Guest - Not logged in 

Reviews > Packs > Internal and External Framed Backpacks > ULA Equipment CDT > Test Report by Carol Crooker

November 26, 2010



NAME: Carol Crooker
EMAIL: cmcrooker AT gmail DOT com
AGE: 51
HEIGHT: 5' 10" (1.78 m)
WEIGHT: 165 lb (74.80 kg)

For the past 10 years, I've backpacked about 30 days each year, usually in Arizona and the western mountains on trips that last 3 to 6 days. Weather has varied from 107 F to a low of 0 F (42 to -18 C). My three-season base pack weight varies from about 8 to 12 pounds (4 - 5 kg) and my winter base pack weight is about 18 pounds (8 kg). I normally use a tarp for shelter. I also packraft (backpacking that includes travel by raft) and apply the same lightweight principles I use backpacking.



Manufacturer photo
Manufacturer: ULA
Year of Manufacture: 2010
Manufacturer's Website:
MSRP: US$115

Listed Weight:
17 oz (482 g) for size medium with medium waist belt and excluding removable components
Removable components:
Hydration sleeve: 1.4 oz (40 g)
Internal mesh pocket: 1.1 oz (31 g)
Water bottle holsters: 0.8 oz (23 g)
Hand loops: 0.8 oz (23 g)

Measured Weight:
19.4 oz (550 g) for size large with large hipbelt and excluding removable components
24.4 oz (692 g) for size large with large hipbelt and ALL components
Removable components:
Hydration sleeve: 1.2 oz (34 g)
Internal mesh pocket: 1.0 oz (28 g)
Water bottle holsters: 0.7 oz (20 g)
Hand loops: 0.7 oz (20 g)
Internal back pad: 1.2 oz (34 g)

Note: Rounding accounts for the difference between the sum of the removable component weights (4.8 oz) and the total when all are weighed as a group (5.0 oz).

Volume breakdown:
Total Volume: 3610 in^3 (59.2 L)
Main body: 2100 in^3 (34.4 L)
Front mesh pocket: 450 in^3 (7.4 L)
Side mesh pocket: 350 in^3 each (5.7 L)
Extension collar: 300 in^3 (4.9 L)
Hipbelt pockets: 30 in^3 each (0.5 L)

Features: Internal pad holster, contoured padded hipbelt, hipbelt pockets, contoured shoulder straps, front mesh pocket, adjustable/bellowed side pockets, ice axe/pole retention loops, side/top compression straps, drawstring collar, and Dyneema Gridstop fabric.

Maximum load: 25 lb (11.3 kg)
Base weight: 12 lb (5.4 kg) or less


Upon initial inspection the ULA CDT pack is constructed of quality materials put together with careful attention to detail. Although this is a frameless pack, it is not merely a pack bag with shoulder straps and a hipbelt. It is obvious a lot of thought has gone into the design including several removable components so users can strip the pack for lightest weight or add options that fit their hiking style.

The ULA CDT pack appeared as I expected from the website photos and descriptions with one exception: There was a thin foam pad inside the pack along the back panel. The pad was held in place by the two pieces of elastic designed to hold a sleeping pad in place. Although this pad is not mentioned on the website, it is explained on the two pages of instructions included with the pack. It is intended to provide cushioning along the back of the pack. It is not meant to provide the rigid support a sleeping pad will provide.

I've listed the pack features above and these are well described by the photos on the ULA website. I will comment on some features that stood out for me.

- The hipbelt tightens by pulling the strap ends towards the center rather than to the sides. I find it much easier to tighten this type of hipbelt so this is a big plus for me.

- The hipbelt pulls through the side pockets which, on an empty pack markedly reduces the volume of the pockets when it is tightened. Testing will reveal whether this is also true for a full pack.

- The front mesh pocket is very stretchy with a much finer mesh than I've seen on other packs I've used.

- The hipbelt pockets are shorter than on other packs I've used. However, they are deep and easily hold my digital camera. It'll be interesting to see what they can hold as I test the pack in the field.

- I like that the sternum strap slides up and down without needing to unthread it to adjust its height.

Overall, a very positive first impression. It'll be fun to get this pack into the field.


Two sheets of instructions are included with the pack. The instructions include a maximum pack weight recommendation, tips on use, loading and donning/doffing the pack. There is also information on how the removable components are intended to be used. Everything is clearly written and easy to understand.


I left for a three-day trip as soon as the CDT pack arrived. Trying it out consisted of quickly loading it with a typical lightweight three-day load of food and gear plus a few extra luxuries (two books, a graphing calculator, and more than the usual complement of cooking pots) and an ultralight packraft, paddle and PFD (personal floatation device).

Total starting pack weight was nearly 24 lb (10.9 kg) which is just under the maximum recommended load. Everything fit inside the pack with the collar fully extended except the packraft and paddle. The packraft fit securely under the top compression strap and the three pieces of the paddle fit in a side pocket held in place by the side compression strap.

The pack is the right size for me. I ordered a medium/large pack even though my torso length (19 in, 48 cm) falls within the size range of the small/medium pack. I asked for a large hipbelt since my circumference at the hip bone level is about 37 inches (94 cm) and the large belt is for 33 inches (84 cm) or greater. There is a lot of excess strap when I cinched the hipbelt and about 3 inches (7.6 cm) of room to further tighten the straps. The pack felt fine on my back for the short trip to the car. My Field Report will include more details.


The CDT a nice looking pack with what appear to be useful features. I like the permanent features of a front pocket and hip belt pockets. My only concern at this point is whether a water bottle will stay put in the side pocket.

Check back in two months for my Field Report.



June 21-23, Chevelon Lake near Payson, AZ
This was a base camp trip with the base just a 30 minute hike from the car. Elevation was about 6000 ft (1830 m).
Sunny with a high of 100 F (38 C) the first day and a low of 45 F (7 C). The tent site was dirt packed a few inches/centimeters deep on top of a rock slab.

Front view.


I took one, 3-day trip during the Field Test phase. I loaded the CDT pack for three days, strapped a small packraft on top and lightweight paddles to one side. The hike in to my base camp next to a lake was only about 30 minutes on a rough, rocky trail. Upon arriving at the lake I put down the CDT and somehow managed to step on the buckle. The buckle is less robust than ones I've seen on other packs and it cracked in two. I added some duct tape and it held together fine a few days later on the hike out. I did not attempt to get the buckle repaired after returning home. A buckle is not designed to withstand someone stepping on it, but it happens. Thinking back I can remember at least two other times I stepped on pack hip belt buckles without damaging them. I'll use the CDT with my duct tape field repair on an upcoming four-day backpack trip to simulate cracking the buckle in the middle of a trip where there isn't the opportunity for a manufacturer repair. Once I return, I'll contact ULA about a possible repair.

Paddle in pocket.

On the short hike in, the pack rode well carrying 24 lbs (11 kg) (14 lbs/6 kg of baseweight plus food, water, boat and paddle gear). A thin foam pad (included with the pack) along the back panel helped transfer a little weight to my hips. I had an air mattress but did not try to configure that to provide rigidity to the pack. The top strap held the packraft on top of the pack. The 3-piece paddle fit in a side pocket held in place by the hook and loop straps at the top and the side compression strap in the middle.

Back view.

I packed my valuables in the removable internal mesh pocket and a hard cover book in the removable hydration pocket.

Water bottle in pocket.

I had some concerns about the security of the side pockets during my initial inspection of the pack since they have a steep slant. I had a 1 quart (1 L) Nalgene soft sided water bottle in a side pocket and it fell out when I leaned over to gather some wood. I'll be using a Platypus bladder on my next trip and will see if that stays in the pocket. The water bottle also interfered with my arm swing lightly. I've had this experience before with a new pack and then found that I quickly adjust and don't notice the water bottle after a few miles. I'll report back on my experience with the CDT after I get a few more miles in with it.

Water bottle falling out.


The CDT is a good sized pack for a short, lightweight trip or longer ultralight trip.

What I like so far:
- Light weight for the volume.
- Enough capacity for a three-day lightweight trip.
- Has several options to secure extra gear to the outside of the pack.
- Has removable options to hold gear inside the pack.

What I don't like so far:
- Hip belt buckle cracked when I stepped on it.
- Water bottle fell out of side pocket when I leaned over.

Belt pocket.



Packed for 4 days in the Adirondacks.
October 4-7, West Canada Lakes Wilderness in the Adirondacks in east, central New York
This was a very wet, 30 mile (48 km) loop hike in the region of the highest lakes in the Adirondacks. Elevation was about 2400 ft (730 m).
Always overcast with rain about 80% of the time. The low was 45 F (7 C) with a brief high of 62 F (17 C). Trails were usually wet and often under water. Total pack weight 23 lb (10 kg), with a base weight of about 13 lb (6 kg).


The CDT handled a 23 lb (10 kg) load well on my four-day trip in the Adirondacks. I kept the (supplied) foam pad along the back panel and also shoved my rolled up camp chair along one side of the back. I packed the pack tightly with the rest of my gear and cinched down all the straps to create a solid load. Weight was transferred to my hips and the nicely padded shoulder straps also helped make the load comfortable. The shoulder straps are the typical width of pack straps; a little wider would be even better to distribute weight across a bigger area of my shoulders.

I did not use a pack cover (I used waterproof stuff sacks and a plastic liner) so the pack was always wet. It seems no worse for the wear now that it has dried out. During the trip, the pack did not lose any functionality from being in near constant rain.

I had no trouble with a 1L Platypus bladder falling out of the side pocket once I cinched down the bungee cord on the pocket. I should have noticed this option the first time I used the pack since it is a mentioned feature on the website, but did not. I used the other side pocket to carry my bathroom kit with the pocket cinched tight. Nothing fell out of the side pockets during my sometimes bushwhacky trek.

I noticed that the fabric was pulling away from the grommet at the top of the pack sack.

I put my digital point and shoot camera in one belt pocket and was happy to see that my mini trail notebook fit in the other pocket along with some lip balm and a snack.

I couldn't quite fit my tent into the main pack bag but there was plenty of room for it and the day's snacks in the front, stretchy pocket.

I occasionally felt the full belt pockets as I swung my trekking poles, but not enough to bother me.

I removed all the optional pieces from the pack and did not miss any of them during this Adirondack trip. The thin pad that came with the pack is not listed on the website. I brought that along and was glad to have it on the trail (back padding) and in my tent (foot insulation).

The manufacturer website states that a medium hi belt fits less than or equal to 35 in (89 cm). I ordered a large hipbelt since I measure 37 in (94 cm) right at my hips where I like a hipbelt to be. The large hipbelt must be cinched down almost all the way to be secure on my hips. A medium hipbelt would have been a better size for me.

I mentioned in the Field Report that I had stepped on the pack belt buckle and cracked it. I called ULA and asked if this could be repaired along with the grommet at the top of the pack. ULA was happy to repair both free of charge. I mailed off my pack and received it back about a week later. Great customer service!


The ULA CDT pack is sized right for most of the short trips I take. It is constructed of tough fabric and has options I like such as belt pockets, a side pocket that is accessible on the move, and a front pocket. Even though it doesn't have an internal frame, I am able to pack it so that weight is transferred to my hips. My final like/dislike list follows.

What I like:
- Light weight for the volume.
- Enough capacity for a four-day lightweight, or longer ultralight trip.
- Has several options to secure extra gear to the outside of the pack.
- Has removable options to hold gear inside the pack.

What I don't like:
- Hip belt buckle cracked when I stepped on it.


I have several packs in my gear arsenal. I plan to choose the CDT for short backpacking trips where I expect some thorny desert bushwhacking.

This report was created with the Report Writer Version 1. Copyright 2010. All rights reserved.
Read more gear reviews by Carol Crooker

Reviews > Packs > Internal and External Framed Backpacks > ULA Equipment CDT > Test Report by Carol Crooker

Product tested and reviewed in each Formal Test Report has been provided free of charge by the manufacturer to Upon completion of the Test Series the writer is permitted to keep the product. Owner Reviews are based on product owned by the reviewer personally unless otherwise noted.

All material on this site is the exclusive property of
BackpackGearTest software copyright David Anderson