Monday, January 2, 2012

Review: Blackhawk! Cyclone Pack

     Over the years I have continuously searched for the perfect all- season day pack. I have tried everything from basic school bags to military surplus rucksacks to modern shoulder bags.  I have come to the conclusion that there is no such thing as the perfect pack. But, for the last year or so, the Blackhawk! Cyclone has consistently been my go to pack.

Materials and Construction

Exterior front
     The Cyclone is designed for tactical/military use so it has a typical tactical 3 day pack look to it. It is covered… and I mean covered… in MOLLE webbing. Blackhawk! boasts “Over 100 external S.T.R.I.K.E.® webbing attachment points”  on this pack. It has a large main compartment, two smaller external compartments arranged one above the other, a sleeve for the hydration bladder, and several internal mesh zippered compartments. The lower external compartment is lined with loop material and has an accompanying hook-backed organizer. There is also ALICE-like webbing inside to secure help items in that lower compartment.

    The pack is well-constructed and heavy duty. The materials throughout are high-quality, from the nylon base material, to the heavy mesh inner pockets, to the strong zippers and rubberized pull tabs and grab handle. The shoulder straps are made from a rubberized material that does not absorb moisture and tends to be non-slip on one’s shoulders. The finish of the pack is quite good, with quality stitching throughout and no tearing, loose stitches, or any other issues noted.

• Dimensions (main comp.): 19”L x 11”W x 5.5”D
• Dimensions (front-top comp.): 9.5”L x 7”W x 3”D
• Dimensions (front-bottom comp.): 11”L x 11.5”W x 3.5”D
• Cubes: 1800 cu. in. / 32 L
• Capacity: 100 oz. / 3 L

Exterior rear- note IVS panel
 Field Use

     As I stated earlier, the Cyclone has been my go to daypack for about a year now. I’ve flirted with others, but always ended up going back the Blackhawk! for the next excursion. The tall, slender shape of the pack fits me well, carries loads well, and is narrow enough to not get snagged when breaking trails. The IVS (Integrated Ventilation System) back panel is comfortably shaped and adequately padded, provides support for the pack, and allows for ventilation. The padded hip belt is removable, adjustable and has plenty of MOLLE webbing which I use for pouches for my water bottle, GPS/camera, and compass. The relative tallness of the pack fits me (at 5'11") better than most packs with the hip belt riding just above my pelvis, where it belongs.

Main compartment

      The bag is easily large enough to hold the basics for a long day in the woods in the spring, summer and fall. While I haven’t yet used it for an overnight excursion, the pack is certainly large enough for a minimalist summer load out, especially if one wanted to strap items to the outside. It is large enough to hold my extra clothes, socks and gloves for winter day excursions, but I’d turn to a larger pack for a multiday trip or an overnighter in the colder months. Of course the extensive MOLLE webbing allows for adding tons of pouches to the exterior of the pack. 

     The organization of the pack is good overall. The loop panel in the lower exterior compartment offers numerous options with after market Velcro pouches, organizers and holsters. The zippered mesh pockets and mesh dividers in the other compartments are well-sized and intelligently placed. I do not lose any of my gear in this pack in hidden, forgotten compartments, and everything is pretty much easily accessible.
Top exterior pocket
     The hydration bladder that comes with the pack is excellent. It has a antimicrobial design and quick connect hose attachments. The hydration sleeve, which is located between the IVS panel and main compartment, is awkward to access and the 100oz bladder is a tight fit. I find that the hydration sleeve design, with its difficult access and numerous Velcro components, is the weakest part of the pack. I understand the tactical benefit to being able to swap out the bladder quickly, but I just find the design lacking. Perhaps a zippered sleeve and a traditional plastic hook for the bladder would be better, but that’s neither here nor there. I find myself rarely using the bladder in the Cyclone, instead I use a standard Nalgene bottle in a pouch on the hip belt with a second bottle or canteen inside the main compartment.
Bottom exterior pocket


   The Blackhawk! Cyclone is a tough, well made, and well fitting daypack. It holds all my gear well, keeps it protected and organized, and the pack easily holds up to the rigors of regular woods use. If one can live with the “tactical” look of this pack it will be an excellent all season day pack and an adequate summertime overnight pack.

Size and shape
Strong and durable
Quality materials and construction
Great fit
Excellent straps and belt

“Tactical” looking
Hydration sleeve is awkward


  1. Is there enough space to use it as a 72 H Bug out Bag? Greetings from Germany

  2. I'd opt something larger for a 72 hr bag.