Cotopaxi Kilimanjaro 20L Overview
Cotopaxi, a hot-on-the-market gear manufacturer (plus-social-media expert), lives by the motto, “Gear For Good.” They focus on loud products and financial assistance for developing countries. They also create limited-production recycled goods, a llama fur sweater (fur reals), and other lines of practical travel bags.
Cotopaxi has put a new spin on the basic Jansport backpack of your childhood. The Kilimanjaro 20L backpack has been scaled to be the essential, utilitarian backpack that suits your stylish yet functional needs.
Weighing in at 1.5 pounds, constructed of water-repellent nylon, cotton canvas and a suede leather bottom, the Kilimanjaro is stocked to carry your daily load, whether it be a walk to school, commute to work, or a light hike before the sun goes down. With thick, padded straps and two belts (one for the waist and a height-adjustable sternum belt) the Kilimanjaro is reminiscent of a backcountry backpack, but boasts style of an urban street dweller.
Due to its quality construction, stylized yet functional design, and comfortable carry, we’ve given the Cotopaxi Kilimanjaro 20L our Classic Pick award for the Urban Hiker.
Carry your daily essentials over to our comprehensive backpack guide to see what pack is best for you. Read the full Cotopaxi Kilimanjaro 20L review below.
2018 Update: We reviewed the Kilimanjaro in 2017, and it has not received any updates for 2018, except for a few color updates.
Backpackers.com Star Rating
Our star rating system highlights the most important features for backpacks and judges them based on our experience.
Cotopaxi Kilimanjaro 20L Specifications
|Feature Type||Feature Specs||What This Means|
|Weight||1 lbs 7.8 oz. (.67 kg)||An average weight for urban hiking backpacks. Not terribly heavy, but not super light.|
|Capacity||20 L||We find this to be the optimal volume for most people who need a backpack around a city. Learn more about backpack capacity in our Guide.|
|Frame Material||Generic Back Padding||Cotopaxi doesn’t specify, or have a unique name, for their frame material. It is padded, but not heavily.|
|Materials||Cotton/polyester||Cotopaxi doesn’t specify what the materials of the pack are. It has a canvas exterior that is sturdy, and a leather bottom.|
|Hip Belt?||Yes||This pack has a basic hip belt with straps that attach in the center. It is not padded, and you don’t have to use it. Learn more about backpack hip belts and how to measure in our Guide.|
|Adjustable Torso?||No||This is a basic backpack, and the torso size is not adjustable. It’s medium-to-long in terms of size. To learn more about backpack torso measurement and adjustable torsos see our Guide.|
|Number of Exterior Pockets||4||There are two horizontal zippered pockets for storing/separating items, and two water bottle pockets.|
|Laptop Sleeve?||Yes||Basic sleeve that fits most 15-inch laptops. Doesn’t have a way of securing laptop inside, but your laptop doesn’t touch the bottom of the pack.|
|Hydration Sleeve?||No||You can use the laptop sleeve to store a bladder, but there is no convenient port for the hose.|
|Main Pack Access||Zippered||The main zipper opens like a classic school backpack.|
|Sternum Strap||Yes, Adjustable||A basic sternum strap works well for securing the pack to your chest. Can be moved up and down the shoulder straps for customized fit.|
|Load Range||Not listed||Cotopaxi doesn’t list a load range. Given that this is well-made casual backpack, we wouldn’t recommend more than 15 pounds.|
|Warranty||Guaranteed For Good||Your products are guaranteed to last 61 years, which is the average lifespan of a person living in the developing world. This includes manufacturer defects and workmanship issues, but not normal wear and tear or user error.|
|Retail Price||$79.95||A moderate price for a quality backpack with a lifetime guarantee.|
Gear Review of Cotopaxi Kilimanjaro 20L
Origins: Easing You In
We all have our material guilty pleasures — shoes, hats, watches, you name it. My guilty pleasure? Bags. Specifically useful, nice-looking, long-lasting, cost-effective (sometimes recycled!) adventure facilitators. My closet is not filled with millions of bags, nor will it ever be — I am a conscious consumer who chooses gear wisely because I want something that will last, reduce my carbon footprint, as well as be functional in a variety of settings. I don’t relish Coach or Michael Kors, rather a backpack that can take a beating and look good when I take it to work at a fancy-schmancy marketing agency.
Cotopaxi has heard of people like me (and you, I presume), and has released the Kilimanjaro into the highly competitive backpack market. The Kilimanjaro is a 20-liter, classic-looking pack with functional features. It comes in solid, good-looking color-ways, or a unique color-way that uses bright, recycled materials (that’ll cost you a few extra bucks). Think of the Kilimanjaro as a lovechild between Herschel packs and our 2016 Classic Pick, The North Face Borealis.
While the Kilimanjaro backpack is not a bag I would recommend taking to Tanzania as you scale up 19,341 feet on the actual Mount Kilimanjaro, it is a bag that’s more than capable of scaling highrise staircases, maneuvering crowded subways, and traversing cobbled city streets.
Revelation: The Moment I Knew
Let the Kilimanjaro surprise you with its holding capacity — it certainly surprised me! The bottom of the backpack is narrower with a flat base, leading the brain to believe this bag can’t bag a lot (don’t worry — I have more punny bag jokes packed into my review). However, I put the carrying-capacity to the test repeatedly.
I commute by foot, bike, and public transportation, often leaving the house at 5 a.m. and not returning until 10 p.m., meaning I need to pack a full day’s worth of “normal life gear,” including: a pair of cycling shoes, a pair of pants, a nice top, a wallet, notebook, pen(s), toiletry bag, socks, a water bottle, sweatshirt, tupperware with lunch, impulse buys at the market, and a 15-inch laptop. And this is on a dry Seattle day.
Not only was the Kilimanjaro’s carrying capacity more than adequate, the construction of the bag made for a sturdy, stable hold. During mad dashes to the bus I was able to secure the straps around my chest and waist with confidence that the contents inside wouldn’t shift in any unfortunate ways. That’s a lot of stuff to haul in a 20L backpack — and it did it well.
So, why did Cotopaxi embellish the basic-bag with a tech twist? Because it’s about damn time! Think back to the classic Jansport (mine was black, covered in hand-drawn white sharpie designs of band names that were cool once-upon-a-time), and think about the back aches often associated with carrying a load of books and P.E. uniforms. Well, I’m pretty sure I was invincible at 14, but as a 20-something woman I am more cognizant of bodily aches and pains.
The Kilimanjaro easily gets heavy, but the padded straps remove any pressure points on the shoulders, and the adjustable sternum belt glides up or down, positionable for people with all types of chests. Did I mention the zippers are strong and have managed to zip-up in all but the most packed circumstances? Win.
The Kilimanjaro eliminates those worries with functional specs that make my back and shoulders sing, and keeps my hodgepodge of items organized. This bag is what the cool-kids of middle school are probably rocking now…. I wonder what bands are immortalized in sharpies these days…
The shoulder straps are thick and squishy, and when the bag is heavy they help alleviate the pressure points. When strapping the two belts across the sternum and waist, the bag becomes nearly weightless. The back of the pack is fairly stiff, helping the pack hold its shape and keep your goods safe, and also allows for better backpack posture.
The true test of a backpack’s durability is assessed after a dozen years of use and abuse through many life chapters. While I have only had this bag for a few months, I have taken note of its strong stitching, lack of fraying, and sturdy materials. This backpack holds it value as a durable commuter, and when the time comes, will be a good impromptu backpack for my out-of-town guests that will need a bag when I drag them into the wilderness.
Packing the Kilimanjaro is easy because the nylon interior lining makes the process smooth, and the stiff shell holds the stuff in place. The two front pockets are handy for smaller essentials and the easily-accessible side pockets fit narrow water bottles, like the 27oz Stainless Steel MiiR bottle.
Fit and Adjustability
The Kilimanjaro is a unisex backpack that can fit people of most shapes and sizes. While I would not recommend this bag to people that are shorter or with tiny torsos, this backpack has a host of adjustable straps and really aims to accommodate everyone.
The Kilimanjaro has been on many adventures with me, just short of scaling the actual Mount Kilimanjaro, and each time I am pleased with its capability to meet my astringent standards.
The one issue I came across repeatedly, however, was the tightness of the front pocket. This pocket is only easy to access when the bag is minimally packed. Perhaps if there was a stretchy element to the zipper, that would help. Otherwise, it’s a minor concern that is easily remedied with minimizing your load or just stashing essentials in the big pocket.
Cotopaxi also claims the Kilimanjaro 20L is ideal for traveling, and while I agree with their claim, I have not used the backpack in my airport travels since receiving it. The tight squeeze of the front pocket is not desirable for holding need-to-use documents and there is no option of strapping down a jacket outside of the pack. Perhaps it will be used for summer travels when all I need is a book, sandals, and a swimsuit, but during the winter time my bulky clothing for a two-day trip does not fit easily.
Next level your bag game. Get practical and satisfy that hipster-style with the Kilimanjaro 20L backpack for your urban trekking.
Where to Buy Cotopaxi Kilimanjaro 20L
The Kilimanjaro 20L can be found online from Amazon or the Cotopaxi website. They only offer this pack in the 20L version, though Cotopaxi does have a host of other backpacks.
See Cotopaxi Kilimanjaro 20L prices below.