Storage is great, but organizing all that stuff you carry is just as important.  The Cotopaxi Inca 26L is a smart and durable pack that makes it easy to have a place for everything.

Cotopaxi Inca 26L Backpack Features:

  • Material construction: 210d nylon ripstop shell fabric
  • Padded breathable back panel and shoulder straps
  • Adjustable chest, waist and shoulder straps
  • Internal hydration sleeve with hang loop (reservoir not included)
  • Horizontal zippered top pocket with key clip
  • Two zippered side pockets
  • Two side water bottle pockets
  • Large zippered cell phone pocket on shoulder strap
  • Contrast color zippers on main compartment
  • Stowable ice axe loops and side trekking pole attachments
  • Weight: 952g (2lb, 1oz)
  • Cargo volume: 26L
  • Dimensions: 53.3 x 30.5 x 22.86 cm (21 x 12 x 9 in)
  • MSRP $110

cotopaxi inca 26l backpack

Inca is a high-value, feel-good backpack

Among outdoor aficionados, Cotopaxi scores high marks for its simple credo: Gear for Good.  The company has deservedly earned significant positive press for its commitment to social improvement, from its initial launch as a benefit corporation to its practice of donating at least ten percent of product proceeds to specific philanthropic causes. Their business model supports the mission: by selling its products directly to consumers (through its website), the company finds more profit margin to direct towards health, education, and business development in impoverished areas all over the globe.

It’s a company that Outside Magazine dubbed as doing the most good for the planet, and one you can feel great about supporting.  Of course, that only goes so far if the products themselves aren’t worthy of your outdoor adventures.  Rest assured you can feel great about that part also – because when it comes to quality design and construction, Cotopaxi earns equally high marks.

We’ve been testing the Inca 26 backpack for about two months, on day hikes and overnights in the Sierra Nevadas around Lake Tahoe and in Yosemite National Park.  It’s proven to be durable and versatile, with smart design that provides easy organization and access, in a relatively lightweight package.

Padded back panel with ventilation; lighter padding on hip belts

Padded back panel with ventilation; lighter padding on hip belts

The Inca also rides very comfortably, thanks to a fully padded back panel and shoulder straps, and lighter padding on the hip panels.  Ventilation grooves provide a bit of air movement against the skin, but this pack generally sits warmer against our back than similarly sized packs we’ve tested.  The waist strap is a double-back mechanism that you pull toward the midline to tighten; this is sometimes tricky to do with one hand, but when the tension is set, it holds very nicely, even with a DLSR camera case anchored to it (see photo above).  One odd quirk we found is that the waist straps seem about twice as long as they need to be; we ended up cutting ours down, and it’s also easy to loop them through themselves so they’re not hanging down excessively.

Yellow zipper designates primary cargo compartment

Yellow zipper designates primary cargo compartment

The 26L cargo capacity is an ideal hybrid for day hikes or short overnight excursions, and the main cargo compartment is large enough to stow a tent and sleeping bag in addition to other ultralight camping gear.  One cool design element is the color coding of the main cargo compartment in order to distinguish it from the two other horizontal zippers at the top of the pack.

On the back (body) side of the main cargo compartment is another full length storage area with a hydration sleeve that can accommodate up to a 3L reservoir; this sleeve is also described as a laptop sleeve for urban commuters, as it is wide enough to accommodate most compact laptops. Using it as a reservoir sleeve, you can route the drink tube out either shoulder, although there is only one tube clip on the right-side shoulder strap. Even when this compartment is occupied by a full reservoir, there is plenty of room to stash compressible items like extra layers of clothing.

Top to bottom: hydration/laptop compartment, key and valuables pouch, main cargo compartment

Top to bottom: hydration/laptop compartment, key and valuables pouch, main cargo compartment

Sandwiched between the two primary cargo compartments is another horizontal zippered pocket with about one-quarter depth of the others. This pocket has a key clip as well as a separate soft-lined pouch with a Velcro closure; the soft pocket is ideal for glasses, while the remainder of the pocket is great for important but not frequently accessed items like wallets or cell phones.  On the outside of the main cargo areas is a stretchy mesh sleeve that is a convenient place for maps and food, but can easily accommodate extra layers of clothes for on again/off again weather conditions.

L to R: mesh water bottle holder; diagonal zipper pocket

L to R: mesh water bottle holder; diagonal zipper pocket

Diagonally on both flanks are two additional storage areas; one is a long zippered pocket, and the other is a bottle sleeve that is easily used for cargo if you’re going without bottles.  The bottle sleeve is reachable without taking off the pack if you’ve got good flexibility, but the diagonal zippered pockets require help.  We found these zippered pockets ideal for bug spray, sunscreen, and other items that we accessed occasionally and were nicely contained in case of leaks.

Cellphone pocket on left strap

Cellphone pocket on left strap

On the front side, there is a vertical storage pocket on the left shoulder that is described as a cell phone pocket, but is probably too narrow for anything but mini-sized cell phones.  Instead, we used this pocket for a knife or for small snack storage.  We loved the dual hip pockets that are perfect for snacks, portable chargers, and even a small camera.

The Good

  • Great cargo capacity and organization
  • Multiple storage options
  • Durable material construction
  • Extensive versatility of use

The Bad

  • Back side runs warm
  • Vertical cell phone pocket is too narrow

Bottom Line: Cotopaxi Inca 26L Backpack

The Cotopaxi Inca 26L is a highly functional daypack that’s a great option for trail excursions or everyday use.  Carry it light for short distances or travel days, and load it up with enough gear and supplies for longer adventures.

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About Author

Donald is a physical therapist, ultrarunner, barefoot aficionado, and father of three with more than 20 years of experience in endurance sports. When he's not training for ultramarathons, he enjoys hiking or slacklining with his family in Monterey County, CA.

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