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Ultralight Adventure Equipment (ULA) CDT Backpack Review

The CDT is a really nice frameless backpack that would be even better with a few revisions. And there is one thing you really need to know…


Overall Rating: Recommended

The CDT has a few shortcomings, but they are all easily correctable. It's durable, fits well, carries well, featured well, and it's a great value, but volume is way under specification, which surprised us.

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by Will Rietveld |


Ultralight Adventure Equipment (ULA) CDT Backpack Review - 1
Ultralight Adventure Equipment (ULA) CDT on a late summer backpack in the Southern Colorado Rockies.

The CDT is a frameless backpack with durable fabric, lots of features and included accessories for a great value. It sounds like the perfect pack, and it almost is, but there’s one thing you really need to know.


Year/Model 2010 Ultralight Adventure Equipment (ULA) CDT (
Style Frameless backpack, top loading, drawcord closure with top compression strap
Volume Size M/L tested.
Specified volume: 3610 cubic inches (59 L) including pockets and extension collar
Measured volume: 2700 cubic inches (44 L)
Weight Measured weight: 20 oz (567 g)
Manufacturer specification: 17 oz (482 g);
Weight of included accessories: 3.8 oz (108 g)
Sizes Available Unisex S/M, M/L
Fabrics Pack body is 210d Dyneema Gridstop, outside pockets are stretch nylon
Features Sternum strap, large front stretch nylon pocket, 2 side stretch nylon pockets with drawcord closure,
2 hipbelt pockets, 1 compression strap each side, 8.5 in (22 cm) extension collar, drawcord closure
and top compression strap, 2 tool loops, 2 ice axe loops, haul loop, removable backpanel foam pad,
removable hydration sleeve with 2 ports, removable mesh security pocket, removable hand loops,
removable water bottle loops on shoulder straps
Volume to Weight Ratio 135 in3/oz (based on 2700 in3 and measured weight of 20 oz (size M/L)
Maximum Comfortable Load Carrying Capacity 25 lb (11.3 kg) estimated comfortable load for an average person carrying the pack all day
Carry Load to Pack Weight Ratio 20 (based on 25 lb and a measured weight of 1.25 lb)
Options Two hipbelt lengths, two shoulder strap shapes


The CDT is a likeable pack, but there is one thing you need to know right up front: although the specified volume of the CDT is 3610 cubic inches (59 L), the measured volume is only 2700 cubic inches (44 L). That’s 910 cubic inches/15 L (25%) smaller than specified. Both volumes include the extension collar and all pockets. The actual volume (2700 cubic inches/44 L) is a nice volume for many ultralight backpackers; but the key point is that the CDT is a smaller volume pack than specified.

Ultralight Adventure Equipment (ULA) CDT Backpack Review - 2
Views of the ULA CDT pack: The frontpanel (far left) has a tall stretch nylon pocket that holds a lot of gear. The backpanel (second photo) is fabric against your back. Each side (third photo) of the pack has a sharply angled stretch nylon pocket and one compression strap. The bottom of the pack is tapered in. The CDT has a short extension collar with drawcord closure and one top compression strap (far right).

Ultralight Adventure Equipment (ULA) CDT Backpack Review - 3
Suspension system: Shoulder straps (left) and hipbelt are wide and well padded. Two shoulder strap shapes are available: an S-curve shape or J-curve (shown in center photo). The shoulder straps attach to the outside bottom of the pack (right), which helps to lift the pack.

Ultralight Adventure Equipment (ULA) CDT Backpack Review - 4
Features: The stretch nylon side pockets (top left) on my sample pack are sharply angled and have a drawcord closure. A number of useful accessories are included with the pack (upper right): a removable security pocket, hydration sleeve, and handloops. Hipbelt pockets (bottom left) are also standard, as are water bottle loops on both shoulder straps (bottom right).


Ultralight Adventure Equipment (ULA) CDT Backpack Review - 5
Late fall backpack in the southern Colorado Rockies carrying 22 pounds (10 kg) in the CDT.

Once I understood and accepted the fact that the CDT is a smaller volume pack than expected, (see previous section) I found it more likeable because I prefer a smaller volume pack. For a compact ultralight gear kit, the CDT has the right amount of room for a three- to five-day backpack.

The CDT has five outside pockets which hold a large amount of gear. The front and side pockets are stretch nylon, which is really nice, and hipbelt pockets are included. One drawback on my test pack is the side pockets are very angled - essentially a half pocket - so things can easily fall out. When I contacted ULA about the issue, they responded that many hikers had complained about that, so the pocket shape has been modified.

One other drawback of the CDT is its small extension collar. It doesn’t add much reserve volume to the pack for when you need it, and there is no extra length to roll the top down. Consequently there is a hole in the top where rain can enter (see top view above). The extension collar measures 8.5 inches (22 cm); 12 inches (30 cm) would be much better.

The CDT comes with a bunch of included accessories: removable elastic water bottle holders on both shoulder straps, handloops, removable hydration sleeve, and removable zippered mesh security pocket. Overall, the CDT is a great value considering its durable dyneema fabric, comfortable suspension, and included features and accessories.

Ultralight Adventure Equipment (ULA) CDT Backpack Review - 6
Clip on handloops (0.8 ounce/3 g per pair) come with the CDT. They provide a handy place to hang your hands on the trail (if you don’t use trekking poles) and take a bit of weight off the shoulders.

The pack I tested is a size M/L; the pack torso length measures 18 inches (46 cm) by the BPL method (inside of a shoulder strap to the middle of the hipbelt) and 20.5 inches (52 cm) by the conventional manufacturer method (top of shoulder strap to bottom of hipbelt). This comes out to about a size Medium +, so the CDT is not a good choice for taller hikers. My torso length is 20.5 inches (52 cm), and the CDT is a bit short for me, as shown in the photos.

The CDT is designed to hug the back and it has a comfortable suspension system. The bottom of the shoulder straps connect to the bottom rear of the pack, which helps to lift the pack. Consequently, in my torso collapse tests to measure pack load carrying capacity, the CDT did better than many of its frameless competitors, carrying up to 25 pounds (11.3 kg) comfortably.

Ultralight Adventure Equipment (ULA) CDT Backpack Review - 7
The CDT has only one compression strap on each side, which creates an hourglass shape when drawn. The single pair of compression straps do not reduce pack volume very much, only a 27% reduction by my measurements. Another compression strap on each side would help a lot.


Comparative specifications can be found in my Frameless Backpack State of the Market Report 2011. The closest comparisons are the Zpacks Dyneema X 26, Gossamer Gear Gorilla, Hyperlite Mountain Gear Windrider, Six Moon Designs Swift, and GoLite Jam.


With a few revisions, the CDT would be high on our list of favorite frameless packs. The sharply angled side pockets, needed compression straps, and short extension collar are easily corrected, and of course the volume needs to be accurately stated. Its actual volume (2700 cubic inches/44 L) is right in the sweet zone for ultralight backpacking, it has a comfortable suspension, it has a great feature set, it carries a decent load, and it’s a great value.

What’s Good
  • Durable fabrics and mesh
  • Comfortable suspension system
  • Comfortably carries moderate loads
  • Large stretch nylon front pocket and side pockets for convenient access to items needed on the trail
  • Lots of features and included accessories
  • Excellent construction, very sturdily built, with adequate reinforcements
  • Fits well (if you choose the correct size)
  • Excellent value
What’s Not So Good
  • Volume is way under specification
  • Gear falls out of side pockets (corrected in current version)
  • Extension collar is too short
  • Torso length for size M/L is on the short side, so this is not a good pack for taller people
Recommendations For Improvement
  • Accurately state the pack volume
  • Add 4 inches (10 cm) to the extension collar
  • Add one more compression strap to each side
  • Make the side pockets taller with a less angled opening (this has been implemented in the current version)
  • Offer a true size Large
Disclosure: The manufacturer provided this product to the author and/or Backpacking Light at no charge, and it is owned by the author/BPL. The author/Backpacking Light has no obligation to review this product to the manufacturer under the terms of this agreement.


"Ultralight Adventure Equipment (ULA) CDT Backpack Review," by Will Rietveld. (ISSN 1537-0364)., 2011-05-31 00:00:00-06.


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Ultralight Adventure Equipment (ULA) CDT Backpack Review
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Addie Bedford
(addiebedford) - MLife

Locale: Montana
Ultralight Adventure Equipment (ULA) CDT Backpack Review on 05/31/2011 14:40:22 MDT Print View

Companion forum thread to:

Ultralight Adventure Equipment (ULA) CDT Backpack Review

Jonathan Ryan
(Jkrew81) - F - M

Locale: White Mtns
Re: Ultralight Adventure Equipment (ULA) CDT Backpack Review on 06/01/2011 06:13:03 MDT Print View

I have always been a fan of this pack. My wife has used her conduit for years and never had a complaint. A year back I bought one and while I loved it, I ended up selling it due to the short sizing. I am 6'4" and found the same torso sizing issue as Will.

Dave -
(FamilyGuy) - F

Locale: Up there
Ultralight Adventure Equipment (ULA) CDT Backpack Review on 06/01/2011 08:47:41 MDT Print View

The new CDT appears to be in three sizes now - s,m,l. Will, do you know where the M/L pack you tested would 'fall' in this new sizing range? Thanks,

Tor Magnus Castberg

Locale: Norway
hipbelt/backlength on 06/01/2011 12:02:48 MDT Print View

I believe M/L refers to hipbelt size / back length.

I.e. the size of his hipbelt is M and the length of the back is L.

PS: Reading again the sizes he states as available it doesn't make sense to me at all. Either these packs have been differently sized before, unlike their other pack, or the author is mistaken with the data.

Edited by logrus on 06/01/2011 12:14:04 MDT.

Dave -
(FamilyGuy) - F

Locale: Up there
Ultralight Adventure Equipment (ULA) CDT Backpack Review on 06/01/2011 12:05:28 MDT Print View

Hi Tor - my CDT from 2010 was a M/L size. There were only two sizes at the time, one of which was small.

Derek Johnson
ULa on 06/01/2011 17:55:21 MDT Print View

The website still shows the angled side pockets is there something im missing? and with the hand straps how does that take weight off of your shoulders when it is pulling on them?

Bradford Rogers
(Mocs123) - MLife

Locale: Southeast Tennessee
Re: ULa on 06/01/2011 18:37:45 MDT Print View

I bought one a few weeks ago and it still has the angled pockets. I like being able to get my water bottle easily, but these do seem a little over the top in that regard.

Sean Staplin
(mtnrat) - MLife

Locale: Southern Cdn Rockies
Side pockets on 02/05/2013 23:45:55 MST Print View

I actually really like the angled mesh side pockets. When used with 1 litre platypus, they cradle them perfectly and can be removed and replaced easily while hiking. They stayed in the pockets very securely even while doing serious bushwhacking. I just made sure the bungie's were tight and the platys were deeply cradled in the pockets. I could see how other things might fall out though, especially a hard plastic water bottle.

Nick Gatel
(ngatel) - MLife

Locale: Southern California
Re: Side pockets on 02/07/2013 20:37:19 MST Print View

I used to have a Conduit, which I think is now the CDT. The reason I got rid of it was the side pockets. I could keep a platy in it on flat easy trails, but hiking cross country going up and down canyon walls, they would not stay put no matter what I did. Perhaps they have changed them. When I contacted Brian Flankel (who was very nice BTW), he said the pockets were designed for the typical 16 oz water bottle, not the thicker ones like sports drinks, or for platys. I have not had good luck with mesh pockets on any brand pack.

ULA Conduit






Below are some side pockets that do work well, IMO.

Water Pocket LBP
This is a 64 ounce Gatorade bottle.

08 McHale Pack
Two 64 ounce Gatorade bottles.

Two 1 liter platys.

1 liter platy.

Edited by ngatel on 02/07/2013 20:38:18 MST.