There’s a lot to like about the Nepal backpack, as well as Cotopaxi, the company that makes it. This durable 65 liter pack is made to carry enough gear for trips that span a week or more, not just days. It’s got a lot of details that you won’t find on packs of a similar size and price range, and a couple that you may not find anywhere else.*
In addition to two sizes (S/M or M/L), the Nepal also has an adjustable torso to get the best fit for most users. While that’s not yet standard on all packs, I think it should be. Especially for parents of growing teens. Other features include a rain cover, padding on the back panel, adjustable waist belt with zip pockets, and mesh shoulder straps that have both a hydration clip and phone pocket. Those are fairly common on most packs, just like the pole and ice axe anchor points. Less common features include a top lid with pockets that comes off, a hydration sleeve you can use as a very light pack, a main compartment that opens fully from the front, and a side-loading sleeping bag compartment. Two front pockets and a single side water bottle pocket round it out. Depending on what you carry, and how you load it, you may either love or hate this pack.
While our actual test period only spanned ten days, that gave us enough time to find out what we liked and didn’t like. For instance, the large “butterfly” opening worked well when it was time to pack and unpack, but not so great for access in the field. If you unzip it all the way, the whole pack sort of loses shape. And the divider doesn’t split it down the middle, rather it runs through at an angle, top to bottom. This meant I could load a fair amount of gear in above my sleeping bag, which I found handy. But then my wife would look in the main compartment for something that I packed through the sleeping bag opening. Not an problem for most people, but something to mention. It’s worth noting that if the main compartment had a drawstring divider, the whole pack might retain its shape better when open, and eliminate both issues. That’s one place where the love/hate may apply.
On the front, both pockets held all the small things we needed easy access to, but they really are not what we would call “large”. Again, you could keep things separate, but at the expense of being able to carry larger items. And the single water bottle pocket seems like an oversight. We didn’t take off the top lid, or use the hydration sleeve as a day pack, but both are options that are nice to have. When it came to comfort, I found the pack to fit my 5’10” frame well, and although I didn’t weight it when loaded, it was much more than my usual 24 pounds of photo gear. I have a bit more padding than most through-hikers, which can help or hinder, depending on the pack. And like all backpacks, fit varies from person to person, so you should try it in store with some weight in it before buying.
We have a tendency to get a little rough with our review gear, only because we want to ensure it will stand up to the worst that our readers might dish out. It can and will hold more weight than you would likely want to carry, so the Nepal came through with no tears, and all zippers and stitching intact. In case it didn’t, Cotopaxi offers a 61 year warranty on all their products. I’m not sure that the Nepal would last that long, but it’s sure to give you your money’s worth, and says something about their confidence in the build quality. Speaking of which, Cotopaxi uses a portion of the sale (they only sell direct) to fund humanitarian projects in developing countries. I like this sales model, as we benefit from a lower price, while still helping people around the world. To see the full spec on the Nepal, click on the link above, or go to the Cotopaxi website and check our their full line.
*The 61 year guarantee, along with the contribution to their humanitarian projects, certainly sets Cotopaxi apart from the rest. We’d like to thank them for supplying the Nepal for this test, so we made our own contribution to help those affected by the Nepal earthquake. Our donation was not part of Cotopaxi’s program, but was done in the spirit of giving back.