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Chicken Tramper Ultralight Gear 50 Liter Backpack Review

Chicken Tramper Ultralight 50 Backpack CTUG-50

The Chicken Tramper Ultralight Gear 50 Liter Backpack (CTUG-50) is a custom-made ultralight roll-top backpack made with XPAC VX21, a highly durable and lightweight waterproof fabric commonly used before Dyneema DCF and Ultra appeared on the ultralight backpacking scene. The pack is unique in that it has an internal frame made from carbon fiber arrow shafts, an external sit pad pocket, and a sewn-on hip belt that gives it a recommended maximum comfortable load of 30-35 pounds. The pack also has daisy chains sewn to the hipbelt letting you hang a fanny pack from it instead of looping it around your waist. This is much more comfortable and convenient when hiking, in town, or traveling.

Specs at a Glance

  • Actual Weight: 34 oz
  • Volume: a large 50L
  • Internal frame: Yes
  • Top closure: Roll-top
  • Pockets: 3
  • Gender: Unisex with female-friendly shoulder straps and hipbelt
  • Color: A wide range of color options.
  • Hip belt pockets: No
  • Load lifters: Yes
  • Hydration Compatible: No
  • Sleeping Pad Straps: Yes
  • Canister compatibility: BV475 fits horizontally, BV500 Vertically
  • Top Y Strap: Yes. Long enough to hold a BV500 on top of the pack
  • Waist: Custom to your dimensions.
  • Torso and Hipbelt Length: Custom to your dimensions
  • Material: XPAC VX21
  • Pros: Huge capacity, durable, great external pockets, many attachment points
  • Cons: Hip belt slips (request a bigger lumber pad)

The CTUG-50 reviewed here is very similar to the CTUG-45 I reviewed four years ago, with a few minor differences. In the intervening time, Chicken Tramper decided to increase the volume by 5 liters and offer a second smaller 40L backpack, but besides that, the backpack has undergone few changes. Notably, Chicken Tramper has not used Ultra fabric to make this backpack and continues making it with Xpack VX21 when so many ultralight backpack manufacturers have switched to that fabric.

Female Friendly S-shaped Shoulder Straps are now Standard
Female Friendly S-shaped Shoulder Straps are now Standard

Backpack Storage and Organization

The CTUG-50 is a roll-top with a large main compartment, side mesh pockets, and a front mesh pocket. While it is labeled as a 50-liter backpack, it feels much larger in volume, possibly because the pack bag has a boxy shape with right angles at the corners instead of curves. When computing pack volume, Chicken Tramper includes the pack’s open pockets, the main compartment up to the load lifters, and the extension collar minus 3 fabric turns. While this is a conservative way to measure pack volume among ultralight pack manufacturers, it means you have even more volume above the load lifters to pack gear or food.

The roll-top has strips of velcro sewn along the hem but doesn’t have a stiffener. While the pack’s XPac VX21 is waterproof, the pack’s seams are not seam taped so you’ll want to use a waterproof liner and/or drybags for gear and clothing in wet climates. The roll-top buckles on the top of the pack only clip to themselves but do not clip down along the sides. A long Y-strap on the top can hold the roll-top closed or secure a pad or bear canister to the top of the pack. The Y strap is long enough to hold a BV500 canister on top.

The pack has a very long top Y-strap that is long enough to secure a BV500 bear canister
The pack has a very long top Y-strap that is long enough to secure a BV500 bear canister.

The mesh pockets on the front and sides of the pack are made with the dive mesh used to make scuba gear bags, which has a large weave but is very tough stuff and hard to rip. Even if you do, you can easily run cord through the large holes in the weave to seal the pocket up again and prevent items from falling out, an old school trick.

All of the mesh pockets can be cinched tight on the top with line locks and elastic cord to prevent items from popping out. The side mesh pockets can hold two Smartwater bottles and are reachable & replaceable when the pack is worn, while the front pocket is large enough to hold many smaller items or a wet tent fly easily.

The pack does not have an internal hydration sleeve or hydration ports to run a hydration hose. There isn’t even an interior hang loop or hook to hang a reservoir.

The side and front pockets are made with highly durable dive mesh
The side and front pockets are made with highly durable dive mesh

The base pack does not come with sewn-on hipbelts pockets but they can be easily added to daisy chains sewn to the hipbelt’s exterior. Chicken Tramper’s primary business is selling accessory backpack pockets and they offer a large selection that you can add to just about any backpack, not just the ones they make.

Backpack Frame and Suspension

Frame

The CTUG-50 has a frame made from carbon-fiber arrow shafts. While this sounds very “cottage,” it’s worth noting that my first Gossamer Gear Mariposa Plus, circa 2007, (now called the Mariposa 60), also had frame stays made from carbon-fiber arrow shafts. Gossamer Gear has since switched to an aluminum stay.

The pack has a U-shaped carbon fiber frame
The pack has a U-shaped carbon fiber frame

Chicken Tramper adds a crosspiece along the top, creating a U-shaped stay that creates good stiffness in the frame and holds the main compartment open, making it easier to pack.  The bottom of the vertical stays terminate on the sides of the hipbelt, which is sewn onto the pack and not attached with Velcro, like so many other ultralight backpacks. I’ve always found that you get a better load-to-hip transfer if a pack has a sewn-on hipbelt like this because there’s less buckling of the hip belt wings and lumbar area when loaded.

The U-shaped frame still has a lot of torsional flex since it doesn’t have a crosspiece on the bottom, although it is dampened considerably when you pack the main compartment full of gear. The overall effect is a fairly lively pack that maintains its shape well with different loads, doesn’t collapse, and tracks the hips well. There is still a modest amount of barrelling when the pack is packed full, but you can make it less noticeable with a little gear shifting.

Sit Pad

The CTUG-50 also has a sit-pad pocket behind the shoulder straps on the pack’s front. Chicken Tramper ships the pack with an egg carton pad, actually two cut-down panels of a Therm-a-rest ZLite foam pad (1.4 oz). The included sit pad is substantially shorter than a regular Zlite pad, and a regular ZLite will not fit vertically in the pack’s pad pocket.

The sit pad is just used as padding and doesn’t provide any structural benefit, but it’s very easy to remove and replace, so you can use it as a sit pad to keep your bum dry or the chiggers off you when you want to sit down and take a break. If you’ve never used a backpack with a removable sit-pad before you’ll quickly discover a million uses for it, such as a hammock porch or tent vestibule floor.

The Shoulder Straps are attached to the pack with webbing and adapt better to different shoulder shapes.
The Shoulder Straps are attached to the pack with webbing and adapt better to different shoulder shapes.

Shoulder Straps

The CTUG-50 has 3″ wide shoulder straps with daisy chains sewn on the outside, making it easy to hang accessory pockets. They’re lightly padded inside with wicking mesh and made in a female-friendly S-shape. The tops of the shoulder straps are not sewn to the pack bag but attached with webbing so they rotate more freely, providing more comfort for people with “curvier” chests. Zpacks uses a similar construction technique in their backpacks, and it adapts well to different shoulder geometries.

The CTUG-50 also comes with load lifter straps anchored to the pack bag just in front of the frame. A metal buckle located at the top of the strap allows for adjustment of the strap’s angle, a premium feature usually found only on higher-end packs.

The CTUG-50 Chicken Tramper Ultralight Backpack has a sewn-on hip belt
The CTUG-50 Chicken Tramper Ultralight Backpack has a sewn-on hip belt

Hipbelt

The hipbelt doesn’t come with pockets and is covered with two lines of daisy chain webbing so you can attach accessory pockets or a fanny pack to them. The hipbelt closes with a central buckle and pull forward straps, with a separate strap adjustment on the top webbing strap so you can tighten the top of the hip belt tighter than the bottom. Women are likely to find this more useful than men, who tend to have squarish hips.

Unfortunately, the hipbelt consistently slipped down my hips when worn. The last version of this pack that I reviewed four years ago did the exact same thing: it slips because there is too little lumbar padding at the back of the hipbelt to prevent it. I can’t be the only person experiencing this, so I hope CTUG considers adding an option when ordering the pack to make the rear of the hipbelt thicker.

Daisy chains on the hipbelt make it easy to attach a fanny pack
Daisy chains on the hipbelt make it easy to attach a fanny pack

Fanny Pack Front Pocket

Chicken Tramper has a nifty feature not found on similar multi-day backpacks: the ability to attach a Chicken Tramper fanny pack to daisy chains on the hipbelt. The fanny pack clips to the hipbelt webbing with small clips and hangs high enough that it doesn’t hit your unmentionables or interfere with tightening the hipbelt. This is much better than wearing a separate fanny pack because there is one less webbing strap around your waist. The fanny pack also remains attached to the pack when you unbuckle one side and is very easy to reattach when you’re ready to roll.

External Attachment System and Compression

The CTUG-50 has side compression straps made with linelocks and elastic cord routed in a figure 8 pattern. You’re not forced to use them in this configuration, however, and you can reroute the cords in whatever pattern you want or remove them entirely.

Cords at the base of the pack allow you to carry a sleeping pad.
Cords at the base of the pack allow you to carry a sleeping pad.

In addition to the top Y-strap mentioned above, the pack comes with a pair of cord-based sleep bag attachment straps located below the front pocket and a rudimentary ice ax loop. These are removable if you don’t want to use them.

Comparable Ultralight Framed Backpacks

Make / ModelWeightFabric
Zpacks Arc Haul 60L20.9 oz / 593gUltra 200
Hyperlite Mountain Gear Southwest 5534.9 oz / 989gDyneema DCF
Granite Gear Crown 3 60L32.6 oz / 1040gRobic Nylon
Osprey Exos Pro 5534.6 oz / 981gUHMWPE Nylon Ripstop
ULA Circuit 68L37.3 oz / 1038gRobic Nylon
Gossamer Gear Mariposa 60L34.2 oz / 968gRobic Nylon
REI Flash 55L45 oz / 1276gRobic Nylon
Gregory Focal 5841.3 oz / 1171gRobic Nylon
SWD UL Long Haul 5030.2 oz / 856gUltra 200
Durston Kakwa 5531 oz / 880gUltra 200

Recommendation

The Chicken Tramper Ultralight Backpack 50-Liter is a custom backpack that is fun to carry, durable, and well-made. It’s set up like a typical ultralight backpack (a rolltop and three open pockets), which is easy to get used to if you’ve never had a pack with such large open pockets before. While I did encounter an issue with hipbelt slippage, adding an option to increase the thickness of the rear of the hipbelt seems like it’d be an easy modification to request when you order a custom backpack.

The CT-50, priced at $400, is similar in price to the ULA’s XPac backpacks and on par with similarly sized ultralight backpacks made with Dyneema DCF and Ultra from other manufacturers. While XPAC is somewhat less durable than these other materials (but much more durable than Robic Nylon), part of what you’re paying for with Chicken Tramper is the ability to have a backpack in custom colors. That matters to many people.

Shop at Chicken Tramper

Disclosure: CTUG donated a pack for review.

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2 comments

  1. Hi and thanks for the great content and reviews. In case it may help anyone giving CTUG packs a closer look, I purchased the 45 L version about 5 or 6 years ago when they were just ramping up. Great service from the owners and many options for features and colors. After roughly 700 miles in the SE US and Utah desert, I’m happy to say that this pack looks nearly new, shows virtually no wear at any point (critical stress points or otherwise), is comfortable (for me, at least), carries my 23-26 lb. av. kit extremely well, and is simple and efficient. It will handle a winter kit volume-wise also for shorter trips. The fanny pack connectors are clever and work well. I prefer the diver mesh over stretchy type pockets. Could live without the velcro top seal, but it does function. There are certainly worthy new fabrics and innovations out there (I have a new Durston Wapta 30) but this CTUG pack is comparably light, highly water resistant, and functionally tough. Disclosure: just a happy customer.

    • Same report from me, Bret. I bought my CTUG pack in 2020, and it’s still in excellent shape. I’ve carried as little as four kg and as much as 17 kg and the pack has carried the weight comfortably. I like knowing I can camel up for a long waterless stretch and not have it drag down my pack.

      The irony is that the measurement I gave them was a bit short — I measured myself instead of asking my spouse to do it — but the pack is incredibly comfortable.

      I have two different shoulder strap pockets. I love the phone pocket. I hate the zipper pocket. The only benefit (in my mind) of the zipper pocket is that it’s much more water resistant. I find it too cumbersome to unzip. (I have nerve damage in my dominant hand and arthritis in both hands.) I wish I’d opted for two phone pockets instead of one of each.

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