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 was our favorite frameless pack, as it provides comfort, durability, and functionality.
Ultralight Adventure Equipment CDT Review
Cons: Foam pad falls out easily, shoulder straps lack support
Manufacturer: Ultralight Adventure Equipment
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Our Analysis and Test Results
With high scores in weight-to-volume, features, and adaptability, the CDT was 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.
It comes as no surprise that the CDT was 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. This is close, but still a bit higher, to the astonishingly lightweight Zpacks Arc Blast 55, whose weight-to-volume ratio is 11 g/L. The Gossamer Gear Gorilla also comes close to the CDT in this metric with a ratio of 13.8 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).
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. Compared to the Gossamer Gear Murmur, the CDT offers more support with its wide straps, but less ventilation.
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. There is no wasted fabric, whereas packs like the Hyperlite Mountain Gear 3400 Southwest 55 or the Mountainsmith Scream require a few folds to secure the top of the pack.
The pack also has a large, stretchy mesh outer pocket, which adds a great deal of storage. We liked the stretchy material, though it is not as durable as the pocket on the Windrider. 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.
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 and the Gossamer Gear Murmur, as daypacks or lightweight overnight packs. 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.
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. This is the same material used in the construction of the ULA Circuit, which also scored high for durability. In comparison to the other small-capacity pack, the Gossamer Gear Murmur, the CDT is miles ahead for durability. However, only the Mariposa and Gorilla by Gossamer Gear were consistently more durable.
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; if you are looking for a more substantial pack with similar features and design, and of the same brand, we'd recommend the ULA Circuit.
Ringing in at $145 online, 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.
Overall, we liked this slimmed down version of a classic Ultralight Adventure Equipment pack. The CDT has many of our favorite features from packs like the Ohm 2.0 and the Circuit 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