Expert Review: Patagonia Black Hole Light Cinch Backpack 20L

Published on 09/02/2022 · 6 min readThis review is my honest opinion of the backpack, which I purchased with my own money in August of 2019.
Hunter Reed, Camping Expert
By Camping Expert Hunter Reed

Using the Black Hole Cinch Pack in Volcanoes National Park - really windy and rainy and my gear stayed dry! All photos courtesy of Hunter Reed

About this Review: This review is my honest opinion of the backpack, which I purchased with my own money in August of 2019.

My take

The Patagonia Black Hole Cinch Light Pack is an awesome water-resistant backpack. It is versatile and can be used for most any outdoor activity. It also packs down really well, making it easy to toss in a suitcase for travelers who will be doing activities on their trip that require a backpack.

About the pack I own

  • Model: Patagonia Black Hole Cinch Light Backpack 20L
  • Gender: Unisex
  • Size: One size
  • Pack capacity: 20L

About me

  • Height: 5’3”
  • Weight: 115lbs
  • Experience: 20+ years of backpacking

Test conditions

  • When I bought it: August 2019
  • Length of trips: Day hiking
  • Total pack weight: 15lbs
  • Used for: Day hiking, travel, climbing pack
  • Where I’ve used it: Rock climbing around Salt Lake City and Moab, UT. Day hiking in Oregon and Hawaii
  • Terrain: Rocky scrambling trails, dirt trails, paved trails
  • Seasons I’ve used it in: Spring, summer, fall

How it performs

Back Breathability

What I was looking for

I was looking for a lightweight, easy-to-use pack that could be used for hiking, climbing, and travel. I had a few other packs that have a lot of different pockets and are more intense with hip belts and back frames, but I just wanted something that I could roll up and pack in a suitcase. The particular trip that I was packing for at the time was a hiking trip to Costa Rica. I knew it would be a bit rainy there, so I wanted weather protection, too.

Why I chose this gear

I chose this product because it was really lightweight, seemed durable, and it had some waterproofing on the outside of the pack. It was also really easy to fold into my suitcase. I was also looking at the Eddie Bauer Stowaway Packable 20L Backpack. The Eddie Bauer pack is $15 and folds up into itself. The Black Hole was about $79. I went with the Black Hole because I felt it would last longer and be more comfortable to hike with, and it had some waterproofing.

Using the Black Hole Cinch to travel - great pack for being tossed around airports since it's so durable

What I love about it

  • Durability: I have really beat this pack up, and it is still in awesome condition. The ripstop nylon on the outside that provides the waterproofing is a very durable material. Patagonia has an Ironclad Guarantee on all of their gear. This means they will replace or repair any product that has durability issues at no cost.
  • Weight: At 1lb, it’s exceptionally lightweight. I would recommend it to anyone who is looking for a lightweight bag to toss in a suitcase or to carry on shorter hikes.
  • Ease of use: The top of the pack is a cinch that’s super easy to open and close. There is also a zippered pocket on the outside and inside. These are super easy to use and provide some safe spots to keep valuables such as my keys and wallet.
  • Adjustability: This backpack is extremely adjustable. It doesn’t come in variable sizes, just one size fits all, but the shoulder straps can be adjusted quite a bit, as can the sternum strap. I am 5’3” and 115lbs and I have loaned it to friends as a travel pack who are closer to 5’9” and 170lbs; it has fit them well by adjusting the straps.
  • Capacity: This pack seems way bigger than 20L to me. I think this has to do with the fact that it just has one wide opening at the top of the main compartment, and the cinch top will still close if it's a bit overloaded, but it can fit a ton. Though it isn’t super comfy to carry when it is heavy.
  • Organization and pockets: As mentioned above, there are two main zippered pockets. There is also a sleeve inside that could fit a book or a laptop.
  • Pack Access: Aside from the outer pocket, the whole pack is accessed from the top. The cinch style of closure makes it easy to get in and out of the pack.

Issues I’ve encountered

  • Suspension and comfort: Though it’s what I would expect for a minimalist, lightweight pack, this is not the most comfortable backpack to wear when it has more than just a few lightweight things in it. When buying this, I was prioritizing packability and lightweightedness over comfort, so I knew what I was getting into. But for those looking for a hiking pack that’s exceptionally comfortable and who have no intent of traveling with it, I would get something a bit heftier with a hip belt.
  • Weather Resistance: The waterproofing was one of the main reasons I liked this pack. I was going to Costa Rica and knew I would be hiking in some rainier weather. The entire backpack is waterproof except for the top. In lighter weather or rain it does pretty well, but anything more than that and my gear gets wet because the water seeps in through the top.
  • Features: There are not a ton of features on this pack. I have to toss my water bottle in the main compartment and there aren’t any straps on the outside to attach gear. For a minimalist backpack like this one, that is to be expected. But if it’s features that are a priority, there are other packs that are a better fit.
  • Hip belt: There is no hip belt on this pack, which definitely contributes to the lightweightedness of it, but also makes it slightly uncomfortable to carry on really long hikes because the weight of the pack is all in my shoulders.

Volcanoes NP with the Black Hole Cinch

Favorite moment with this gear

My favorite moment with this gear was when I brought it to Volcanoes National Park in Hawaii. It was lightly raining the whole time and we did a six-mile hike. Since it was just light rain, the weather protection worked to keep my gear dry. On our flight, my packed luggage was a 45L duffel; and the friend that I had traveled with was impressed that I was able to fit an entire 20L backpack in my 45L duffel. She had just brought a small drawstring pack, and it was really uncomfortable for her to carry on hikes and her extra jacket inside got soaked.

Value for the money vs. other options

I paid around $79 for this pack, which may seem pricey for how niche of a pack it is, but it has lasted really well and I have taken it on quite a few trips. Compared to the Eddie Bauer version that is only $15, it is way more comfortable and I know it has already lasted longer. This is a great option for a pack for traveling to toss in a suitcase.

Final verdict

The Patagonia Black Hole Cinch Light 20L is a great backpack that will last a long time, provide some waterproofing in light weather, and is super easy to travel with. It feels like it fits way more gear than other 20L packs I have used, and for how light and packable it is, it’s pretty comfortable. I would recommend it to anyone looking for a backpack that’s easy to bring along on hiking, climbing, or exploring trips.

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