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Reviews > Packs > Frameless Backpacks and Day Packs > Cold Cold World Valdez > Owner Review by Edward Ripley-Duggan

July 14, 2007


NAME: Edward Ripley-Duggan
AGE: 54
LOCATION: Catskills, New York State
HEIGHT: 6' 1" (1.85 m)
WEIGHT: 215 lb (97.50 kg)

I enjoy walking in all its forms, from a simple stroll in the woods to multi-day backpack excursions. Though by no means an extreme ultra-light enthusiast, from spring to fall my preference is to carry a pack weight (before food and water) of 12 lb (5.5 kg), more or less. In recent years, I've rapidly moved to a philosophy of "lighter is better," within the constraints of budget and common sense.


Manufacturer: Cold Cold World
Year of Manufacture: 2005 (?)
Manufacturer's Website:
Listed weight (current model): 34 oz (961 g)
Measured weight: 35 oz (992 g)
Sizes: one size only available
Stated capacity: 2400 cu in (40 L)
Material: 500 denier Cordura
MSRP: $115 US

Product description: Cold Cold World is a small company based in Jackson, New Hampshire. The proprietor, Randy Rackliff, is a talented illustrator, whose fine wood engravings were a feature of some editions of Jon Krakauer's classic "Into Thin Air." Cold Cold World will customize packs upon request, generally at no charge, provided that the changes do not involve major reworking of the pack. I have not made use of this service. For a fee, custom colors are available, but the standard Valdez color is purple (in a shade now closer to blue than when I purchased mine).

The Valdez is intended by the manufacturer as a mountaineering or climbing day pack. Though the primary market for it is among climbers, I have found it a superior pack for all uses, including hiking, cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, etc. I've used it in the past in all seasons, although I now reserve it for cold weather use.

I own two Valdez packs (which are apparently identical; the design has changed little, if at all, over the years). One was made in 2001, and is a bit battered although still usable (it has a defective zip pull and a few other small defects, but is completely functional). The one presently under review was purchased at an irresistible price in 2005, and I've used it in preference to the older one, for reasons noted later in this review.

A frameless pack, the Valdez is stiffened by a thin removable foam backpad that fits into a specially designed pocket. Though small, this folding pad is of a sufficient size that at a pinch (e.g. an emergency bivy) it can provide some needed insulation. The pack body is purple 500 denier Cordura, with the base a heavier 1000 denier Cordura. This is a very sturdy packcloth.

The detachable lid has a capacious zipped top compartment and a handy compartment underneath the lid as well, described by the manufacturer as a stash pocket. This latter has a waterproof lining. The pack's shoulder straps are comfortably padded. There is a detachable sternum strap and simple (unpadded) waist strap made of 1.5 in (4 cm) webbing. The pack has a very well-designed side compression strap system (which does double-duty as a snowshoe or cross-country ski holder), and possesses a variety of loops for ice tools, ice axe, poles etc. It has twin daisy-chains down the front of the pack, as well as two front compression straps, which are useful for mounting a crampon bag.


I have used the Valdez in the Catskill, Adirondack, and Shawangunk mountains of New York State, and in the White Mountains of New Hampshire. The terrain in all of these regions is tough, rocky and ledgy, rather hard on gear, and I've carried the pack to 5000 ft or more (1520 m). I've used it in temperatures at least as low as -10 F (-23 C). My 2001 Valdez was carried all the way to 90 F (32 C), during the time I was using it year-round, but sweat eventually made it a bit funky, despite careful washings, one reason why I now use my 2005 Valdez only in winter. This pack has been used in rain, snow, sun, and everything in between.

Valdez frontIMAGE 2

The images are by courtesy of Cold Cold World.

The Cold Cold World Valdez is not designed primarily as a hiker's pack. It is geared towards climbers (ice and rock) and those involved in rapid Alpine-style mountaineering ascents. Despite that intention, I have found this to be an extraordinarily useful winter daypack, almost equally handy in other seasons.

What makes this such a natural for winter travel? First of all, the compression straps on the side will carry snowshoes of just about every size and configuration. I have been able to fit huge 36" (91 cm) powder shoes, on the few occasions I have used them. These straps are equally able to support cross-country skis, and there are ski slots for this purpose. It's extremely easy to attach a crampon bag to the pack with the compression straps there, and a pair of small buckled loops in the same region will accommodate hiking poles or collapsible ski poles. There's even room for an ice axe in addition to all this clutter. I have seen very few daypacks that will as simply and elegantly handle such a considerable external load.

The durability and quality of workmanship are remarkable. After well over a hundred days of use the purple fabric shows some slight fading externally. There is little to no external abrasion, and all seams are sound. I have dropped this pack, sat on it, scuffed it against ledges and thoroughly abused it, and so far it has held its own.

Though I have described this as a daypack, I previously found the capacity (in part because of the extension collar, about a foot (0.3 m) in height) to be sufficient for overnight camping in spring through fall, if lightweight gear is used. I have not attempted to use the pack for winter camping. The volume is too low for carrying the necessary equipment for truly harsh weather, although I have used it for a late Fall bivy.

A couple more features are worth mentioning. The pocket into which the pack-sheet slips has a waterproof lining, and is the perfect place to put a water bladder (I use a 4 L, 4 quart Platypus) in winter. The heat from my back prevents freezing, and if the bladder should leak, the spill will be largely contained (although I use a heavy-duty plastic bag as well, just for added protection). I have carried up to 30 lb (14 kg) in reasonable comfort. The pack suspension system is a little minimalist but will handle all reasonable loads. The website shows this pack as good to a 20 in (51 cm) torso, but my torso is longer, and I have had no problems with the way it carries.

To give an idea of the typical winter day load that the pack will handle, I often carry (from the bottom of the pack up), a Blizzard Bag (a substantial emergency sleeping bag), spare socks, an extra pair of midweight Capilene or wool pants and matching top, a silnylon poncho for use as an emergency tarp, a pair of shell pants and a shell jacket, heavy gloves with extra liners, a stove with an MSR Titan kettle, fuel and windscreen, food (emergency rations in addition to lunch), a MontBell down jacket, and various other sundries. In the lid compartments I have my repair kit, first aid kit and considerably more than the "ten essentials." If necessary, strapped to the outside are snowshoes and crampons, with water in a Platypus tucked into the foam sleeve as previously described. This, or variants of this miscellany, are my standard winter day-trip load. The pack handles well with this weight, though it feels much lighter if the snowshoes are on my feet!


This is a pack that, when it does finally die (probably many years from now) I would gladly immediately replace with the same. I can think of no significant negatives to set against the positive features I have mentioned. It could be a little lighter, but given the features and bomber construction (needed for winter pursuits), I believe the weight is perfectly reasonable. Beyond such minor quibbles, this is a first-class winter daypack. I feel it to be reasonably priced, given the construction and durability.

This report was created with the Report Writer Version 1. Copyright 2007. All rights reserved.

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Reviews > Packs > Frameless Backpacks and Day Packs > Cold Cold World Valdez > Owner Review by Edward Ripley-Duggan

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