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Reviews > Packs > Internal and External Framed Backpacks > ULA Equipment CDT > Test Report by Bob Sanders


ULA CDT Pack

Test Series by Bob Sanders

Initial Report: July 18, 2010
Field Report: October 5, 2010
Long Term Report: November 30, 2010



PERSONAL INFORMATION
Name: Bob Sanders Bob SandersBackpacking Background:
I went on my first backpacking trip as a Boy Scout at the age of 16. Over the years I have hiked the Wonderland Trail in Washington and section hiked parts of the Florida Trail, Appalachian Trail, Colorado Trail and 740 mi (1191 km) of the Pacific Crest Trail. I continue to backpack and hike year round in the Colorado mountains. I have evolved from a heavyweight backpacker to a lightweight backpacker and sometimes reach ultralight weights. My three day summer solo adventures (using a tarp) have me hovering around a 8 lb (3.6 kg) base weight.
Age: 52
Gender: Male
Height: 6 ft 1 in (1.85 m)
Weight: 210 lb (95 kg)
Email: sherpabob(at)mac(dot)com
Location: Longmont, Colorado USA


INITIAL REPORT

July 18, 2010


PRODUCT INFORMATION (From Website, including photo)
ULA CDT PackManufacturer: Ultralight Adventure Equipment (ULA)
Manufactured: 2010
Website: www.ula-equipment.com
MSRP: US $115
SPECS:

Torso Size: Tested M/L: 20"-22" (51-56 cm)
Hipbelt Size: Tested LG: > 33" (84 cm)

Volume Breakdown:

   - Main Body: 2,100 cu in (34.4 L)
   - Front Mesh Pocket: 450 cu in (7.4 L)
   - Side Mesh Pocket: 350 cu in ea (5.7 L)
   - Ext. Collar: 300 cu in (4.9 L)
   - Hipbelt Pockets: 30 cu in ea (0.5 L)
    Total Volume: 3,610 cu in (59.2 L)

General Guidelines
  
Rec'd Max Load: 25 lbs or less
   Rec'd Base Weight: 12 lbs or less

Listed Weights:
  
- Pack (Torso-M, Hipbelt-M, excludes
      removable components): 17 oz (482 g)
   - Hydration Sleeve 1.4 oz (40 g)
   - Internal Mesh Pocket 1.1 oz (31)
   - Water Bottle Holsters 0.8 oz (23 g)
   - Hand loops 0.8 oz (23 g)

Measured  Weights:
    - Pack (Torso-Lg, Hipbelt-Lg, excludes removable components): 19.8 oz (561 g)
    - Hydration Sleeve 1 oz (28 g)
    - Internal Mesh Pocket .8 oz (22)
    - Water Bottle Holsters 0.8 oz (23 g)
    - Hand loops 0.8 oz (24 g)
    - Removable Internal Back Foam Pad 1.1 oz(30 g)

Total Measured Weight (All components): 25.1 oz (712 g)
Integrated Features:
  • Internal Pad Holster - Includes .25 in (.63 cm) foam pad
  • Contoured Padded Hipbelt
  • Hipbelt Pockets
  • Contoured Shoulder Straps
  • Front Mesh Pocket
  • Adjustable/Bellowed Side Pockets
  • Ice Axe/Pole Retention Loops (2)
  • Side/Top Compression Straps
  • Drawstring Extension Collar
  • Dyneema Gridstop Fabric
Removable Features:
  • Hydration Sleeve
  • Internal Mesh Pocket
  • Water Bottle Holsters
  • Hand loops
  • Internal Foam Back Pad

Hipbelt Pocket

INITIAL IMPRESSIONS

My first overall inspection of the pack revealed the pack is very well made with straight seams and no loose threads. The pack is a frameless design as there are no metal bars or a plastic frame sheet adding rigidity to the pack. Inside the back panel there is a foam pad held in place with 2 elastic straps. I was surprised to see it as there is no mention of it on the website. The instruction sheet that shipped with the pack does mention it and says it is there to provide some padding between you and your pack contents. It is not meant to be used in place of a sleeping pad to provide rigid support.

REMOVABLE COMPONENTS:
Included with the pack are several removable components that will help reduce weight by not including them but also to customize the pack to your individual needs and likes.

Hydration sleeve: This sleeve measures 8 x 16.5 in (21 cm x 42 cm) and should accommodate most 2 liter water bladders. The sleeve attaches to the top inside of the back panel with 2 clips that have a clip on one end so it is removable. The hydration tube then feeds through a diagonal opening at the top on both sides.

Internal mesh Pocket: This small open mesh pocket hangs on the opposite side as the hydration sleeve and attaches the same way with 2 small snap clips. The pocket measures 7 x 5.5 in (17.8 x 14 cm), has a zipper and is the perfect size to store a wallet, car keys and keeps these items at the top of the pack for easy access.

Water Bottle Holsters: These adjustable, elastic cords attach to the front of the shoulder straps and will hold a tall slim shaped water bottle within easy access while hiking.

Hand loops: These attach to a plastic D-ring on the front of the shoulder straps. They are adjustable and can be used to support your hands, wrists or thumbs to give them a bit of a rest.

CDT Side ViewInternal Foam Back Pad: This pad is only 12 x 22 in (30 x 56 cm)  and is not big enough to sleep on but would make a great sit pad. I will need to decide if unfurling my sleeping pad inside the main pack bag is enough support and cushion or if I need to include this .25 in (.6 cm) piece of foam for extra comfort.

INTEGRATED FEATURES:
Contoured Padded Hipbelt and Shoulder Straps:
After putting about 15 lbs (6.8 kg) of misc. gear inside the pack I adjusted the hip belt and walked around the back yard. Everything felt comfortable and stable. We will see how comfortable after a long day on the trail. Both the hipbelt and shoulder straps only have about .25 in (.6 cm) of padding but at this stage it felt quite adequate. Both the shoulder straps and hipbelt are lined with a soft wicking mesh. I really like the way the hipbelt tightens. You grab the strap end and pull towards the center. It just seemed like a very natural way of doing it.

Adjustable/Bellowed Side & Front pockets: The mesh used is finer and is very stretchy. The front pocket is quite large at 10.5 x 15.5 in (27 x 39 cm) and will accommodate a lot of gear. The two smaller side pockets seem kind of small to me. I put a Gatorade bottle, which is wider and shorter than some water bottles and it did not seem very secure in the pocket even after tightening the elastic. I will be keeping an eye on how well these work on the trail.  With the pack on I could reach around and grab the bottle.

Hipbelt Pockets: There is one on each side and are big enough to accommodate smaller items like a digital camera, snacks, compass and a knife.


SUMMARY:
I am really looking forward to getting this out on the trail. My camping style is getting lighter and my total weight including food and water for 3 days should not even approach 20 lbs (9 kg) so I will be well under the max weight limit of 25 lbs (11 kg).

The pack has plenty of pockets for packing options and the removable items add a nice way to customize. The true test will be the all day comfort factor. Limiting the amount of weight carried is always the right first step but adjustability and being able to get the pack to fit my body for mile after mile of riding comfort will be the key.

FIELD REPORT

October 5, 2010


I have used the pack on two occasions during this testing period. One was a quick overnighter and I brought along only the bare essentials and the second trip I wanted to test the pack with a bit more weight so I went for 3 days and carried a tent on this trip. Basically the difference in weight between the two trips was the shelter I was carrying and the additional food and fuel. On both trips water was available so I only needed to carry 2 liters.

FIELD LOCATIONS AND CONDITIONS


Quick Overnighter:
First trip was a quick overnighter to Lefthand Reservoir which is one of my usual camping spots. You can drive to the Reservoir but I decided to park at a small parking area before the turn off road to the Reservoir. There are several trails that wind through the woods in the surrounding area. Mostly used during the winter time as cross country ski trails. I took one of the longer trails. Not sure it has a name. I estimate a solid 5 mi (8 km) to the lake. I hiked over the dam and along the north edge to the far side of the lake. The terrain was pretty easy with the occasional heavy brush and rocky trail. Elevations ran between 8,000 to 9,500 ft (2,400 to 2,900 m). Temperatures during the day were 85° F (29° C) dropping to 50° F (10° C) at night.


3 Day 2 night trip:
For this trip I went up to Rocky Mountain National Park and hiked to Finch Lake, stayed the night, then I hiked on to Pear Lake the next day. Round trip about 20 Mi (32 km). Again the weather was warm but mild with day time temperatures about 80° F (27° C) dropping to 45° F (7° C) at night.The trail is much steeper and rockier with elevations climbing to nearly 10,000 ft (3,080 m).


Overnight Pack Contents
Quick overnight pack contents using a tarp and a lightweight 32° F (0° C) Down quilt

Packed for Overnight  Packed for 2 nights

Packing:
For my overnight trip I went with my basic no-frills ultralight setup using a tarp and a lightweight down quilt and bivy sack. My base weight (no food and water) was only 8 lbs (3.6 kg). Add to that about 2 lbs (1 kg) of food and 2 liters of water at 4.4 lbs (1.9 kg) for a total pack weight of 14.4 lbs (6.5 kg). This puts me well under the recommended total pack weight of 25 lbs (11.3 kg). For the overnight trip everything fit in side with the exception of my insulated food coozy that I put in the front pocket. I put the sleeping pad inside the pack and let it uncoil as a large tube. I then placed everything else inside the tube. I also strapped my hiking poles to the outside as some of the hiking was on a road and I did not need them.

I also decided to use 1 liter Gatorade bottles for my water bottles. I like them because they are very durable and they have a wide mouth. They are also round versus flat like Platypus bottles so I was a bit concerned they would not fit well in the side pockets. They do fit you just need to tilt them back a bit and snug them down with the elastic draw cord. Getting them out while you are walking is not possible. This is not a negative for me as I like to stop, take my pack off when I have a drink.

For my three day trip I opted to carry a 2-man tent (Black Diamond Lighthouse) at 3 lbs 5 oz (1.5 kg). I'm still looking for the perfect 1 man tent. This time I packed the tent poles and sleeping pad in the front mesh pocket and everything else went inside. I have been using the hipbelt pockets to carry small items and snacks. This time my base weight with the tent was still only 10.5 lbs (4.7 kg) and with 3 days of food and 2 liters of water my total weight was only 20.9 lbs (9.5 kg). Still under the maximum weight limit.

PERFORMANCE IN THE FIELD

This pack is made for lighter loads. On my overnighter my total weight was 14.4 lbs (6.5 kg) and the mileage was also not very long. Though I find myself doing a lot of 5-10 mi (8-16 km) quick overnighters. This pack is a really good fit for those types of treks. Putting the sleeping pad inside the pack adds a lot of structure to the pack and it rode very well. It did a pretty good job of transferring the weight to my hips. At that weight and that mileage I was a happy camper.

For the 3 day trip with the addition of a tent and more food the pack was heavier and was not as comfortable the first day of the trip. The second day I packed it differently putting the sleeping pad back inside and letting it create a tube. The pack does have a thin foam back panel but the sleeping pad really adds structure and rigidity to the pack. By using a sleeping pad this way the thin foam back panel could be left at home saving a bit of weight.

I have been pleased with the construction and comfort of the hip belt. Even at over 20 lbs (9 kg) the hipbelt was comfortable and seemed to ride pretty well. The shoulder straps were great on my overnighter but were making my shoulders sore by the end of the 3rd day of my second trip. Using the hand loops did help a bit but on steeper sections of the trail I was back using my trekking poles. When using the hand loops you could pull the top of the pack forward slightly taking the pressure off my shoulders. Sort of the same effect that load lifters give on larger packs.

I did use the internal mesh pocket to put my keys and valuables in so they were close to the top of the pack when the trip was over. For my next trip I am going to switch to a hydration system and use the hydration sleeve inside the pack. Always makes me a bit nervous putting water inside a pack.

Likes:
• At the suggested weight limits the pack carries pretty well
• Plenty of options for pockets so keeping things organized is simple
• Love the durability. Everything else I am pretty easy on but packs seem to get abused the most
• Enough volume for a 3 day trek

Dislikes:
• Hipbelt pockets could be slightly larger

_______________________________________________________________

LONG TERM REPORT

November 30, 2010


FIELD LOCATIONS AND CONDITIONS

For the past 2 months I have used the pack on two additional occasions. Both were quick overnighters in the Indian Peaks Wilderness area west of Boulder in the Rocky Mountains. Elevations were between 8500 ft (2590 m) and 10,000 ft (3050 m). Temperatures have been getting colder and the weather has been getting wetter over the past two months. Temperatures ranged between 45° F (7° C) during the day to 20° F (-7° C) at night. For both trips I opted to carry a tent and a warmer 20° F (-7° C) down quilt. I am glad I did as light rain turned to a light dusting of snow by morning on each overnighter.

PERFORMANCE IN THE FIELD

I did increase my weight for both trips by carrying a tent and a heavier sleeping bag. Both trips averaged 23 lbs (10.4 kg) and the volume of the pack was pretty well tapped out. I probably could have found space for an additional days food to extend the trip by one day but that is about it. I am a big guy so most of my gear takes up more space than the average person. Most of my clothes are XL and I carry a long sleeping bag. For me in this configuration (cold weather gear list) I would say the volume of the pack will work for 1 to 2 days max. For someone smaller than me there would be room for additional days of food. For me this pack has the right amount of volume for a 3 to 4 day ultralight set up using a tarp and a light weight quilt.

I agree with the recommendation of keeping the maximum load at under 25 lbs (11.3 kg) On both trips by the end of the day my shoulders were a bit sore and any more weight than what I was carrying and the trip would have been uncomfortable. I don't feel this will be a pack I use for a winter backpacking trip. I would consider using it as a day pack during the winter as there is plenty of room for my down parka, food and some emergency supplies.

I have not experienced any durability issues and at this point, other than being pretty dirty on the bottom it appears to be brand new.

REMOVABLE COMPONENTS:

Hydration sleeve:
I did use the hydration sleeve for both trips and in the future I will not. I found that a full 2 Liter bladder creates a big bulge right in the center of my back. Not uncomfortable but noticeable. It also doesn't fit my style of packing and hydration. Even though I did not have any leaks I'm not real fond of putting water inside my pack where my dry clothes and down sleeping bag also reside. When I use the pack in the future I will carry my water in the mesh pockets on the outside.

Internal mesh Pocket: It weighs very little and it allowed me to store and find my keys and valuables easily at the end of the trip. I will continue to use it on future trips.

Water Bottle Holsters: I will remove these as I found no real use for them.

Hand loops: I will remove these. I did use them on occasion and might consider using them only when I am carrying on the heavy side. I like to use trekking poles and I find that I use them 95% of the time.

Internal Foam Back Pad: I will remove this when carrying lighter loads and I can put my sleeping pad inside the pack to add structure and padding to the pack.


SUMMARY

Overall I am pleased with this pack and I will continue to use it in the future. It is well made, durable and comfortable as long as you keep the load under 25 lbs (11.3 kg). For me I'm shooting for under 15 lbs (6.8 kg). That seems to be the sweet spot for me and this pack.

I would like to thank ULA and BackpackGearTest for the opportunity to test this pack.


Read more gear reviews by Bob Sanders

Reviews > Packs > Internal and External Framed Backpacks > ULA Equipment CDT > Test Report by Bob Sanders



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