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Reviews > Packs > Internal and External Framed Backpacks > Cotopaxi Nepal 65 pack > Test Report by Andrei Girenkov

COTOPAXI NEPAL PACK
TEST SERIES BY ANDREI GIRENKOV
LONG-TERM REPORT

INITIAL REPORT - November 29, 2014
FIELD REPORT - February 09, 2015
LONG TERM REPORT - April 09, 2015

TESTER INFORMATION

NAME: Andrei Girenkov
EMAIL: agirenkov[AT]yahoo[DOT]com
AGE: 33
LOCATION: New York, New York, USA
GENDER: M
HEIGHT: 5' 10" (1.78 m)
WEIGHT: 150 lb (68.00 kg)

I have been backpacking for 6 years, mostly three-season weekend trips in the Adirondacks, and other parks in the Northeastern US. Additionally, I try to take at least one 5-7 day trip each summer to other destinations in Canada, Western United States and Central America. I use lightweight gear on a budget. My multi-day pack weight is around 20-25 lb (9-11 kg). I enjoy sleeping comfortably and cooking a hot meal at night.


INITIAL REPORT

PRODUCT INFORMATION & SPECIFICATIONS

Manufacturer: Global Uprising PBC Corporation, dba Cotopaxi
Year of Manufacture: 2014
Manufacturer's Website: http://cotopaxi.com
MSRP: US $229.00
Listed Weight: N/A
Measured Weight: 63.5 oz (1800 g)

INITIAL IMPRESSIONS

Cotopaxi's mantra is "simplicity." The company was created by nature lovers for nature lovers. They are responsible global citizens, who promote cause which protect the environment and donate a portion of their profits to education and healthcare in Nepal. The Nepal Pack represents this mantra very well. It is minimalistic and yet high quality and feature rich.

The packaging itself is just a plain cardboard box. There are no tags to be found on the pack. In fact there was no documentation of any kind included (or available online). This is one theme that will repeat itself throughout this review. However what Cotopaxi lacks in marketing prowess it more than makes up in a great design and top notch build quality.

The pack has every useful and practical tried and true feature that I have come to expect from a modern backpack, as well as two innovations that I look forward to trying in the field. There are no gimmicky features that unnecessarily increase the cost of the bag. Whoever designed this pack clearly had extensive backpacking experience. The pack is priced very fairly compared to the competition. The fabric is light (but not ultralight) and rugged (but not bulletproof). The quality control on things like seam stitching is clearly high. This combination of practical features, rugged yet lightweight build, and very reasonable price hit the sweet spot.

FEATURES

Before I describe the features, I feel I must address the marketing situation. There is a complete lack of documentation about the pack online or in the package. When selecting a size for the pack online, the shopper is presented with a choice of S/M or M/L with no indication of actual length measurements. I reached out to Cotopaxi's customer support, who promptly directed me to the correct size. Similarly there is no documentation about the weight or dimensions of the pack nor the materials from which it's made. The blurb on the Cotopaxi product page lists some, but not all of the features, and was clearly copied from the description of the Cotopaxi Inca pack as it contains references to the Inca instead of the Nepal. I can understand the lack of a physical manual given Cotopaxi's concern for the environment, but an online manual would be appreciated.

I believe the list of features I have put together is comprehensive. I formed this list by reading the product web page, watching the promotional video for the pack on Cotopaxi's website, and carefully inspecting the pack inside and out twice. Having said that, there were undocumented features that I discovered only during the second inspection, so I am not ruling out that I missed something.

* Body: 210 Denure, Nylon 6-6, Dynogen weave - I have not been able to find more details about this, but it feels relatively tough.
* Bottom: 630D high density weave - feels even tougher.
* 3 small pockets in the front (2 on hip belt, 1 on shoulder strap).
* 2 large pockets on the back.
* Only 1 quick access water bottle side pocket.
* Other side pocket is absent due to Cotopaxi's curious side access sleeping bag compartment. This is a feature I have not seen before and I hope to test it in the field thoroughly.
* Small rain cover pocket with included rain cover on the back
* Ice axe loop.
* Trekking pole attachment system.
* Detachable water reservoir which doubles as 5L summit pack.
* Daisy chain loops up and down both sides which allow for configurable attachment points.
* Compression system.
* Detachable top compartment with 3 pockets.
* Adjustable hip belt and suspension plate.
* Side zipper which runs the length of the bag and allows the wearer to access any part of the bag without unpacking the top. This is another feature I have not seen on a backpack before, and I'm looking forward to trying it out in the field.

Back view
Back view

Side access sleeping bag compartment
Side access sleeping bag compartment

Whole-length side zipper
Whole-length side zipper

Included summit pack and rain cover
Included summit pack and rain cover

TRYING IT OUT

I took the pack out on two day hikes over the weekend to gauge its weight capacity. The manufacturer does not provide a guideline on its website. During the first hike, I packed my usual overnight pack weight of 25 lb (11.3 kg) and the Nepal offered ample support at this weight. On the second outing I upped the weight to 40 lb (18.1 kg) to simulate the load of a less weight-conscious backpacker. I was only out with the pack for about 2 hours, and I must admit that I started to feel some soreness in my upper back. Over the next few months, I will try adjusting the suspension to fit my back better in the hopes that it can support the added weight.

SUMMARY

Pros so far:
* Excellent feature set
* Simple clean design
* Very solid construction
* Appears to be durable
* Reasonably priced

Cons so far:
* Complete lack of information about the features online or in a paper manual
* Only one quick access water bottle pocket. It remains to be seen if this is worth the tradeoff with the side access sleeping bag compartment.

Thank you Cotopaxi and BackpackGearTest.org for the opportunity to test this product. Field Report and Long Term Report to follow in two and four months.


FIELD REPORT

FIELD LOCATIONS AND CONDITIONS

Catskill State Park, NY for 3 days following a heavy snowfall. Hiking temps from 9 F (-13 C) to 35 F (2 C). Total distance walked around 16 mi (25 km), cumulative elevation gain of around 2,000 ft (610 m). Pack weight including food and water about 30 lb (14 kg).

PERFORMANCE IN THE FIELD

As a follow up to the initial test, I wanted to see if I could adjust the pack to be more comfortable at heavier weights. 30 lb (14 kg) is more gear than I usually take with me for a weekend trip, however a heavy snow storm hit just before my trip, and I got a chance to stuff my pack with heavy bulky winter gear.

Packing all the winter gear was a bit of a challenge for me with this pack. I pack lightly and my three-season gear set would have easily fit. However the winter sleeping bag, clothes, pad, and tent (split with a hiking buddy) barely fit.

The hipbelt is riding high
The hipbelt is riding high.


I played with the suspension and was able to make the pack comfortable at 30 lb (14 kg). My only complaint is that the pack seemed to ride very high. The belt kept slipping off my hips and onto my waist, especially when I reached my arms up to scramble.

I think this problem was caused, or at least compounded by the bulky winter jacket I was wearing, which forced the straps to pull on the belt. Stay tuned for the next report in two months. I will keep the suspension adjustment the same and try hiking on a warmer day with less bulky clothing.


LONG-TERM REPORT

FIELD LOCATIONS AND CONDITIONS

I have carried the Cotopaxi Pack on three trips since the field review. Two were in Adirondack State Park in New York, and one was in White Mountain National Forest in New Hampshire. I hiked approximately 6 days and 45 miles (73 km) with the pack. In all three cases, the hikes took place during late winter / early spring, on cold and sunny days. Temperatures ranged from 20 to 45 F (-7 to 7 C). The terrain in all cases was rocky with a cover of packed snow. My pack weight was consistently around 30 lb (13.6 kg).

PERFORMANCE IN THE FIELD

I reported in the field report that the pack sat high on my hips in my first outing. I'm glad to report that I have been able to resolve the issue since then by adjusting the straps on the pack. I like to pack light, and 30 lb (13.6 kg) is a typical weight for me with winter gear. Winter gear tends to be quite bulky, so I was close to the volume limit of this pack. At this weight both the shoulder straps and the hip belt were very comfortable. I experienced no chafing at all on my shoulders or hip bones, which is something that happens to me with some regularity with other lightweight packs at this weight.

One of the features which I was hoping to test in the field is the side-access sleeping bag compartment. Although the design works well enough for accessing the sleeping bag, I do not see an advantage over the more traditional back-access design. The major downside of the side-access design is that it removes one of the side pockets. During summer hikes, particularly in dry environments, I like to carry around 2 quarts (2 liters) of water between rest stops. I never got into the habit of using a water bladder, and normally I carry two seltzer bottles in my side pockets for easy access. Eliminating one pocket would force me to place one of the bottles inside the pack, or to start using the water bladder which is included in this pack.

The other interesting feature is the full length side zipper. These have made an appearance on some of the recent packs, but this was the first time I had a chance to try this feature. I found it tremendously useful to unpack in an orderly fashion. With a top loading pack, I pack intelligently at home, trying to guess which items need to be near the top for quick access, and which can sit at the bottom. However by the second day of a hike, all of that goes out the window usually, and most rest breaks involve removing half of my pack while I look for the water pump, bandana, etc. The full length side zipper is much more forgiving of my disorganized ways. I could put down the pack, open it, and gently without disturbing everything pull out the item I was looking for. This feature gets a big thumbs up from me.

In terms of build quality and durability, this pack put up a very solid performance. I didn't lean with the pack directly onto jagged rocks, but didn't go out of my way to baby it either. At the end of six days, the pack was no worse for wear: there were no tears or scuffs on it. I've used more "bombproof" packs in the past but they all weighed more than 4 lbs (1.8 kg) that the Cotopaxi weighs.

SUMMARY

Pros:
- Includes most features seen in more expensive packs over the last 5 years.
- High quality construction.
- Very reasonable price for what you get

Cons:
- Loss of one side pocket for side-access sleeping bag compartment.

Thank you Global Uprising and BackpackGearTest.org for the opportunity to test this product.

This report was created with the BackpackGearTest.org Report Writer Version 1.5 Copyright 2015. All rights reserved.

Read more reviews of Cotopaxi gear
Read more gear reviews by Andrei Girenkov

Reviews > Packs > Internal and External Framed Backpacks > Cotopaxi Nepal 65 pack > Test Report by Andrei Girenkov



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