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Reviews > Packs > Internal and External Framed Backpacks > Cotopaxi Nepal 65 pack > Test Report by Ray Estrella

Cotopaxi Nepal 65 Backpack
Test Series by Raymond Estrella
LONG-TERM REPORT

INITIAL REPORT - December 03, 2014
FIELD REPORT - March 30, 2015
LONG TERM REPORT - May 10, 2015

TESTER INFORMATION

NAME: Raymond Estrella
EMAIL: rayestrellaAThotmailDOTcom
AGE: 54
LOCATION: North Western Minnesota, USA
GENDER: M
HEIGHT: 6' 3" (1.91 m)
WEIGHT: 213 lb (96.60 kg)

I've been backpacking for over 30 years, all over California, Minnesota, and many western states. I hike year-round in all weather, and average 500+ miles (800+ km) per year. I make a point of using lightweight gear, and smaller volume packs. Doubting I can ever be truly ultralight, I try to be as light as I can yet still be comfortable. I start early and hike hard so as to enjoy the afternoons exploring/chilling. I usually take a freestanding tent and enjoy hot evening meals. If not hiking solo I am usually with my brother-in-law Dave or my twin children.


INITIAL REPORT

The Product

Manufacturer: Global Uprising PBC IMAGE 1      Rain cover
Web site: www.cotopaxi.com
Product: Nepal 65
Size: Medium/Large
Torso range: N/A
Year manufactured/received: 2014
MSRP: US $229.00
Weight listed (only referenced in video): 4 lb (1.81 kg)
Actual weight: 4.95 lb (2.25 kg)
Volume listed: 3967 cu in (65 L)
Color reviewed: Dark Shadow
Picture at right courtesy Cotapaxi

Quick & Dirty, Nitty Gritty

As a first-time attempt at an expedition-type pack the Nepal 65 has a long way to go. The suspension is the hardest to adjust (and has the least adjustment) of any pack I have ever owned. Design elements look pretty but have not been thought out. This one will be retired as soon as the test is done. Please read on for the details.

Product Description

The Cotopaxi Nepal 65 pack (hereafter referred to as the Nepal or the pack) is a dark gray and black top-loading pack. It is the largest of the Cotopaxi packs, and according to the manufacturer is "capable of toting big loads the world over".

Nepal front & back


The Nepal came with absolutely nothing in the way of information or instructions. Unfortunately the web site does not help much either, but I did get the picture above from it. There is an embedded video that shows a bit of the features but nothing gives a clue as to torso adjustment. This is a big problem in my opinion.

The grey areas of the Nepal are 210D nylon 66, while black areas on the sides are made of a different type of 210D nylon. It sounds like they call it "Edinogen weave" in the video, but I can't find anything that relates to the term. The very bottom of the Nepal uses lined 630D high-density weave nylon for durability. It's hard to tell if the nylon has a DWR (durable water repellent) applied to it or not. Water placed on it beaded up nicely but within a couple minutes the nylon started darkening, telling me it is already wetting out. I can tell by the feel that there is not any urethane coatings applied to the nylon. (No tacky, plastic-y feel.)

At the top of the pack body is a 7 in (18 cm) extension sleeve. A black cord runs around the top of the sleeve and through a tethered pull-release cord lock, allowing the top to be drawn shut. At the bottom of the sleeve on the inside the pack is a tag with a "Proudly made in the Philippines" message printed in English and Filipino. And I agree with their feeling of pride. The quality and workmanship on the Nepal is as good as I have seen on any pack. Once the top is closed a black top compression/rope strap runs from the front of the pack to the back that allows the load to be snugged down.

This is a true top-loading pack, but it can be accessed at the right side by a full-length yellow nylon YKK zipper. This zipper is covered by a 0.8 in (20 mm) wide weather flap. On the other side of the pack is a shorter curving zipper that allows access to just the lower "sleeping bag compartment". This compartment is made by closing off the lower ¼ of the pack with a double-zippered flap of nylon.

Inside the pack against my back is a hydration bladder pocket with a hang-clip centered at the top. Just one port over my right shoulder allows the tube to be routed out of the pack. The port is large enough to allow the use of my winter insulated hydration tubes. The tube can be snapped into a plastic keeper clip on the front of the right shoulder strap. This keeper will not work if the tube is insulated. One thing that is strange is the manufacturer's statement that the hydration pocket is removable. This is not really true as the pocket itself is sewn in. But they do have a removable 5 L (305 cu in) frameless nylon summit/day pack inside the pocket also. It attaches to the Nepal with two hook-and-loop straps that run through loops on the summit pack. This pack has a clip for hydration bags too, but it does not have a port for the tube.

Summit pack


The 3.5 oz (99 g) summit pack is just a flat envelope with no sides or bottom so it is limited to what it can hold. It has a centered clip for hydration bags too, but it does not have a port for the tube. The envelope-flap closure has a single center-mounted quick-release buckle and the nylon shoulder straps strangely adjust from the bottom instead of the top of the straps. Neither hydration system is made to work with the more common style of double-attachment bags popular today, but that is OK with me as I still prefer the single centered attachment style of my Platypus Hosers. In the picture above I have it stuffed as full as it can go with a down sweater just to show the size. It will fit a 2 L Hoser just fine but my 3 L Hoser was too big lengthwise to fit in it with the top closed or the clip in place.

On the front of the pack body are two more yellow zippers that access two 5 in wide, 17 in long (13 x 43 cm) storage pockets, one left, one right. Inside each is another smaller mesh pocket. At the very bottom of the Nepal is a 7.5 in (19 cm) zippered pocket that hides the included 3.46 oz (98 g) bright yellow rain cover.

There are two different style of ice ax/tool straps that run vertically along the sides of the pockets. The loop is at the bottom and they have a cord that runs up to a spring-loaded cord lock at the top. Strangely there are no sleeping pad straps on the Nepal. There are four daisy chains running full length, two on each side of the pack. One set runs next to where the pack meets my body, the other set is at the sides of the pack face.

On the left side of the Nepal is an angled multi-function double pocket. This consists of an outer open pocket that can just hold a Nalgene bottle snugly, but can't hold one that is in an insulated holder. That is a problem for a pack made for winter conditions. You know, like they see in the mountains of Nepal… ;-) Right behind the open pocket is a zippered pocket that they say is a trekking pole pocket. I suppose this could also be used for secure storage of items like a camera, GPS or cell phone too. The right side of the Nepal has no pockets. I really don't understand this decision.

Compression is handled by four detachable nylon straps. The straps are attached to the daisy chains mentioned earlier. This lets the straps be moved around as needed or wanted. This is one of the few things I like about the pack as it lets me move the compression straps to the face if I want to make them do double duty to carry snowshoes or the like.

Lots o' pockets


Lots of pockets! Clockwise from left: Pack-front vertical pockets with inner mesh pocket. Under-lid pocket. Side water bottle pocket and opened trekking pole pocket. Left-side shoulderpad pocket, tight fit for a knife. Very tight hip belt pocket with small GPS, can't close the zipper. Top lid with inner mesh pocket.

A removable top pocket/lid sits above the main pack body. It is accessed by a double-pulled zipper. A large mesh pocket sits on the bottom of the lid and a key clip may be found inside it. Flipping the lid over reveals yet another large pocket. The lid closes the body of the pack by the use of two straps that run from the upper sides of the pack body to connectors on the lid.

The Nepal features a suspension that has dual peripheral steel rods running from the bottom of the hip belt all the way to the top of the pack to stabilize the load and transfer weight close to the body. There is a crossing rail around mid-back tying the stays together. Between my back and the pack is a medium density foam backpanel with a just a few channels meant to let heat escape.


The shoulder straps seem to be made of high density foam and are heavily contoured. I have never owned a pack with the degree of contouring that these have. They remind me of women's pack's shoulder straps. The shoulder straps have two adjustment straps on them. The ones at the top of the shoulder adjust the distance the pack body rides away from my body. The one at the lower end of the shoulder strap pulls the pack down onto my shoulders changing the balance of weight between hip and shoulders. A sternum strap crosses my chest between the shoulder straps. It is mounted with sliders on a nylon -wrapped cord to allow adjustment. Torso adjustment buckles

The shoulder straps are somewhat adjustable for torso length. But only by about one inch (2.5 cm) as may be seen to the right. In this picture the straps are in the Medium position. The buckle just above is the Large spot. Seeing as this is supposed to fit torsos from Medium to Large I don't understand the lack of further adjustment. Which is just about beside the point as the darn things are almost impossible to get to. The straps end in metal buckles that are threaded through hard nylon keepers found under the backpanel. Removing them was the hardest thing I have ever run into on a pack. There is no room to work as the backpanel does not come off. I spent about 20 minutes fighting the first one off and then back into the "large" spot. After fighting the second one I just decided to use side-cutters and snip the keeper. It will never be a "medium" again…

The same high density foam seems to be used in the preformed hip belt. The belt closes with a large quick-connect buckle and the straps run through pull-release buckles on the sides so the belt tightens by pulling towards the center instead of away. Hiding inside the lumbar pad that sits at the end of the backpanel are six snaps, three on each side of the hip belt, that allow the belt to be widened in increments of one inch (2.5 cm).

The hip belt has a seemly good-sized pocket on each side. While they look big they are just flat pockets. The material is just sewn to the belt with no sides or bottom to make a pouch effect, so they actually don't have much room inside.

Well that's everything that I can find to talk about the Nepal 65. From my living room exploration of it I am not very impressed by the design issues but will answer them with field use starting next weekend. Please come back in a couple months to see how it does in the frigid North.


FIELD REPORT

Field Data

I have to apologize up front for the lack of photos. I lost my computer and unfortunately had not backed up for four months and lost most of my backpacking trip pictures, and my hiking logs. I had a couple of the most current trips still on my cameras, which are seen below.

I used the Nepal on four overnight backpacking trips. Two were on private land north of Halstad, Minnesota (MN) both along the Red River. The other two were in Smoky Hills State Forest in Central MN, one near the Shell River. Lows ranged from 4 to -14 F (-16 to -26 C) and highs were from 0 to 25 F (-18 to - 4 C). I had light snow a few days but never enough to accumulate. In fact this was the lightest snow year I have ever seen in MN.

Terrain consisted of bushwhacking though forest and dead prairie grass in northern MN, and using hunter trails, four-wheeler, and snowmobile roads in the State Forests. (There are two sections of it, a North and South unit.)

Observations

On the first two trips with the Nepal I was able to use the hydration pocket along with an insulated tube. This worked well until the temperatures dropped low enough to make the tube freeze even with the insulated cover. Then I needed to switch to my normal insulated Nalgenes. The big problem with this is the lack of a pocket to put them in. I had to hang the holders from the compression strap, a fix that I don't care for. I don't like the way the full bottles swing around. On long days I had the compression straps loosen constantly from the weight and movement. I got to where I would carry just one insulated Nalgene outside and carry one inside the pack, or I would fill a Platy Bottle with warm water and place it in the hydration pocket with no tube. In camp I would keep the Platy covered and in my pack to keep it from freezing. I'd refill the Nalgene as needed.

This winter has been horrible for snow cover. This has forced me to carry all the water I need as there is nothing to melt to provide my drinking and cooking water. This makes for a heavier pack than I normally carry too. My average pack weight for an overnighter has been about 35-40 lb (16-18 kg) depending on the quilt/bag/tent combo used.

Side mounted pad


In winter I carry a folding foam pad to use as a sit/kneel pad and to bolster the R-value of my sleeping pad. As the Nepal has no sleeping pad straps on the bottom I had to strap it to the side of the pack, using the compression straps that I adjusted to make them work best. The picture above has it sidemounted. After two trips like that I bought some long straps to run across the back and switched the pad there, as seen below. This works better. I'd still rather see dedicated pad straps like all my other packs have. Having the pad down low would also allow the pack to sit upright when taken off my back and set on the ground. Right now it just falls over, which is frustrating when trying to access the pack on the trail.

Coldest day


The biggest shortcoming of the pack has been the pockets. They are flat terrible in my opinion. The long ones on the back I tried to use for my down coat, but they are too small due to their flat volume-less design. I could put a rain shell in it, but the lengthwise running zipper in combination with the miniscule volume made it a pain to load. Plus once I had the pad strapped back there it made it a pain to access the shell when needed.

The hip belt pockets won't hold my camera or GPS. All that I could use them for was lip balm and a tiny bottle of hand sanitizer. The shoulder strap pocket I wedged a folding knife into, although it doesn't fit well. All of the pockets really need to be redesigned to actually bellows out and be able to hold something useful.

The lone side pocket won't hold my Nalgene so I used it to hold my tent poles (running under the side compression straps) and sometimes a hatchet (used to hammer stakes into frozen ground). The top lid is only two in (5 cm) deep which is pretty shallow. It makes for escape-artist gear when trying to get something out.

I did put the rope strap under the lid to good use. I keep my shell there and will switch it with my parka once I get warm enough to lose the insulation. My bright blue parka may be seen in this way in the picture below.

Parka packed


I am not crazy about the extreme shape of the shoulder straps. They are more like my daughters ergonomic "female-centric" shoulder straps on her Woman's model pack. I'd like to see the strap shape toned down a bit.

The hip belt has been comfortable enough and the support provided by the suspension has been OK. Wearing over winter clothing makes it tough to tell and maybe as it warms up this spring I can get a chance to use the pack with just a shirt on.

That's it for this report. I hope to get another trip or two soon and will share the rest of my findings once completed.


LONG-TERM REPORT

Field Data

I used the Cotopaxi Nepal pack for an overnight trip in and around Buffalo River State Park in north-western Minnesota. Temps were warm the first day and very cold the second. Range was 76 to 38 F (24 to 3 C). The sudden temperature drop made for a pretty spectacular storm but it hit after I was in camp. Pack weight was around 25 lb (11.3 kg) starting out.

Spring hike

Observations

I finally got to use the Nepal without bulky winter clothing on for this last trip with it. This let me snug it up better although I still do not care for the feel of the shoulder straps. The pack carried well.

While it looks like I have a very full pack the pictures are a bit misleading. My normal 3-season loads can fit in a 33 L (2000 cu in) pack. So I put everything inside the pack, including items I usually will have outside like sit pad and tent poles. What makes it look so full is the half bag and puffy coat I paired it with for my sleeping gear. I did not bother to compress them in sacks, instead just put them in first and put everything else on top of them.

Since I find the long vertical pockets on the back useless I used them to just carry my water/camp shoes, one in each pocket. In the picture below it may be seen that the zipper can't fully close. Again I think a stuff-it style pocket would be so much more useful.

Disappointing pockets


I used the interior hydration pocket but also carried a water bottle, one of my 2L Aquafina bottles, in the side pocket for use with drink powders.

This trip was the first time I have had the Nepal on without at least a winter shell on too. The first day was unseasonably warm and the back pad does not vent very well. Only one of the venting channels actually run up and out to transfer heat. A cold front moved in that afternoon and the temps plummeted so the next day the pack was not as hot against my back.

I like to see new gear companies bringing more choice and competition to the market. I appreciate the high level of workmanship that the Nepal shows. (Hmm, maybe I should say work"woman"ship as the pictures on their website show all women at the plant... ;-) But I really think they need to re-think the design. I do thank Cotapaxi and BackpackGearTest.org for letting me test and critique it for them.

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

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