The Vaude Cross Ultralight 35 is a well-designed, lightweight, smaller volume, internal frame backpack. It has most of the features you would want, is lightweight owing to clever design and construction elements, and uses very durable materials. It performs well with moderate loads - if the one size fits you.
- Lightweight yet very durable
- Novel cords for compression and load lifters
- Slide-adjusting sternum strap
- Well ventilated foam padding
- Mesh side pockets
- Excellent construction
What’s Not So Good
- Available in only one size
- Short torso length
- Side compression cords interfere with pockets
|2005 Cross Ultralight 35|
|Internal frame, top loading, drawcord closure, top pocket|
|One size 2100 ci (35 L)|
|1 lb 7.5 oz (666 g) measured weight; manufacturer’s specification 1 lb 8 oz (680 g)|
|Main pack body is 210d diamond ripstop polyurethane-coated nylon, pockets are nylon mesh with an elastic binding.|
|Two mesh water bottle pockets, contoured removable mesh hipbelt, contoured shoulder straps, slide-adjusting sternum strap, zippered top pocket, haul loop, side compression cords, load lifter cords, one hydration port (no hydration pocket), two front attachment patches, two ice axe loops.|
Volume To Weight Ratio
|89.4 ci/oz size L (based on 2100 ci and a measured weight of 23.5 oz)|
Comfortable Load Carrying Capacity
|20 lb (6.8 kg) estimated maximum comfortable load an average person can carry all day in this pack|
Carry Load to Pack Weight Ratio
|13.6 (based on a 20 lb load and measured weight of 1.47 lb)|
The first things I noticed about the Vaude Cross Ultralight 35 (besides the bright colors!) are its innovative design elements, simplicity, and fine craftsmanship. The framesheet is a piece of 3-millimeter semi-rigid foam that the other pack components are sewn to. Significant weight is saved by substituting simple cords with cordlocks for load lifters and side compression straps; even the ice axe loops are simple cords. Finally, the pack is beautifully made with perfect stitching and binding on all the seams.
Unfortunately, the Vaude Cross Ultralight 35 comes in only one size, and that size is small. Vaude claims that the pack will fit a person 172 to 190 centimeters tall (5’ 8” to 6’ 3”; Vaude sizes packs by person height rather than torso length). I measured the pack torso fit range (top of shoulder straps to center of hipbelt) to be 14 to 16.5 inches with the load lifters loosened or tightened, and the hipbelt in two positions.
The pack body is entirely made of a tough 210 denier coated nylon ripstop with a diamond pattern. The top pocket is sewn to the top of the backpanel, so it is not floating. It has a wrap-around single slider zipper for easy access. The outside also has two roomy side water bottle pockets made of mesh with an elastic binding.
The Vaude Cross Ultralight 35 backpack is a top loader with top pocket (top left). Backpanel components are sewn directly to a thin semi-stiff framesheet (top right). Side mesh pockets have room for a water bottle and more (bottom left). The top pocket has a wrap-around zipper (bottom right) for easy access.
Side compression is via a V-shaped cord and cordlock arrangement on each side of the pack. The design effectively controls pack volume for smaller loads, but the cords interfere with inserting items into the side pockets. The lower cord actually passes through a small grommet in the mesh pocket.
The backpanel components are sewn to a semi-stiff “trocylen foam” framesheet, then the pack body is attached to that assembly, with a backing of nylon fabric added to form a tight pocket for the framesheet. This produces a framesheet that is flexible to conform to the user’s back, yet is stiff enough vertically to transfer some weight (but not a lot) from the shoulders to the hipbelt.
The backpanel has two contoured foam back pads, a thicker foam lumbar pad, and the shoulder harness all sewn to it. The open-cell EVA foam and “Gertex” fabric really ventilates well and really soaks up water well, too. The 5-inch wide hipbelt is a coarse mesh with a slip-resistant plastic coating. It has an elastic daisy chain on each side for attachments. The hipbelt slips behind the lumbar pad and has a Velcro attachment, which makes it removable. It’s wing-shaped, so it can be flipped over to increase/decrease the pack torso length.
The shoulder straps are 2.25 inches wide, contoured, and made of the same soft EVA foam as the backpanel padding. Load lifters at the top are a simple braided cord, webbing loop, and cordlock arrangement that provides about 2 inches of shoulder strap height adjustment. The sternum strap has a novel slide attachment for height adjustment.
The ends of the sternum strap ride on “rails” for easy adjustment (top left). Load lifters (top right) are a simple cord, loop, and cordlock. The pack’s lumbar pad (bottom left) provides good cushioning. The wing-shaped mesh hipbelt can be flipped over to increase/decrease pack torso length, or it can be removed completely. Side cord compression straps (bottom right) interfere with inserting things into the mesh side pockets.
To determine the pack’s comfortable load-carrying capacity, I assessed both structural load capacity and suspension comfort (see related article on Quantitative Analysis of Backpack Suspension Performance by Ryan Jordan). I recruited my 5’2” wife for this test since the pack fit her much better than me. After testing loads up to 30 pounds, we determined that pack torso collapse occurred at 20 pounds, shifting weight to the shoulders. The thin, soft shoulder straps and unpadded hipbelt are minimally adequate for carrying 20 pounds all day, but the thick lumbar pad and hipbelt width help a lot. Load stability is good because of the flexible framesheet, hipbelt, and sternum strap. In my opinion, the Cross Ultralight 35 has a maximum comfortable load carrying capacity (the weight an average person can comfortably carry all day in the pack) of about 20 pounds.
Overall, the Vaude Cross Ultralight 35 is a nicely designed, high quality, lightweight, smaller volume, general purpose pack for a smaller person.
The Vaude Cross Ultralight 35 has some design features (backpanel components sewn to a semi-stiff foam framesheet, cord and cordlock load lifters and compression straps, sliding sternum strap) that are simple and elegant.
Recommendations for Improvement
Although there is a lot to like about the Vaude Cross Ultralight 35, its availability in only one size with a short torso length is a major limitation. It would be better if this pack were offered in standard sizes with stated torso fit ranges. The side compression cords are innovative, but their interference with inserting things into the side pockets is an annoyance. The problem could be eliminated by channeling the cords through sleeves sewn to the pack body.