Cotopaxi Nepal 65L Backpack Review
As a Boy Scout I spent lots of time on the trails at the beginning of the internal frame backpack era back in the late 80s. I still have the old Camp Trails Catskills backpack that I carried on a 75+ mile trek through the rugged wilderness of Philmont Scout Reservation in the summer of 1990. The harsh New Mexico sun faded it a bit on that trek, and I cobbled on a new buckle for the hip belt at some point in the early 2000s, but otherwise, it is still very serviceable.
Fast forward more than two decades and my old pack, which was a bit cutting edge in some of the design features, is looking a bit long in the tooth. The old Camp Trails pack is also rather heavy (a bit over 6.5 pounds when empty) and lacking a variety of evolutionary improvements. Yes, it was FINALLY time for a new pack!
Cotopaxi? Never heard of them
There is good reason I was not familiar with the Cotopaxi brand. The company did not exist the last time I was in the market for a backpack. Normally, brand research for a review like this is a chore, at best. Honestly, as great as some brands are, learning about them is BORING. Not Cotopaxi! The more I learned about the brand, the more excited I became. Oddly, my excitement for the Cotopaxi brand is nearly unrelated to the pack itself. I really like the pack, but we will get to that shortly.
Why Cotopaxi excites me
- Cotopaxi is a B Corporation. As I understand it, B Corps are a special type of legal business entity that has an obligation to shareholders to use company resources to pursue some stated philanthropic or social goal. B Corps are independently certified and must demonstrate their positive impact on their workers, suppliers, communities and environment. All worthy and lofty goals.
- Grants. While fulfilling the promise of their B Corp status, Cotopaxi actively funds initiatives aimed at improving Health, Education, and Livelihoods within the communities they influence.
What’s not to like?
Finally, lets talk about the pack itself.
How Cotopaxi describes the Nepal 65L pack:
“Our load-toting backpacking pack for international journeys and rugged mountain trails, the Cotopaxi Nepal 65L backpack maximizes comfort while minimizing weight. The pack’s main body features a butterfly zippered opening for easy access to your gear, and two large front zippered pockets and a removable top lid stash smaller items. For quick side hikes, trips to the market or dashes to the summit, the internal hydration sleeve doubles as a lightweight backpack. Configurable side compression straps, a top rope-compression strap and attachments for your ice axe and trekking poles secure you technical gear, and the included rain cover protects the pack in foul weather. Proudly made in our factory in the Philippines.
- Contoured, padded backpanel with adjustable torso length
- Adjustable, padded mesh waistbelt with zippered pockets
- Padded mesh shoulder straps with hydration clip and zippered phone pocket
- Removable top lid with internal organizer pockets
- Butterfly opening on main compartment for easy access
- Removable internal hydration sleeve doubles as an ultralight summit pack
- Two large front pockets, side water bottle pocket
- Top compression rope strap and configurable side compression straps
- Trekking pole and ice axe attachments
- Included rain cover
Weight: 2220 g (4.89 lbs)
Weight stripped, sans top pocket, rain cover, summit pack, and waist belts: 1540 g (3.39 lbs)
Dimensions: 85x29x20 cm (33.45×11.4×7.87 in)
S/M pack for torsos smaller than 45cm (17.7 in)
M/L pack for torsos greater than 45cm (17.7in)”
That is a lot of info.
Key points to me include:
- Large pack for extended treks that includes a light summit pack and rain cover for a bit under 5 Lb. Already I’m winning with more capacity and extra features vs my old pack.
- 2 Sizes. At 6’4″ and about 205 pounds I am not Sasquatch big, but I am a bit bigger than many “off the rack” packs will comfortably accommodate. Obviously, I went with the M/L pack.
- Rather comfortable padded shoulder straps and hip belt.
- Made to accommodate a hydration bladder, phone, and provide easy access to other small items via belt and strap pouches and top pouch access while the pack is on.
- Opens up wide for easy access to the upper and lower main compartments.
- Wire frame for support when carrying heavier loads, but keeping overall pack weight down.
5 pounds: not exactly light, but…
Yeah. The only thing I am not overtly enthusiastic about the Cotopaxi Nepal 65L pack is that it doesn’t fit the “ultralight” backpacking philosophy that I am trying hard to embrace…after 5 knee surgeries, 3 shoulder surgeries, and a herniated disc that flares up every few years. I may choose not to take this pack on my next trip
to Philmont Scout Reservation for a father / son trek in 2017 in favor of something lighter, like the Eastern Mountain Sports Sector 42 backpack that is next up in our backpack review queue and weighs in at a more svelte 2 Lb 13 Oz. However, for trips of 10 miles or less the more feature rich Cotopaxi Nepal 65L backpack has become my “go-to” pack. Sometimes comfort, features and utility win over weight savings. It should be noted that the Cotopaxi has a few items that can be removed to reduce the weight a bit, namely the top compartment, summit pack, pack cover, and compression straps.
I wrote the bulk of this review, then hit the woods for the weekend for one last trip with the Cotopaxi Nepal 65L backpack before wrapping up the review. A few really neat innovations jumped out at me on the most recent trip:
Removable compression straps: This is way cooler than it might sound because the design allows them to be moved around to different positions on the main pack for compression or attaching items. Ok, that part isn’t THAT cool… but it also allows you to attach things to the included peak bag allowing it to carry a good bit more stuff. I did this on the last trip when we took a 5 mile day hike to hit a few summits from base camp. I wore my fleece top when we left, but knew I would get too warm as we climbed. With my food, water and first aid kit in the peak bag, there wasn’t room for my fleece… until I remembered that the compression straps could be moved from the main backpack to the peak bag.
- Extras included: The Peak Bag didn’t excite me at first. It looked like a flimsy gimmick that I wouldn’t ever use… but then I used it and was VERY thankful it was included. The pack cover is another extra that you don’t normally see included with a pack. It is also secured to the back via removable elastic, which is a nice touch.
- Trekking pole / ice axe attachment: Lots of packs have this, but the Cotopaxi Nepal 65L pack uses a really neat single strap through a channel system to allow very quick and easy attachment of any such tools with only one slide lock adjuster.
When someone is loyal to a backpack for about 3 decades it is meaningful when that trusted pack is retired in favor of something new. The Cotopaxi Nepal 65L backpack has successfully done what no pack before it could accomplish… knocked my beloved Camp Trails pack off of the mountain. The Cotopaxi design is full of innovative and useful details, from optional items that can be removed for weight savings, to robust zippers to allow easy access to items deep within the main compartments, to an adjustable and well padded suspension system. Little details make a difference, like the various mesh bungee’d or zippered pockets in the top and back pouches for holding little items that are easily lost on the trail or the little key clip in the top pouch. While I have only backpacked with this bag 3 times, and taken it on 6 or 7 camping trips everything on the bag has held up well and appears to be very durable and rugged.
Gallery of Cotopaxi Nepal 65L pack images: