A supportive and well-padded rucksack with an emphasis on comfort over lightness, the Cholatse comes in three sizes for women, and also with a slightly different fit and size range for men. In the women's range the ND50:55 is a compact trekking pack, and the ND40:45 would suit shorter overnight trips or very gear-intensive days, while if you're after a mid-sized day pack then the ND30 is the one to look at. That's the model I've reviewed here.
Weight, Materials and Build Quality
Manufacturer's quoted weight for the Womens Cholatse ND30 is a fairly hefty 1.47kg – they're not lying: I know this as I work at an airport and weighed it at check in. While this is a lot for a day pack, and loads more than my 30L Osprey bag (860g) for instance, I still don't find it too heavy. The additional weight is owing to an integrated raincover, and sturdy padding in the hip belt and shoulder straps.
The fabric of the pack itself adds (a weeny bit extra) to overall weight; it's built from high denier ripstop nylon throughout, with durable 420D woven reinforcements. The fabric's hydroshield durable water repellency means water beads up and runs off, but of course if you're out for hours in rain that's been thumping out the sky like bath taps running full pelt, and you've forgotten about the raincover, your pack and its contents are getting a soaking. Stitching is solid. Like me, it does seem to be a tough old bag. I haven't caused it any damage (yet) – like, where my skin shreds easily when scuffed against rock this pack will not.
Fit and Comfort
The bag has a redesigned air contour and carry system with an adjustable one-piece scapula (back/posture corrector) which is pretty straightforward to use, just yank up the Velcro and then slide it up or down on its aluminium strips to suit your back length. The size range is 43-48cm, which I think might best suit smaller-to-medium height women. I'm 168cm tall (about 5 feet 6 inches) and find it most comfortable at its max position.
You can also easily adjust shoulder straps at the top and bottom to bring the pack in closer to your body for a more secure fit. The padding in the shoulder straps and hip belt that make this pack a bit heavier redeems itself in the comfort it provides, and the hip positioning of the belt is totally spot on – by comparison, the hip belt on my Deuter rucksack has a tendancy to rise up as I move (unless I virtually cut off circulation to my legs while also giving myself attractive red welts on each hip by pulling the belt tighter than I can really bear). Even when the pack is heavily loaded it feels well balanced. Lowe Alpine say the dual-density foam padding is covered with breathable mesh 'to help draw heat and moisture away from your back' – I'll take their word for this, as I always seem to end up a soggy, sweaty mess regardless. All in all the Cholatse is a snug and supportive fit with good stability, and I genuinely like it.
In terms of volume I did have doubts that the Cholatse would be big enough for a full day on the hills in typically Scottish weather (rain, wind, rain and more rain), but I was actually surprised how much gear I was able to stash into the bag – I'll have waterproofs, a big down jacket and mid-layer as well as all other necessary bits of kit, food, water and flask of hot choccy. Yesterday I even packed my down trousers for good measure – and man was that a good shout. Winter has arrived and I already know the Cholatse is probably going to be my go-to winter daypack. Additional cold weather items as well as crampons and ice axe won't be a problem for this pack, there's enough space to jam it all in, no bother. It might only be 30 litres but it is possible to pack it for a wild camp too – whether you go light with a bivvy or even a lightweight one-man tent.
The fixed external lid at the top of the pack has ample room for the things I want kept handy – my hat, gloves, buff and, at a squish, my waterproofs. The under-lid pocket is big enough for some first aid stuff, my plastic penis (Sheewee in case you're wondering), sanitiser etc and has a clip for attaching keys. Though the pack is hydration compatible I prefer to use the stretch side pockets with their simple compression straps to keep water in bottles instead. The front stash pocket is stretchy and roomy enough to fit a helmet or whatever (though I tend to stick my map in here and a lightweight jacket) and straps either side can be pulled tight to keep your kit secure. Daisychain lash points are stitched onto the central panel of the front stash pocket – useful if you want to fasten extra gear to your pack using carabiners (I use these to dangle items of wet clothing/gaiters, but otherwise it's not a feature I tend to use being as I'm just a humble walker).
As well as a top-load entry with drawstring toggle, the main compartment can be accessed by a zipper down the right-hand side of the pack – I'm sure lots of people will make good use of this feature, but I'd rather just dive in from the top and haul my stuff about till I locate what I'm after.
Zipped, tapered hip belt pockets are useful for sticking tasty treats in, plus my compass or gloves/buff when I can't be bothered taking the pack off to put them away properly. I can push my Samsung mobile into the pocket and get the zipper closed, just. Personally, I'd like the tapered end slightly wider for easier stashing and retrieval of said mobile phone.
A raincover lives in a pocket at the base of the pack and is attached there by Velcro. To secure it over the pack there are toggles on the bright orange cover that attach through loops stitched halfway up either side of the bag. To lose a bit of pack weight you could completely detach the cover. Or detach the cover so you can stow other things in there (I'll probably use that pocket for my microspikes, and use dry sacks – I'm lying, I'll use carrier bags – to keep belongings dry inside the pack). Web loop compression straps and TipGripper fittings secure walking poles to the outside. And I do like the HeadLocker for storing my ice axe when it's not required. I'm looking forward to using this feature because up till now I've only ever carried my axe by sliding it down the space between my back and left shoulder strap of my pack (super easy access, and not uncomfortable). All features on the Cholatse have a useful role and are easy enough to use.
Value for Money
The Lowe Alpine Cholatse ND30 is robust, durable, and very comfortable - and I'd say that makes it good value for your money at £125 (you may be able to find it cheaper). I like this pack so much I am considering the next size up for overnight use. Good quality. Good job, Lowe Alpine.
Lowe Alpine say:
The women's Lowe Alpine Cholatse ND30 is an agile but stable year-round pack with an advanced day hiking feature set. Built from tough ripstop nylon with durable 420D woven reinforcements, it features our redesigned Air Contour+ carry system with an adjustable one-piece scapula for a snug, stable fit that moves with your body. It also features a mesh-covered, thermo-moulded back pad, alongside hip belt and shoulder straps built from dual-density foam with breathable mesh to help draw heat and moisture away from your back.
For ease of use, it offers front access as well as top-loaded entry and its stretch side pockets, extendable lid and front-stash clamshell design mean you can tailor your load to the demands of the day. Whatever you're carrying, the tapered base transfers the bulk of the weight to your hips and lumbar for a super comfortable carry when navigating varied trails in the mountains.
- Volume: 30L
- Weight: 1.47kg
- Back length: 43-48cm
- Zipped hipbelt pockets
- Hydration compatible
- Zipped side entry for easy access
- Rain cover
- Forward pull hipbelt adjustment
- External zipped lid pocket
- Daisy chain lash points
- Large stretch mesh side pockets
- Front stash pocket
- Secure TipGripper walking pole attachments
- Adjustable back-length with easy to use hook and loop backsystem
- Web loop compression strap for fastening poles and axes securely
- HeadLocker axe attachment system