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Ultralight Adventure Equipment CDT Review

A lightweight, simplified version of our favorite pack from this same company, making a durable, well-designed option
Ultralight Adventure Equipment CDT
Photo: Ultralight Adventure Equipment
Top Pick Award
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Price:  $145 List
Pros:  Simple design, inexpensive, durable
Cons:  Foam pad falls out easily, shoulder straps lack support
Manufacturer:   Ultralight Adventure Equipment
By Jane Jackson ⋅ Senior Review Editor  ⋅  Apr 30, 2020
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76
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#5 of 15
  • Weight-to-Volume Ratio - 35% 8
  • Comfort to Carry - 25% 6
  • Features - 20% 8
  • Adaptability - 10% 8
  • Durability - 10% 9

Our Verdict

Just as the company claims, the ULA CDT is a lightweight, frameless pack that shines with loads under 20 pounds. This is the lightest pack Ultralight Adventure Equipment makes, and it remains consistent with the company's other models when it comes to features and construction. It's super simple in its design, featuring three large external pockets and a slim foam pad for support. The internal capacity is 36 liters, but the pack itself can carry a little over 50. This versatility, combined with the durable materials and overall design, won us over. The CDT is one of our favorite frameless packs, as it provides comfort, durability, and functionality.

Compare to Similar Products

 
Awards Top Pick Award Best Buy Award  Best Buy Award  
Price $145 List$139.95 at Backcountry
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$160 List$199.95 at Backcountry
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$165 List
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Pros Simple design, inexpensive, durableVery light, large volume, versatile compression systemVery lightweight, relatively inexpensive, thoughtful designGreat for medium loads, inexpensive, thoughtful set of features, external storage and lashing optionsLightweight, useful pockets, comfortable for medium-sized loads
Cons Foam pad falls out easily, shoulder straps lack supportNo frame, poor comfort for medium loadsDesigned for a specific use, lacks versatility, lacks durabilityHeavy, less durable than othersLacks durability of other models, lacks versatility because of small capacity
Bottom Line A lightweight, simplified version of our favorite pack from this same company, making a durable, well-designed optionFor the ultimate lightweight pack, this pack steals the show with its entirely frameless design and streamlined set of featuresDesigned for the lightest travelers on the trail, with minimal features and lightweight materialsThis incredible pack has tons of features, carries medium-sized loads well, and is comfortable to bootThis small capacity, lightweight pack is great for mega lightweight overnight excursions
Rating Categories Ultralight Adventur... Granite Gear Virga 2 Gossamer Gear Murmur Osprey Exos 48 Gossamer Gear Kumo 36
Weight To Volume Ratio (35%)
8.0
10.0
10.0
4.0
8.0
Comfort To Carry (25%)
6.0
5.0
5.0
9.0
6.0
Features (20%)
8.0
6.0
6.0
8.0
7.0
Adaptability (10%)
8.0
6.0
5.0
7.0
5.0
Durability (10%)
9.0
7.0
5.0
8.0
5.0
Specs Ultralight Adventur... Granite Gear Virga 2 Gossamer Gear Murmur Osprey Exos 48 Gossamer Gear Kumo 36
Measured Weight 24 oz 18.5 oz 12.5 oz 37.6 oz 21 oz
Stripped Weight 23 oz 18.5 oz 9 oz 33.9 oz 15.2 oz
Claimed Volume 54 L 50-58 L 36 L 48 L 36 L
Measured Main Pack Volume 45 L 41 L 29L 40 L 28 L
Measured Volume Total (minus hip belt and shoulder strap pockets) 53 L 49 L 40L 59 L 38 L
Measured Volume Stripped (minus hip belt, shoulder pockets, and removable lids) 53 L 49 L 40L 53 L 38 L
Average Weight-to-Volume Ratio (grams/Liter) 12.8 g/L 10 g/L 7.6 g/L 18.9 g/L 13.5 g/L
Carrying Comfort 15 pounds Great Good Great Good Great
Carrying Comfort 30 pounds Poor Poor Poor Great Poor
Frame Type Removable foam pad None (foam pad) Removable foam pad Tensioned Frame - AirSpeed SL Suspension Foam pad
Fabric 210 Robic nylon, 400d Robic Bottom Panel Cordura 30 & 70D rombic nylon 100D high tenacity nylon, 100D high tenacity ripstop nylon 100D Robic double diamond rip stop
Main Pack Pockets 3 3 3 3 3
Hip Belt Pockets 2 None 2 None 2
Single Hip Belt Pocket Capacity 2 cliff bars N/a 2 cliff bars N/a 1 clif bar
Shoulder Strap Pockets No No No No 2
Whistle on Sternum Strap No None Yes Yes Yes
Internal Hydration Sleeve Yes Yes No Yes Yes
Bag Sizes/Torso Lengths Available S, M, L, XL Long, short, regular One Size S, M, L One size
Mix and Match Hip Belt Sizes S, M, L, XL No No No No
Can Easily Strip Off Frame and Hip Belt No No Yes No Yes
BearVault BV500 Compatibility Ok Ok No Just OK No
Lid (aka Brain) No No No Yes, Removable No

Our Analysis and Test Results

With high scores in weight-to-volume, features, and adaptability, the CDT is a remarkable little pack, at an impressive price. We were awed by its overall performance, though it did lose points in comfort when loaded down with more weight than recommended.

With a maximum capacity of around 18 pounds, this pack is best used for overnights or ultralight backpackers with a base weight between 10 and 12 pounds. Its large capacity makes it a good option if you plan on bringing lots of bulky, but light, gear. Since it can compress down so much, this pack also works well as a daypack, especially if you are looking for something with a fixed waist belt and plenty of storage. For lighter loads, we loved the CDT.

Performance Comparison


The outer shove-it pocket provided great external storage and...
The outer shove-it pocket provided great external storage and organization options for this minimalist pack.
Photo: Eric Bissell

Weight-to-Volume Ratio


It comes as no surprise that the CDT is one of the top-ranking packs in our weight-to-volume metric. The pack is a glorified sack with a very thin foam pad, which provides a bit of structure to the back panel.


In addition to a full-size hip belt, the CDT also has three external pockets; all of these features add up to make an incredibly lightweight model. We were surprised when we measured the volume, and it proved to have a 53-liter capacity. This capacity, combined with a weight of 24 ounces, gave the CDT a weight to volume ratio of 12.8 g/L. The downside to the CDT's high score in this metric is its lack of support for heavy loads. Its capacity is such that it can carry a fair amount but lacks the support required to carry these types of loads comfortably (above 30 pounds).

For such a simple pack, we were impressed by the comfort...
For such a simple pack, we were impressed by the comfort, durability, and features that the CDT provided.
Photo: Eric Bissell

Load Carrying Comfort


The CDT received a "great" for 15-pound loads and just an "okay" for 30-pound loads. Though the pack lacks a frame, the shoulder straps and waist belt are wide enough to distribute the weight.


We didn't experience any discomfort with loads under 30 pounds, but once it was loaded down, the weight landed on our shoulders - more so than our hips. The foam back panel works to protect your back from pressure points caused by objects inside the pack but does not provide the rigidity needed to share the weight evenly between the waist and shoulder straps.

The CDT is available in both a cinch closure and a roll-top. We...
The CDT is available in both a cinch closure and a roll-top. We tested the cinch and found it provided a little bit more space in the top of the pack when the CDT was fully loaded up.
Photo: Eric Bissell

Features


The CDT has a unique drawstring closure system and no lid, adding to its overall rucksack feel.


We liked this closure mechanism because it provides more storage than the traditional roll-top.

The CDT rides low on the shoulders and works best with fairly light...
The CDT rides low on the shoulders and works best with fairly light loads.
Photo: Eric Bissell

The pack also has a large, stretchy mesh outer pocket, which adds a great deal of storage. The side water bottle pockets are constructed out of solid 210D Robic nylon and have a drawstring closure at the top; this feature was nice for keeping water bottles or other items in place. One hold-up we had with the CDT was its numerous elastic clip-in points on the shoulder straps. We found these to be superfluous and rarely used them on the trail. Perhaps if you are interested in clipping lots of items to the front of your torso while hiking, these would come in handy, but we found little use for them.

Adaptability


Assessing the adaptability of this pack is a bit difficult since the CDT isn't designed to carry more than 18 pounds.


With that in mind, the pack is quite adaptable, as it performs well as a simple daypack, or can suit one's ultralight needs for days out in the backcountry (depending on how lightweight you like to go). We were most impressed with this pack as a daypack or lightweight overnight pack. When loaded with more weight, even though it has the carrying capacity for it, the CDT falls short when it comes to performance. If you're one of the lucky souls that can pack all you'll need in under 18 pounds, this pack might be your ticket.

The material used in the CDT and other ULA packs is durable, yet has...
The material used in the CDT and other ULA packs is durable, yet has some give. This makes these packs some of the most durable packs we tested.
Photo: Eric Bissell

Durability


This pack uses robust fabric, earning a high durability score. After loads of time on (and off!) trail, we found no signs of wear and tear on the pack. Of all the fabrics tested, the ULA 210 Robic fabric found in the main body is about as abrasion-resistant as it gets.


The Robic fabric used for the side pockets also upheld many days in the backcountry and remains unscathed. The tight-knit, yet still stretchy mesh outer pocket is the weakest link for durability since it can catch and tear on branches. In our experience, though, the CDT offers excellent performance in the durability metric.

The shoulder straps on the CDT tended to feel less supportive once...
The shoulder straps on the CDT tended to feel less supportive once the pack was loaded up with loads surpassing 25 pounds.
Photo: Eric Bissell

Value


This pack is relatively inexpensive as far as ultralight models go. That said, it is fairly specific and has a relatively small carrying capacity, especially going by weight. That makes the CDT a bit limiting as an all-around pack, though it does fit its niche nicely. We would recommend buying a pack with a bit more support or a larger capacity for longer trips. If you are looking for a pack for specific, shorter-duration missions, the CDT is an excellent choice.

The waist belt pockets were located a bit far back on the waist...
The waist belt pockets were located a bit far back on the waist belt, making them hard to access.
Photo: Eric Bissell

Conclusion


Overall, we liked this slimmed-down version of a classic Ultralight Adventure Equipment pack. The CDT has many of our favorite features from other ULA packs but in a frameless design. The CDT is fairly narrow in focus since it is not designed for loads larger than 18 pounds. However, the combination of the CDT's reasonable price, its feature set, and durable design make it our Top Pick for Small Loads.

Jane Jackson