Cold Cold World Valdez
Thoughtful, durable, lightweight, low cost. Phone call, not web form. Not custom, but Randy will alter the pack to suit your needs.
Background: I’ve been a Cilogear fan since 2007. Simple lightweight packs are all one needs in the mountains. Cilogears seem to last me about four years of hard year-round service (2-300 days). As my 30:30 GS was coming due for replacement, and with an overseas trip in a month or so, I started hunting. Cilogear is running a 1-3 month lead time these days, so I couldn’t get a duplicate. A hands-on look at the new nicely-designed Patagonia Ascensionist packs made it clear that they wouldn’t survive a year of ski edges and abrasion. On to Cold Cold World (CCW), a line of packs I’ve wanted to try for a long time.
The pack: After a quick email to Randy to confirm that it’d be possible to order a Valdez in time for the trip, I called him the following morning. We chatted a little about the design of the pack, and settled on one small modification, a padded hip belt, which I regard as essential. Otherwise, we left his stock design untouched. How better learn a long-time pack-maker’s design philosophy than to try it out?
The pack arrived on-time and in excellent condition. Cilogear owners will note plenty of similarity in philosophy; “a garbage sack with straps” has long been the adage of the alpinist. The CCW Valdez is more tube than trapezoid, and the material is old-school Cordura. The longest-lived pack I’ve ever had (a Lowe Alpine Snowpeak 50, purchased in ~1996) was burly Cordura, only the packcloth has any holes in it today, none in the Cordura. The Valdez fabric isn’t quite as burly, but I’m hopeful that it’ll outlast my Cilogears.
I was surprised at the size of the pack; it’s smaller than I expected. I’ve viewed the Cilogear 30:30 as a 30+ liter pack, but it’s now clear that 40L is more appropriate. The Cold Cold World Valdez is bigger than the Cilo 30L, but palpably smaller than the 30:30. For me, the difference is significant, as I routinely do 2-4 day trips, winter and summer, out of the 30:30. After packing the Valdez for a lightweight 4-day trip, it was painfully obvious that the Valdez just wasn’t big enough.
One the size of the pack was understood, it was easy to turn the pack toward what it’s great at: 1-2 day fast trips. I’ve taken it to the top of Iceland’s highest peak, on fast daypacks in insistent rain, a scramble in the Cascades, and more. I barely have anything to say about the pack, and that’s exactly what I want. It gets everything done and stays out of the way. I expect the Valdez to become my go-to day+ pack for trips in all seasons where climbing figures prominently: mountaineering and summer ski mountaineering.
- Smaller lid – it’s a streamlined pack. The lid is a weather-resistant bullet pointed upward. I’m accustomed to large pack lids, big enough to keep everything at hand, but if lightly -loaded, my pack is often top-heavy. The change in organization is interesting.
- No inner organizer pocket – I’m used to Cilo’s ‘ninja pocket’. The Valdez is simplicity, not doodads. Expect to think a little more about organization.
- Thick back padding – Perhaps it’s Randy’s cold Canadian experience talking; this is a sweet removable bivy pad.
- Velcro lid stabilizer – holds the neck-side edge of the lid tight to the pack so that the lid doesn’t flop. Unvelcros easily to extend the lid. Awesome.
- Upward-pull shoulder-strap adjustments – a common talking point regarding CCW packs. An old Eagle-Creek travel pack I’ve used for years has the same system. It works fine.
- No load lifters – I miss ’em. The upward pull shoulder straps help. Carrying a tall load (extended pack collar, or skis), load lifters might help keep things upright. If you’re carrying a big load with the Valdez, you might be doing it wrong, though. The top of the pack body is barely tall enough to have lifters make sense. It’s not a philosophical thing; the CCW Chernobyl has lifters.
- Ski slots/straps – There are ski slots, beneath the lower compression straps. It’s the least-snowy summer ever in the Cascades, so I haven’t carried skis yet.
- Traditional ice-ax loops – As always, they work. They don’t dangle, and they’re light. With extra lead time, it may be possible to order Cil0-style pick-pockets, standard on the CCW Chernobyl, but they weigh more. With thought, I was able to get a Whippet into the loops (pull pole lower out, then put it back when the Whippet’s on the pack).
- Awesome hip-belt (special ordered) – it’s simple, and though Randy didn’t add gear loops or a screw-clipper slot, there’s a perfect slot between bar tacks for my always-there glove carabiner. It holds a Petzl flute easily, too.
- Color – Think blue, exactly as on the website. Any other color was a long lead-time special order when I ordered (I prefer red packs for visibility/safety).
- You can’t try it in a store – Packs without custom alterations are returnable if unused. If you’re a new climber, consult with a mentor, then Randy, before you order.
The Cold Cold World Valdez is a simple burly pack that’s an accomplished climber and pack-maker’s expression of the optimal day+ pack for vertical alpinism. No Cilo-style configurability here; if the layout, or a custom-altered layout, works for you, you’ll love it. Made in New Hampshire by someone who cares.
Did I mention the price? With the added hip belt, shipped to Seattle, Randy charged only $166.
Edit 11/1/2015: Finally got the pack out in driving precipitation. It’s not waterproof. Most packs aren’t. The Valdez is somewhat less waterproof than the Cilogears. As with most packs, if it’s pouring, you’ll want a trashbag liner.
Edit 7/26/2016: The Valdez has continued to perform nicely indeed. It carries skis nicely and is a generally competent climbers’ pack. It’s simple where Cilogears are fiddly. Yes, there’s only one way that the straps can be arranged, but so far, that one way has worked great. The fact that buckles that have different functions cannot be clicked together is a feature, not a bug.
The pack is small for many overnights, but perfect for day ventures with plenty of gear. Durability-wise, it’s holding up about as well as most other packs have. A year’s light/moderate use is too soon to tell.
The lid is perhaps a little bit small for my all-things-go-in-the-lid organizational system, but it also makes the pack smooth and clean. The Velcro lid attachment remains a wonderful touch.
I’m a fan.