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Reviews > Packs > Internal and External Framed Backpacks > Cotopaxi Nepal 65 pack > Test Report by joe schaffer

Cotopaxi Nepal Backpack
Initial Report
by Joe Schaffer

November 27, 2014

TESTER INFORMATION:
NAME: Joe Schaffer
EMAIL: never2muchstuff(AT)yahoo(DOT)com
AGE: 66
GENDER: Male
HEIGHT: 5'9" (1.75 m)
WEIGHT: 175 lb (79.4 kg)
HOME:  Hayward, California USA

    I frequent Califorauthornia's central Sierras, camping every month with a goal to match my age in nights out each year; about half the time solo. As a comfort camper I lug tent, mattress, chair, etc. Summer trips last typically a week to 10 days; 40 lbs (18 kg), about half food related; about 5 miles (8 km) per hiking day. I winter camp most often at 6,000' to 7,000' (1,800 to 2,000 m); 2 to 3 nights; 50 lbs (23 kg); 1 to 4 miles (1.6 to 6.4 km) on snowshoes.

The Product:
        Manufacturer: Global Uprising PBC, Corporation, dba Cotopaxi
        Web site: www.cotopaxi.com
        Product: Cotopaxi Nepal backpack
        Received: 11/20/14Nepal front

MSRP: $229 US

My weight: Unisex S/M
        Total: 4 lbs 13 5/8 oz (2.2 kg)
        rain cover: 3 1/2 oz  (99 g)
        hydration pack: 3 1/2 oz  (99 g)
        lid: 6 1/2 oz  (184 g)
        Net:  4 lbs 1/8 oz  (1.82 kg)

MANUFACTURER’S WEIGHT & VOLUME:
    Medium Total - 2.16 kg (4 lbs 12 3/16 oz)
    Medium (no rain cover, head, or day pouch) - 1.76kg (3lbs 14 oz)
    Volume 65L  (3,967”)

KEY FEATURES (pack pictures and following text from manufacturer web site)
    Powder-coated spring steel frame for a lightweight yet solid carry
    Adjustable torso and waist belt length of 2 inches (5 cm) for a dialed fit
    Contoured harnesses with cell phone pocket and hydration clip
    Side pocket access for sleeping bag compartment
    Two large front pockets provide ample storage
    Water reservoir area doubles as 5L (300”) hydration day pack
    Butterfly opening to main compartment splays open for full access
    Daisy chains
    Ice tool carry
    Cotopaxi’s own trekking pole attachment system
    Water bottle pocket
    Rain cover
    Dual waist belt pockets
    Contoured waist belts
    Thermoformed back panel with lumbar grip
    Removable top lid with internal organization
    Rope strap-top compression
    Configurable side compression
    Hydration clip on harness
    Ultra durable 210D Nylon 66 ripstop / 210 dynagin nylon / 630D HD nylon

MY DESCRIPTION

GENERAL: This internal frame pack has openings at the top, 1 side, and bottom. The hydration compatible bag has an attached internal envelope and also a detachable envelope doubling as a light day bag and/or bladder carrier. The pack has 2 compression straps on each side and one over the top. The detachNepal backable lid has two internal pockets in addition to the lid as a pocket. I count 18 buckles, 13 zippers and 13 pockets.

    SUSPENSION:  Padded shoulder straps have built-in curvature to follow body contour. Chest strap anchors grip dedicated welting. The left strap includes a large zippered pocket very roughly 2 1/2” x 7” (6.4 x 17.8 cm) following the curve of the strap. The outboard margin of the pocket is stretchy. Each strap has a load lifter sewn to the shoulder strap and buckled to the pack. Shoulder straps anchor at the top end with (what I guess might be called) loop lock hardware, offering the choice of two positions about 1 1/4” (12.7 cm) apart.

    The hip belt is padded for about 10” (25.4 cm) from the bum (lumbar) pad. Belt is 4 1/2” (11.4 cm) wide at the bum pad, tapering to about 3” (7.6 cm) where the buckle anchors; about 5/8” (16 mm) thick. Reinforcement comes from a thin plastic stiffener about 19” (48 cm) long running the length of the padding by about 3 1/4” (8.3 cm); with a cut-out in the middle about 12” x 1” (30.5 x 2.5 cm). Fabric hems the stiffener. Three snap positions about 1 1/8” (2.9 cm) apart provide adjustment. Each side of the belt has a zippered pocket about 3 1/2”-3” x 6” (8.9 – 7.6 x 15.2 cm) made of coated nylon ripstop. Standard (not “waterproof”) zippers do not have rain covers. A snap anchors the back bottom corner of the pocket, and the pocket is completely independent of the belt. The pocket is sewn onto the belt on the top and front edges. The belt buckles with 1 1/2” (3.8 cm) webbing and hardware, using a belt-end grip buckle for the adjuster. Each side of the hip belt has a 3/4” (1.9 cm) stabilizing strap on a thumb lock for adjustment.

    The heavily siped anti-skid bum pad covers about 10 square inches (65 cm) in two 4 1/4” x 2 1/4” (11 x 6 cm) vertical “diamonds” with a 1 1/2” x 1 1/2” (3.8 x 3.8 cm) triangle between the bottoms; on a pad about 6 1/2” (16.5 cm) high in a stretched hexagon about 7” (17.8 cm) across; and about 5/8” (16 mm) thick. The bum pad is integrated as the lower part of the back sheet.

    The upper part of the back sheet measures an additional 11” (28 cm) high by about 7” (17.8 cm) at the maximum width by 5 3/4” (14.6 cm) at the minimum width. It’s molded with 45 degree channels each side about 3” (7.6 cm) long above the bum pad; the llama logo between them; then 2 larger 45 degree channels in the top 1/3rd about 3 1/2” (8.9 cm) long adjoining a vertical channel 3 1/2” (8.9 cm) long to the top. The sheet interlocks at the top via 3/4” (19 mm) webbing through a tri-glide, with the webbing then proceeding across the top of the inner bag to the top of the front outer pocket, fastening via side release buckle as a top compression strap.  A lift handle of 8” x 1/2” (20.3 x 1.3 cm) polypropylene softlink webbing is sewn into the fabric at the top of the frame.

    The bottom panel is heavy-duty taffeta with an inner liner of lighter-weight ripstop.

    LID: The lid measures about 12 1/2” (31.8 cm) across by about 11” (28 cm) and about 2 1/2” (6.4 cm) deep. It detaches via a side release buckle at each corner from thirteen-inch-long” (30.5 cm) webbing straps anchored 10” (25 cm) below the frame top. The rain-shielded zipper faces to pack front. The lid zips open almost to the back edge. Inside the lid I find a zippered mesh pocket 5 3/4” x 8 1/4” (14.6 x 21 cm) with no depth slack. Inside the pocket is a snaphook on 3/8” x 3” (1 x 7.6 cm) grosgrain ribbon. The underside of the lid has another zippered pocket about 8” x 10” (20 x 25 cm) with no slack for depth. The lid is made of 3 different ripstops and two layers of fabric.

    BAG: The bag measures about 24” (61 cm) from the bottom seam to the extender seam.  Bottom dimension is about 11” wide x 8” (28 x 20 cm) and top measures about 11” wide x 14 1/2” (28 x 37 cm) at the extender seam. The extender rises about 7” (18 cm) more and pulls shut with a draw cord and cord lock.

    The bottom portion of the interior can be zipped into a tightly separate compartment, or left unzipped to gain the full depth of the bag. The 40” (102 cm) zipper seems to have a surplus of about 1 1/2” (3.8 cm) at each end.  The bottom is accessed through an 18” (46 cm) zippered port on the wearer’s right side, about 2/3 of which has a rain shield over the bright yellow rain resistant zipper. This zipper has webbing reinforcement. On the wearer’s left side a zipper opens the bag fully from the top down 25” (64 cm) almost to the bottom. This bright yellow rain resistant zipper is pretty much out of sight with a rain shield over it the full length. It also has a yellow pull and webbing reinforcement; and a covered snap retainer at the top end.

    Against the back of the interior is sewn an envelope about 15” (38 cm) deep x 10” (25 cm) wide. The top is open, with a bit of elasticity, and starts about 4 1/2” (11.4 cm) from the top of the frame. At the frame point, there is a side-buckled loop of 3/8” (1 cm) webbing; and to each side of the loop there are 3/4” (2 cm) loops of Velcro. Just to the right of center there is a rain-shielded port for a hose.

    The bag comes with a detachable pouch over the sewn-down envelope about 16” high x by about 9” (41 x 23 cm) wide when flat. It has shoulder straps made from same fabric about 2 3/8” (6 cm) at the top, 1 1/8” (2.9 cm) at the bottom and 12 1/2” (32 cm) long, secured to about 20” (51 cm) of 3/4” (1 cm) webbing with a thumb lock attachment to the bottom of the bag; a lid flap secured with a side release buckle on a webbing strap; and a 3/8” (10 mm) webbing loop w/side release buckle sewn into the top seam. Two 1/4” (6 mm) daisy chains are sewn onto the front panel at 1 3/4” (4.5 cm) intervals. The gray material is coated nylon ripstop.

    EXTERIOR POCKETS: The pack bottom has an assimilated, zippered pocket about 8 1/2” x 4” (22 x 10 cm) with slack to stow a bright yellow detachable rain cover. The pocket includes 3/4” (1 cm) webbing stump with a tri-glide, presumably to anchor the bottom of the rain cover while in use; and certainly to keep it from falling out if the pocket is left unzipped. The standard zipper has a dark pull and a rain shield.

    The front of the pack has two pockets with 12” (30.5 cm) bright yellow, rain resistant zippers with webbing reinforcement. The pockets measure about 14” (35.5 cm) at their longest and 6” (15 cm) at their widest, with perhaps an inch (2.5 cm) of slack. A mesh pocket inside each measures about 6 1/2” high by about 4” (16.5 x 10 cm) at the top and slightly less at the bottom. These nested pockets have no closures.

    The left side bottom has an 8” (20 cm) standard, unshielded zipper with dark pull gaining access to a pocket about 8” (20 cm) at maximum height by about 5” (12.7 cm) at the bottom and 2.5” (6.4 cm) at the top, with no evident slack. This, in conjunction with the compression straps, may be the trekking pole/ice tool pocket.

    The left side at the bottom has an open pocket angled to about 45 degrees, about 8” (20 cm) deep, about 4” (10 cm) across the top and 6” (15 cm) at the bottom; with a slightly stretchy, somewhat triangular insert on the side about 5 1/2” (14 cm) in length and 3 1/2” (9 cm) wide at the top, 1” (2.5 cm) wide at the bottom. This pocket easily accommodates a liter (qt) water bottle.

    STRAPS & RETAINERS: Four 3/8” (10 mm) webbing daisy chains run about the length of the bag, sewn at 2” (5 cm) intervals. The front corner chains offer 14 anchor points each from top to bottom; and 11 anchor points each on the back corner chains. The chains anchor 2 compression straps on each side, which are looped in and can be moved to any anchor point desired. The compression straps buckle with 3/4” (1 cm) side-release hardware.

    Running about parallel to the front daisy chains and 1.5” (3.8 cm) inboard of each I find a tunneled loop of 1/4” (6 mm) webbing about 20” (51 cm) long. This loop has loops about 5/8” (16 mm) sewn down at each end, and a cord lock at the top end below the small loop. I might have thought these were for trekking poles, but the product video shows poles stowed on the wearer’s left side.

    RAIN COVER: A bright yellow coated nylon taffeta rain cover with an elastic hem fits like a shower cap over the front of the pack. It has a 7” (18 cm) x 3/4” (19 mm) elastic webbing at the bottom that connects the bag to the buckle in the bag’s bottom front pocket.

IMPRESSIONS

    I don’t find any tags or user info. The pack has a very substantial feel. Construction seems consistent with premium product. I prefer the color of the bag but I'm not so hot on the bright yellow zips.

    I didn’t find website help to determine my size from the two choices of S/M and M/L. Thinking I'm not on the large side of average (and in all packs that offer S/M/L, I'm always M), I chose S/M. Torso length is a little short at the maximum adjustment; though I'm assuming the M/L might be too much for my 18" (45.7 cm) torso. The shoulder straps roll over the shoulder and pull snug with plenty of webbing to tug on and still more room to go at the bottom. The hip belt padding ends a couple inches (5 cm) before what I would consider ideal. The pronounced lumbar pad could be slightly lower. Overall the pack is probably a little bit too small for me, but if the choice is that or a little bit too big, I prefer the former.

    The pack displays an abundance of pockets, buckles, zippers and features which add weight to the bag in contradiction to the impression I’d gotten from the website. I had inferred this bag was intended for not-quite-fanatical lightweighters who want a few extras. This bag is loaded with extras and resides in what I would regard as mid-weight. That’s probably a win; just not what I was expecting. When I’m in my fanatical light mode, my bag has nothing more than a drawstring at the top. In that context, I’m thinking there are too many pockets, most of which require zippers and layers of fabric; most of which are too small to handle any real cargo; and too many places to put things where I likely won’t remember where they are and won’t be able to find them when it’s dark and snowing and I’m cold and stupid.  All of these pockets and features add production cost as well as weight and I’m duly surprised at the relatively low cost of the bag, even moreso that a portion goes to charity.

    SHOULDER STRAP curvature follows my body contours and should effectively press the weight into my chest. Padding does not interfere with the armpit. I find sliding chest strap anchors often won’t hold; perhaps these being perfectly in line with the curvature will. The right strap has a water hose clip just above the top point of adjustment for the chest strap. This clip will give the devil purchase to confound me at some point of brush travel, a concern founded in past (and retired) use of a bladder. Load lifters are for me sewn in too short, which I may be able to fix by tearing the thread out of the first anchor point; and the pack is a little low behind the shoulder to provide enough angle for maximum benefit. Shoulder strap anchors offer two positions about 1 1/4” (12.7 cm) apart; so I don’t see the range of 2” (5 cm) as noted on the website. My experience with this type of anchor suggests it will never come undone by itself; and the adjustment can only be performed with warm fingers and as much persistence as patience. I like having an adjustment, and I think this strategy is far better than Velcro.

    HIP BELT padding ends about 8 1/2" (21.5 cm) between the ends at the maximum snap adjustment and I would prefer about 6” (15.5 cm). Presumably the stiffener’s cutout is meant to save weight and more easily let the padding mold over the top of the hip bone. Thin as it is I’m thinking that making the stiffener into essentially two pieces at the weight bearing point probably costs a great deal of support. I question whether it has the substance to be suited to winter camping weights. I wonder why there are not smoothed rounded edges which might never wear out as will the fabric hem, but there must be a design reason. Overall I'll be happily surprised if the belt design stubbornly holds weight on the hip bone.

    BUM PAD might be a bit too high for my contour. I think the gripping tactics will work well to help support the weight, taking some of the load off hips and shoulders. The back sheet hasn’t much venting; and I’d guess the design reckons that no amount of fancy workings evacuates the heat anyway.

    LID webbing straps are anchored so far down the pack they do not seem to leave a surplus enough to deploy the pack’s inner extender. The multiple layers makes sense for pockets; but for the sides and top portions, I don’t see where this is a good idea. The snap hook for a secure nesting of car keys is a great idea.

    BAG extender probably can’t be filled much if the lid is to be used; and probably not much more than an inch (2.5 cm) of it can be filled if the top is to be pulled shut with the draw cord and cord lock; and I suspect that with the lid full, I won’t get much more volume from the extender. Zipper reinforcement on key zips helps make easier operation with fewer snags. I easily unzipped the compartment separator, but I’m glad I was of a patient mind when I tried zipping back up. With so much zipper and fabric for this piece, I wish it could be removed completely. I haven’t figured out yet what the 2 long loops are inboard of the front daisy chains. I’ve never seen configurable compression straps before, and it gives me a reason to leave the daisy chains on the pack. The material on this bag is coated for water resistance; some zippers are so-called water resistant and some are covered. I would prefer to give up on trying to make a pack waterproof, which seems only to make it heavier and much harder to dry out.

    I prefer the very dark olive drab-almost-char ash outside color and the silver-gray that brightens most of the inside. Material seems to be 2 different ripstops, coated on the inside. Much of the bag is in 2 layers. That makes for splendid hand and should mitigate scuffs, but seems out of place for a bag that wants to be light.

    POCKETS are many, but not all well executed. The bottom front pocket I find will stow the rain cover without frustration—at least with the pack empty. On the hip belt pockets I suppose the snap feature allows stress relief for a flat object in a curved pocket. Perhaps unsnapping the pocket would also help in washing out exploded gel packs. These could be great pockets if deeper. The front pockets—largest of all—don’t seem to have enough depth to hold much; and the mesh pocket inside each has no slack at all. I think if the bag is stuffed, these pockets will hold little more than a snow glove apiece. The left side bottom pocket in conjunction with the compression straps may be the trekking pole/ice tool pocket. I don’t know how well this would field test with a water bottle in the outlying pocket, and/or the compression strap in the way, which can be moved. The angled bottle pocket seems designed for access without mommy’s help, but in practical use I doubt it. The shoulder strap pocket I think will prove to be of little use to me. My unholstered gps will squeeze in, as will my phone (not together); but my wee can of pepper spray won’t. I don’t think I’d like the stress generated by a curved strap on a straight object, either on a sensitive piece of electronics, or on the strap from a sturdy item. It might be great for a couple of gel packs or to warm a food bar. The bottom right pocket would hold a bit of stuff, but it has a strange shape. I can’t help but think at this point that a lot of fabric and zipper weight go into pockets that aren’t going to earn their keep.

    Snow is possible next week above 5,000’ (1,300 m) and if it develops I may have a chance to get this pack wet pretty soon.

Field Report
February 10, 2015

Field Conditions:
   Dodge Ridge, CA for 4 days, leaving with 34 lb (15 kg) pack plus tugging a 40 lb (18 kg) firewood sled 1.4 mi (2.2 km) 500' (150 m) uphill on groomed snow and 0.1 mi (0.16 km) XC on 6" (15 cm) dry powder; about 1.5 hrs hiking time; then about an hour on the return. Hiking temps probably about 60 F (16 C) in sun and 40 F (4 C) in shade. Total distance in pack about 3 miles (5k) and 2.5 hours.

Impressions:
    I'd have to work to get 40 lbs (18 kg) of gear into this bag. For this trip the stuff that didn't want to fit easily went on the sled. That worked out perfectly to have a light load on the back while towing the sled; and I shan't bash the bag for it's size as it is what it is.

    The bag was comfortable and I felt no fit issues on this short trip. The hip belt held the load to the hips and the shoulder straps did not pinch. The load lifters were not much help as they were flat, offering some assistance in stabilizing the top but none in transferring the load. The bag felt very stable on my back. I think it rides a couple inches lower on the hip belt than might be ideal. My hips are fairly high for my height, and yet the bottom of the bag still has a bit of contact with my upper glutes.

    The lid swallowed 6 snow pegs, gps, toiletries bag, camera, headlamp, map, gel pack and food bar; and might have held even a bit more. The main compartment held clothes, food, pot, first aid & emergency, tent, mattress & sleeping bag with nothing bulging out from under the lid. I was able to fit my biggie rain jacket into one of the front pockets; and pants and glove liners in the other. I didn't use any other pockets; and wouldn't have found them easy to use as they were stretched tight.

Long Term Report

April 15, 2015
   

Field Conditions:
    I've gone backpacking 5 more times in California, USA, bringing total mileage with the bag to 83 (135 km) over 17 hiking days. (Pack weights measured leaving the car.)
    a) Pt. Reyes National Sea Shore, 3 days and 13 mi (21 km). Sunny, warm. 37 lb (17 kg)
    b) Rancheria Falls in the Hetch Hetchy area of Yosemite National Park, 4 days and 20 mi (32 km) with the longest day 9 mi (14 km). Sunny, hot, mostly rocky trail; some wallowing in muck where stability was well tested. 41 lb (19 kg)
    c) Preston Falls in Stanislaus National Forest, 2 hiking days, 9 mi (14 km), sunny, hot, mostly dirt trail.  39 lb (18 kg)
    d) Herring Creek in Stanislaus National Forest, 2 days, 8 mi (13 km), sunny, hot, half pavement, half dirt road and trail. 31 lb (14 kg)
    e) Rancheria Falls again, 2 hiking days and 15 mi (24 km). Sunny, hot. 40 lb (18 kg)

Impressions:
   
Turns out I can stuff the bag to 40 lb (18 kg). It doesn't seem to like that weight very much, as it gets noticeably more comfortable when the weight begins to drop. For me it does a nice job of carrying 35 lb (16 kg) or less, which makes sense as the bag's volume seems more suited to that level as well. I like the curvature of the shoulder straps, which seems to get some pressure away from the armpit and onto the chest. I find the load lifters ineffective for weight transfer; and the hip belt needs a little more stiffening for higher weights. The hip belt is very comfortable at lower weight. I spent about 3 hours on one hike and never felt a yearning to shed the pack, loaded at 34 lb (15 kg).

    The lid is a great pocket and the front pockets are much better than my original assessment.  I maintain the inadequate-design critique for the rest.  The belt pockets will hold a bit of snack, but I have to unbuckle the hip belt and fiddle quite a bit to extract it.  I put my permit in the conveniently located shoulder strap pocket for a couple days, but moisture wicked off my shirt and buggered it. (I may have mentioned it was hot.)  So even something that would fit in the pocket didn't work out.

    I carried the rain cover on three of the trips without occasion to test it. I put it on at home once to see how it went on the pack, and the fit seemed fine.  I left it home a couple times thinking that would force the rain gods to get some wet on the bag, but they were content to ignore the dare. I considered wearing the bag in the shower to test its water resistance, but decided the artificial nature of such conditions may not yield meaningful results.

    Though it is my nature to be kind to my stuff, the pack found little mercy in my efforts to test its fullest capacity. It took more abuse than I would normally mete out and shows no sign of stress. It has no scuff marks, abrasion holes or tears. Zippers that I used continue to function smoothly with no sign of impending weakness. The product continues to merit high marks for quality of materials and construction.


Quick shots:
    a) heavily featured
    b) quality construction
    c) great value
    d) some design curiosities

Thank you Cotopaxi and BackpackGearTest.org for the opportunity to test this product.  This concludes my test.


Read more reviews of Cotopaxi gear
Read more gear reviews by joe schaffer

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