The North Face Cobra 65L is a high-quality pack that can comfortably handle moderate loads year-round. It is most at home on trails that end in snow or ice, as it has plenty of features tailored towards storing and protecting sharp tools such as crampons and ice axes. We found its skillset more geared towards an adventurer ready to extend their backpacking season past when the cold winds start blowing. It is also surprisingly easy to pair down the pack's frame and features to save weight when fast miles are the goal.
The North Face Cobra 60L Review
Cons: No water bottle pockets, small hipbelt pocket, fixed hipbelt and shoulder strap sizes
Manufacturer: The North Face
Our Analysis and Test Results
The North Face's Summit Series is known for being top-notch quality products, and with this addition, there is no doubt about its durability. It has several reinforced features ensuring the strength of the pack.
Suspension and Comfort
What first drew us to the Cobra 60 was the claim that it could carry 70 pounds at max capacity. While the pack might not fall apart at that weight, we found that anything above 40 pounds started to feel uncomfortable. The shoulder straps don't have as much padding as others in the review, and they taper down to a very thin surface on the edges that dig into the skin around them. The thin straps could be remedied by a jacket where the insulation adds more padding, which would keep it in the cold weather category.
The frame used for this pack is a plastic pre-formed sheet with two removable aluminum stays. You can access the frame from inside the pack, where it can be stripped of the aluminum stays (saving 4.7 ounces) or removed altogether (saving 12 ounces), allowing the pack to be paired down. This will enable you to save some weight for trips where less gear is required.
Similar to the shoulder straps, the hip belt is a thin dense foam that doesn't have added mesh for ventilation. It is attached by a velcro patch behind the lumbar pad and can be removed if the load is light enough.
Features and Ease of Use
The Cobra is a year-round pack with features to get you through every season and sports past traditional backpacking. With plenty of straps for your gear, a reinforced front shove-it pocket, and an easily removable two zipper lid, we found this pack easy to tailor to the trip we had planned.
Whether you are into long trips up to snow-covered peaks, a hiker on a long trail up into the Sierra, or just have a wet jacket/groundsheet, the front pocket can handle whatever you need to shove in it. It is reinforced and very sturdy, meant for sharp crampons, making it an excellent spot for any items, like a stove, that might poke through softer fabrics. It has a wide range of storage and can quickly be secured by the webbing straps on either side.
The hip belt only has one pocket, which is relatively small compared to most, fitting only 3-4 energy bars at a time. The pocket can't hold a phone to give a size comparison. The other side has a loop that allows gears to be clipped to it.
The top lid can easily be removed by unbuckling all four corners. It has two zipper pockets, one on top for quick access items and one underneath for storing weather-sensitive items. The top pocket uses glove-friendly zipper pulls and is a great spot to store a headlamp, guide book, sunscreen, and a few extra snacks to offset the small hip belt pocket.
There are no water bottle pockets on this pack so having a bladder is a must. There is a hydration sleeve inside the pack's main compartment with a labeled port that the tube can run through and a loop on the shoulder strap to secure the nozzle.
Instead of side pockets deep enough for water bottles, the pockets are very shallow and can be used for tent or trekking poles or lashing on skis in the off-season. We were able to use the side compression straps to secure our empty filter bottle, but wish that the pockets were deeper so it could perform double duty as a gear hauler or a bottle holder depending on the season and trip.
The pack comes with a removable helmet mesh, has a convenient and secure rope carrying top strap, and a sleek tip-hiding ice axe carrier. These features make this a great pack for year-round backpacking/ multisport adventures.
The variety of features and high-quality materials this pack has come in at a nice weight of 3.4 pounds. This is a little better than average in the review, which puts it in a good spot. Due to the ease at which the frame can be pared down or removed, the pack can lose 4.7 to 12 ounces bringing it down to around 2.6 pounds for those light and fast expeditions.
It is easy to remove the waist belt, lid, and extra straps to tailor the pack for a given trip. This makes it possible to shave ounces while keeping essential features. Don't need the lid, no worries. Simply unbuckle it and remove the webbing/buckles that keep the lid synched down by sliding them free.
Adjustability & Fit
This pack does not have the luxury of adjusting the torso height or extending the torso padding length. You have the option of either S/M or L/XL, which will work for most body types. If you are on the upper edge of the sizing chart, you may find that the pack's padding doesn't cover enough area to be comfortable. Having fixed straps and belts also makes it harder to share the pack between multiple people or have extended use for a rapidly growing child.
After testing this pack, our team found it suitable as one pack to do it all. If you only have the budget for one pack and enjoy winter sports, this pack is worth the money. If you are looking for a pack solely for backpacking, you may find others on the list have more convenient features geared towards the single sport. Because the pack has a decent carry capacity and the option to be stripped to save weight, it can serve in almost every adventure you have planned year around.
The Cobra 60 is a multifaceted pack that won't be left in the closet when the seasons change. It uses durable materials and quality metal hooks that keep your gear locked in. While it may be lacking some convenient features that would allow it to be a backpacking-specific user-friendly model, it does allow you to branch out of just one sport. Its design can help you feel confident that it could carry a rope or skis while still functioning as a trail pack well.
— Bennett Fisher
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