock climbing and summer alpine climbing. It would not be our first choice as an all around, versatile day pack. The Cierzo is stripped of many extra features like water bottle pouches, stretchy front pockets, and compression straps. While these things aren't necessary, they are nice to have for many non-climbing related uses. The Osprey Talon 22 ranked high in our versatility scores because it has a myriad of such features that make it a good pick for everything from hiking to mountain biking. With that said, the simplify of the Cierzo does lend itself to versatility. The open tube-like design is easy to stuff full of whatever kind of stuff you need to carry. At the end of the day, we give this pack a 5/10 for versatility because many reviewers felt limited by the lack of organization features and water bottle pockets.

The Cierzo was a great pack for long rock climbs.
On the approach to the Third Flatiron  the Cierzo carried everything we needed. As you can see  the tester is wearing the pack quite low. To optimize comfort on this pack  wear the pack higher.

Ease of Use

A backpack is ultimately a sack with straps and that is exactly what the Cierzo embodies. The pull cord to open and close the pack is extremely easy to use and is much better than the typical slide pulls found on may top loading packs. The compression/rope strap is a welcome feature that will let you strap ropes and other large items to the top of the pack. The front of the pack has a string system for compression and lashing items to the exterior of the pack. This feature was difficult to use and friction within the system made it difficult to hold things securely. Our testers wish that Arc'teryx had used standard compression straps rather than this lightweight system that was difficult to use and felt insecure.

We really liked the pack's front pocket and easy pull cord design.
We really liked the pack's front pocket and easy pull cord design.


One of the best selling points of this pack over the popular Flash 18 is that the Cierzo is made with much more durable nylon. Throughout our testing, we didn't see any signs of wear. The nylon itself has a much firmer feel in hand than the material used on the Flash and inspires much more confidence.

The Cierzo's tough shell withstands abuse.
The front pocket conceals the compression cord. Just pull the cord and the pack will compress.

Best Application

The Cierzo excels as a climbing backpack for multi-pitch and alpine routes. Buy it as a leader pack for long routes where you need to carry some water, a puffy, a snack, and your approach shoes.


Priced at $100, we think that most people will prefer the more comfortable Flash 18. Climbers will appreciate the increased durability and rope strap provided by the Cierzo, but you could buy both the Best Buy winning Flash 18 pack as a lightweight climbing sack, and the Osprey Daylite for day hikes; all for less money than the price of buying one Cierzo.


The Cierzo is a specialized product to fit a niche within the climbing community. For climbing, it is a better alternative than the popular REI Co-op Flash 18 because it is more durable and has a rope strap. For an all around day pack with limited climbing objectives, we wish that the straps were more comfortable and that the compression system was easier to use. Unless you are a climber, we don't think this pack will provide as much value as other similarly priced or cheaper alternatives.

From left to right: Osprey Daylite  REI Flash 18  Deuter Speed Lite  Arc'Teryx Cierzo 18  Osprey Talon  Osprey Stratos  Gregory Salvo 24  Granite Gear Virga 26.
From left to right: Osprey Daylite, REI Flash 18, Deuter Speed Lite, Arc'Teryx Cierzo 18, Osprey Talon, Osprey Stratos, Gregory Salvo 24, Granite Gear Virga 26.

Other Versions

Arc'teryx makes a 28-liter version of this pack with a wider hip belt and better ice tool carrying options.
Jeremy Bauman

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Most recent review: December 2, 2016
Summary of All Ratings

OutdoorGearLab Editors' Rating:   
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Average Customer Rating:     (0.0)
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3 star: 100%  (1)
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