The North Face Cobra 60 is a versatile winter backpack suitable for climbing, multi-day mountaineering-style winter trips, and backcountry skiing. Like many specialized winter packs, it can be configured in a number of different ways, depending on your trip needs, with optional components that can be removed if they’re not needed. Fully configured, the Cobra 60 weighs 3 pounds 11 ounces, but that weight can be dropped as low as 1 pound 13.9 ounces in a more minimal configuration. The Cobra 60 is an impressive winter backpack, one that was obviously designed for and tested by winter athletes, judging by the excellent balance between features and function on the pack.
Specs at a Glance
- Volume: 60 Liters
- Gender: Unisex
- Torso Length: 16″-21″
- Hip Belt Length : 28″-42″
- Size (Fully Configured Weight): S/M (3 lbs 11 oz), M/L (3 lbs 13 oz)
- Size S/M: Stripped Weight, Actual: 29.9 oz.
- Removable components:
- Hip belt padding: 5.9
- Framesheet w/ 2 stays: 13.5 oz.
- Top lid: 5.7 oz.
- Mesh Helmet carry: 1.0 oz.
- Materials: Cordura Nylon
- Type: Internal Frame
- Max recommended load: 40 lbs.
Backpack Storage and Organization
The Cobra 60 is an alpine-style top loader with a large main compartment that closes with a drawstring. It has a floating top lid pocket which can be removed if not required. The top lid connects to the pack in four places: two clips outside the shoulder straps and two attached to straps on the front of the pack. When the top lid is removed, its two rear straps can be routed to the clips outside the shoulder straps to form a third tier of side compression straps.
There is a permanently attached speed lid (a flap of fabric) underneath the top lid that covers the drawstring opening to keep out snow and rain and can be used alone if you decide to leave the top lid off the pack. This is a great option, especially if top lids tick you off. A floating top lid is a great option if you want to sandwich gear under it, like a rope, but it can flop around annoyingly if it’s overpacked and top-heavy. I’ve been hiking with just the speed lid and prefer that configuration when I don’t need the extra navigation tool, glove, or hat storage that the top lid provides.
The Cobra’s main compartment has an internal hydration pocket with a central hang loop. There is an oversized rear crampon pocket on the front of the pack, large enough to store crampons, microspikes, a shovel blade or extra layers. It’s quite a big pocket and much more useful than a pocket that’s only sized for storing crampons. A clip-on mesh helmet carry is also provided, which can be attached to the outside of the oversized pocket, as well as two side wand pockets.
The hip belt padding has one small zippered pocket with a solid fabric face on the right and an external gear loop on the left, so you can clip gear to it. The small pocket has a glove compatible zipper pull for ease of use.
Backpack Compression and External Attachment System
The Cobra 60 has one of the best external attachment systems I’ve ever seen on a winter backpack. You can carry snowshoes, ice axes, skis, an avalanche probe, shovel, a rope, insulated water bottle holders, attach a climbing helmet, attach it to a sled, or rack climbing gear. Yeah!
The Cobra has two tiers of side compression webbing straps which can also be used to attach snowshoes to the side of the pack. There are no dedicated ski straps, so you’d use the same straps if you wanted to do a ski carry.
The pack has dual axe pick sleeves located under the base of the front crampon pocket that are compatible with all climbing and walking ice axes. The shafts are secured under the side webbing straps that hold the oversized front crampon pocket closed.
There are twelve short webbing loops sewn into the seams of the pack: four on the front, six on the rear, and two on the top lid pocket. These are really handy to attach gear to the pack like the mesh helmet carry or and an insulated water bottle holder, as shown above, attached with a carabiner. The position of this water bottle is perfect. It’s easy to reach while wearing the pack, but doesn’t bounce against the side of my hips when I’m hiking or snowshoeing the way it would if attached directly to the hip belt.
The oversized front crampon pocket has four straps at the corners that help control its volume. You might be able to use two of its two straps as a diagonal ski carry, but that’s a long shot. I’d recommend strapping your skis to the sides of the pack instead.
If there’s one weakness on the Cobra 60, it’d be the shoulder straps, which don’t have daisy chains sewn to their outside. There’s just one hydration hose keeper loop on each strap that you can attach an accessory pocket to. If you want a good pocket that will work, try the Gossamer Gear Shoulder Strap Pockets. They’re big enough for a small camera or phone.
Backpack Frame and Suspension System
The Cobra 60 has a pre-formed internal framesheet with two aluminum stays that can be removed if you want to lower the pack’s weight. It’s stored in a velcro’d pocket behind the hydration pocket which is large enough that you could replace it with a bivy pad. The framesheet slots down into a lumbar area pad in front of the hip belt padding. It does a marvelous job of protecting your back from sharp objects in the pack and providing load transfer to the hip belt, while the stays can be bent for further customization. The carry is fairly stiff, which is optimal if you’re hauling a lot of winter gear weight and tools.
The hip belt has two components – webbing straps and hip belt padding. The webbing is anchored to the corners of the pack bag, just inside of the wand pockets. If you want, you can remove the padding (which is anchored with a velcro patch behind the lumbar pad) and just wear the webbing straps as a simple, unpadded hip belt. This can be useful if you’re wearing a climbing harness. The webbing threads through fabric slots sewn on the padding (under the hip belt pocket and the gear loop). The hip belt usually comes fully configured with the padding attached, but you have the option to strip it down if you want.
Comparable Winter Backpacks
|Make / Model||Weight||Floating Lid||Crampon Pocket||Hip Belt Loops||Ski Carry|
|The North Face Cobra 60 L||57 oz||Y||Y||Y||Y|
|Gregory Denali 75 L||72 oz||Y||-||Y||-|
|The North Face Phantom 50 L||40 oz||Y||-||Y||Y|
|Black Diamond Mission 75 L||64 oz||Y||Y||Y||-|
|Cold Cold World Chaos 66 L||60 oz||Y||Y||Y||Y|
|Exped Lightning 60 L||41 oz||-||-||-||Y|
|Hyperlite Mountain Gear Ice Pack 70 L||37 oz||-||Y||Y||Option|
|Mountain Hardwear AMG 55||74 oz||Y||Y||Y||Y|
|Osprey Mutant 52 L||55 oz||Y||-||Y||Y|
|Sierra Designs Flex Capacitor 60-75L||42 oz||-||-||-||-|
The North Face Cobra 60 winter backpack is a great snowsport backpack than can be used and configured in an impressive variety of ways for winter backpacking, climbing, mountaineering, and backcountry skiing. With 60L of capacity, the Cobra is best used for overnight or multi-night trips, with a max recommended load of 40 lbs. However, it’s versatile enough that you can use it for winter day hiking, especially on those days that you need to carry extra traction, food, water, a just-in-case sleeping bag, and survival gear. While the Cobra 60 is quite a technical pack and somewhat strap-heavy when compared to a three-season minimalist backpack, it’s surprisingly simple to use.
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