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 (http://www.ula-equipment.com)|
|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.
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).
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.
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).
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.
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.
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
- 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
- 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