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Cold Cold World Valdez 40L Backpack Review

Cold Cold World Valdez Backpack Review

The Cold Cold World Valdez is a 40L alpine backpack that’s great for winter day hiking, climbing, and ski touring. Weighing just 2 lbs 2 oz, it’s lower volume than Cold Cold World’s overnight and multiday alpine packs but still loaded with winter features from ski straps, dual ice ax holders, and crampon straps to a floating lid, daisy chains, and bivy pad. If you’re not familiar with Cold Cold World, they’re a small alpine backpack manufacturer with an international following in the hardcore climbing and mountaineering community. I’ve been using the Cold Cold World Chaos 60L Backpack for winter backpacking for nearly 10 years and it’s still the gold standard that I compare all other multi-day winter backpacks against.

Spec at a Glance

  • Gender: Unisex
  • Type: Frameless (just a foam bivy pad)
  • Top lid: Floating
  • Weight: 2 lbs 2 oz
  • Volume: 40L
  • Material: 500d Cordura
  • Ski slots: (8-1/2″ wide opening)
  • Hip belt: 1-1/2″ webbing strap
  • For complete specs visit Cold Cold World
The Valdez is purpose built to carry heavy metal climbing and mountaineering tools
The Valdez is purpose-built to carry climbing and mountaineering tools

Backpack Storage and Organization

The Valdez is a top-loading backpack with a floating lid and a 10″ extension sleeve. There are two zippered pockets in the lid, one on top and the other on the lid’s underside, but there are no side pockets, hip belt pockets or a hydration pocket. There is however a pocket that holds a thin foam pad in the main compartment and closes on top with a velcro fold-over flap. While you can remove or replace the foam pad, it’s primarily used to protect your back from the contents of the pack and to give the pack some “body”, so it’s easier to pack or find gear inside. Otherwise, the Valdez is effectively a frameless backpack.

The Valdez has a pair of crampon straps on the front of the pack
The Valdez has a pair of crampon straps on the front of the pack

When packing the Valdez, you’d store all of your extra layers, hats, gloves, food, and hot drinking water bottles (for winter) in the pack’s main compartment. I usually place my two hot water bottles (covered with wool socks for insulation) along the sidewalls across from each other to balance the weight inside the pack, stuffing my spare layers around them for additional insulation. They stay hot for most of the day and their warmth melts the cheese in my lunchtime sandwich.

All of my technical gear like snowshoes, skis, axes, crampons, and traction aids get strapped to the outside of the pack which is outfitted to carry them. The Valdez has two tiers of compression straps on the sides, which makes it easy to lash snowshoes to the side of the pack. There’s also a pair of ski straps, with an 8 and 1/2″ opening where you can slot backcountry or XC skis. There are two ice ax loops at the base of the pack and two pairs of beefy buckles higher up to secure the shafts.

I normally attach my Hillsounds to one of the daisy chains with a liner
I normally attach my Hillsounds to one of the daisy chains with a ‘biner

If you carry crampons, there a pair of straps that are specially designed to secure them to the pack. Arrange your crampons so the points face each other and then buckle them on. While you could also use the crampon straps to carry microspikes or Hillsounds, I usually clip mine to a biner and attach them to one of the two daisy chains that run down the front of the pack. Those same daisy chains have haul loops at the top, which together with the haul loop between the shoulder straps, can be used to haul up the pack when climbing.

Daisy chains on the shoulder straps make it easy to accessories to them
Daisy chains on the shoulder straps make it easy to accessories to them

Backpack Frame and Suspension

The Valdez is basically a frameless backpack with only a foam pad for padding behind the shoulder straps. While it does have a hip belt, it’s only a 1.5″ webbing strap to keep the pack from bouncing when you walk or scramble and enables the use of the pack with a climbing harness. When I first purchased the Valdez, I wasn’t sure that I’d like such a minimal hip belt, but it’s grown on me and I don’t miss having a wider or heavily padded one. However Randy, the owner of Cold Cold World, will make modifications to the pack if there’s something you want to alter.

The shoulder straps are modestly padded and have daisy chains sewn onto them, which makes it possible to attach accessory pockets, a satellite messenger, or navigation tools and keep them close at hand. The adjustment straps used to tighten them pull up from below, not down like on most packs, but work just as well as on any other pack (this feature is shared across the entire Cold Cold World product line). As long as you keep your total weight under 25 pounds, the Valdez carries quite comfortably.

The Valdez is only 11” wide giving it excellent agility
The Valdez is only 11” wide giving it excellent agility when hiking or climbing.

Removable components

If gear weight is a big issue, you can strip off the floating top lid which weighs 6.2 oz and is connected to the pack using velcro. The same is true of the foam back panel, which weighs 2.8 oz. This brings the 34 oz Valdez down to 23 oz, which is seriously light for such a full-featured pack. My preference is to keep the pack intact and fully functional because I like to use the top lid for storing extra hats and gloves and to carry a jacket or extra sleeping pad under the floating lid.

The floating lid lets you sandwich pads, jackets, or rope between the lid and the pack bag
The floating lid lets you sandwich pads, jackets, or rope between the lid and the pack bag


The Valdez is made with 500d Cordura which makes it plenty tough. In fact, it will last a lot longer than Dyneema DCF packs which break down after 2-4 years of use. The pack isn’t waterproof like a Dyneema pack so you might want to line it with a trash bag, but for winter use I don’t bother and just pack any gear I need to keep dry in waterproof stuck sacks instead. I really only use this pack in winter when liquid precipitation is less of a concern.

The Cold Cold World Valdez is the perfect size for winter day hikes and snowshoeing
The Cold Cold World Valdez is the perfect size for winter day hikes and snowshoeing


The Cold Cold World Valdez has become my goto winter day hiking and snowshoeing backpack during the past year. In addition to its technical gear attachment capabilities, I really like how the Valdez carries, even when it’s fully loaded. In addition to being lightweight, the pack is also quite narrow measuring just 11″ in width which gives it a degree pf agility missing in larger and wider backpacks. Priced at just $135, the Valdez is an absolute steal and well worth the investment if you’re looking for a good winter backpack.

Disclosure: The author purchased this product.

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  1. Randy provides great customer service. I am in the process of ordering a Chernobyl pack from him. He has graciously taken time to answer all of my questions about sizing and various customizations to the pack. A nice and easy buying experience.

  2. Most winter outdoors people need a pack of about this size for hunting, backcountry day skiing or snowshoeing. I’ve had one for 8 years and use it year around, often loaded for training hikes.

    A 40 L. pack can hold all your winter 10 (or 15) Essentials plus emergency gear like a sleeping bag, bivy and extra closed cell pads and food and water for two days.

  3. Philip, how would you compare the CCW Chernobyl to the North Face Cobra? Thanks

  4. Hello Philip!
    Would you suggest a separate pack for winter backpacking and day hiking or would you say, if weight is not an issue, that the 60L Cold Cold World pack would be as good of an option for winter day hikes as well?
    Thank you!

    • The 60L CCW Chaos is too big for day hikes. I only use mine for overnight. 40L really is the perfect size for a winter daypack.

      • With the Chaos pack, how much (total) weight do you usually have in it for overnights, and how do you find it carries given that it doesn’t have any hard structure (just the foam back pad, as i understand). I have a super comfortable Osprey Xenith i like for winter, but it’s awfully heavy (just over 5 pounds), so i’m looking for something lighter that can still carry well with all the extra weight and volume of a winter gear load (even as i’m trying to lower my gear weight as well).

      • Here’s a 23 lb winter gear list. Add in about 10-12 lbs of food, fuel, and water.

      • Thanks for the link to the list!

        So with food, water, and the “optional” stuff (~ 7 pounds) most of which i’d think would be needed on many trips, you’re up around 40 pounds. Not so different from what i’m lugging, though i think i’m a bit over that. Some people i know are push 50 pounds in the winter. I guess i need to go through and evaluate everything i’m carrying (again).

        So all that is carrying well in the Chaos?

        I think part of the solution for me is to tailor outings toward lower per-day mileages and/or plan to hike in to a “base-camp” spot, then do a day outing or two from there. It’s hard for me to maintain an adequate enough training regimen to be able to lug 40-50 pounds very far. Which is fine, as i really just enjoy being out, and don’t care so much about covering miles.

      • It carries fine. Packing a pack pretty tight actually works a lot like a rigid frame.

      • Good point. Thanks for the feedback.

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