The North Face Cobra 65 backpack: Tested

By Mark Watson 1 November 2021
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One of our favourite technical backcountry-ski and mountaineering backpacks has gone on a diet; now The North Face Cobra 65 is even better.

The North Face Cobra 65 Backpack is proof that somewhere out there, somebody is listening to our prayers… albeit skewed gear-freak kind of prayers. The all-new Cobra 65 does away with the stuff we didn’t like about the old Cobra but keeps the stuff we liked, and in the process somehow sheds grams.

Primarily the Cobra packs are designed as technical ski, climbing and mountaineering packs. Prerequisites are lightweight but burly, haul survival equipment as well as technical winter kit and deliver compulsory features like crampon stowage, rope carrying, ski attachment etc. 

The Cobra 60 did all the above with flying colours… The North Face Cobra 65 does it better.


The new 210D Recycled Nylon with Spectra® Ripstop material is claimed as “stronger than steel by weight” but has an added advantage of being partially translucent to ‘kinda’ see what you’re reaching for in your pack (differing coloured dry sacks aid this). The redesigned crampon pocket is slightly smaller and so not great for those toting an oversized snow shovel but more streamlined for simple crampon stowage or to stuff your shell layer. The ice axe attachment retains the protective sheathing of its predecessor but ads a hook-release buckle to allow for easy access whilst gear tabs offer reflectivity for pre-dawn ascents. Dual side compression straps double as ski straps for when terrain becomes crampon-worthy whilst dual side-wand-pockets allow for easy stowage of poles or probe. The newly designed floating-lid sneaks in a hidden zippered pocket but does away with front straps of the older model, replacing them with a more streamlined single hook-release buckle. The new model does however retain the essential rope-carry strap of the older Cobra 60.

The North Face Cobra 65 has dual side compression straps that double as either ski- or trek-pole holders, with pockets at its base to further secure these.

In the field

A Teksever foam backpanel offers comfort, but minimises water / snow absorption, and partners well with a pre-formed internal frame sheet and two aluminium stays for rigidity. Padded shoulder straps, sternum strap (with whistle-buckle) and hip belt offer all round comfort with the hip belt gear loops and easy-access pocket of the Cobra’s predecessor retained. 

The crampon pocket is smaller than the previous-geo Cobra 60’s, but will still fit your crampons, a lightweight outer shell, or your snow shovel inside.

Internally, things get a whole load simpler. A single 65-litre main compartment delivers enough room for multi day adventures but compresses to usable day pack size when required, while an internal water reservoir pocket allows for hydration on the move. And finally, if you’re a weight-saver then you can shave grams from the already super-light 1650-gram pack by removing the lid, hip belt and internal frame sheet for that epic steep skiing day or final push to the summit.

The final word on The North Face Cobra 65

The North Face Cobra pack has been a favourite of ours for winter sojourns over past years and so now is even more appealing. Look for our long-term review of this impressive load-lugger in 2022.

RRP: $550 See The North Face for more info.