The My Trail Company Backpack UL 50 is a new multi-day ultralight backpack that weighs 22 oz and is inexpensively priced ($119). I’d classify it a frameless backpack, although comes with a thin, removable foam stiffener in the back panel. It has a front stretch mesh pocket, mesh water bottle pockets, ice ax loops w/shaft holders, an unpadded hip belt, and a top drawstring closure. While it’s reasonably comfortable with loads up to 30 pounds, the hip belt architecture is sensitive to pack weight and becomes noticeably less effective as you approach the high-end of its range. The Backpack UL 50 also comes with volume reducing clips at the base of the pack, so you can use to reduce its internal capacity to 20L (as long as you fully cinch down the side compression straps, according to MTC.) I discuss this feature more fully, below.
Specs at a Glance
- Total : 1 Lb 6 oz (actual, size medium)
- Removable foam stiffener: 2.3 oz
- Capacity: 50L, including extension collar according to MTC.
- Max Recommended Load: 25-30 pounds
- Bear Canister Compatibility: Vertical
- Gender: Men’s
- Materials: 210d Nylon; high abrasion areas reinforced with Dyneema fibers.
- See manufacturer specs for sizing
Backpack Storage and Organization
The Backpack UL 50 is configured as an ultralight backpack with a large front mesh pocket and mesh side water bottle pockets. It has two tiers of side compression straps and dual ice axe loops with elastic shaft holders. The top of the pack closes with a drawstring with a webbing strap that runs over it and provides top compression. The inner compartment has a single hook for hanging a hydration reservoir with dual hydration ports above the shoulders. There’s also an inner pocket on the back which contains a removable foam stiffener, which could be called a bivy pad if you were being generous.
At 50L, the pack is well-sized for multi-day loads and is easy to pack with a rectangular-shaped back body and straight sidewalls. The mesh on the external pockets is fairly robust, but I wouldn’t recommend taking this pack off-trail where it’s likely to get sliced up. The side water bottle pockets are large enough for two 1 liter bottles and it’s easy to reach back, grab a bottle, and replace it without having to take the backpack off. The tall Smartwater bottles (favored by many backpackers) do have a tendency to fall out of the pockets when you put the pack down on the ground and it tips over, but that’s not an issue if you’re aware of it.
There isn’t a speed lid or flap on top of the pack to cover the hole created by the drawstring closure. If you’re like most ultralight backpackers, you’ll probably line the inside of the pack with a plastic bag to keep your stuff from getting wet in the rain. Just make sure your liner is tall enough to fold over on top to prevent water or dust from reaching your gear. This pack would be a lot better if MTC had given it a roll-top, but the lack of one isn’t a show stopper.
Backpack Compression and External Attachment System
The Backpack UL 50 has two tiers of side compression straps that make it easy to lash gear to the sides of the pack. They’re made with webbing and have buckles that clip together. That makes them a lot more useful if you want to carry wide, awkward items on the outside of your pack like a sleeping pad, tent body, snowshoes, or skis. Plus one, on that feature. The use of buckles also creates lots of places where you can anchor cord if you want to create your own custom attachment points on the back of the pack, like crisscrossed elastic cord for drying clothes.
The Backpack UL 50 also comes with a pair of clips and loops at the base of the pack that can be used to reduce its volume from 50L to 20L, as long as you cinch the compression straps to the max. If you deploy the clips without cinching the compression straps tight, you only reduce the pack’s capacity by 5-10L, max. But this moves the load’s center of gravity higher and puts much more pressure on the lumbar area of your back, uncomfortably so. This lumbar discomfort is still there if you do cinch the compression straps tightly, though it’s more tolerable when carrying less weight. If you think the volume reduction clips make the Backpack UL 50 more attractive because you can use it as a daypack, think again. Get yourself a better day pack if you mainly plan to day hike.
Backpack Suspension System
The Backpack UL 50 is a frameless backpack with an unpadded hip belt. While it does have a thin foam stiffener inside, the main compartment barrels into your back if you overpack it. That’s the nature of frameless backpacks without rigid frame stays or frames. You can mitigate any discomfort by not overstuffing the main compartment and by packing sharp-cornered gear deeper in the pack, so it doesn’t poke you in the back.
The shoulder pads are soft, mesh-covered foam, but are tailored for men and not individuals with developed chests or breasts. There’s an adjustable sternum strap (on a rail) and hydration hose keeper loops, but there aren’t any daisy chains that would make it easier to attach pockets. Being frameless, they’re no load lifters either, because there’s nothing solid (like a frame) to attach them too.
The hip belt consists of two triangular nylon panels sewn to the back of the pack with a simple wide webbing strap/buckle sewn on the end. The sewing is a bit rough on the inside and scratchy if it rubs against your skin. There are no hip belt pockets and the hip belt is not detachable, which is fairly common on frameless backpacks. If you have distinct hip bones with a prominent iliac crest, this hip belt will help transfer the load off your shoulders some, but I’d urge you to stay under the pack’s max recommended load. If you have squarish hips or your hips are covered with an extra “layer,” you’ll probably experience some slippage. A thin layer of mesh padding sewn to the inside of the hip belt would have eliminated most of these issues. Also not a showstopper, but noticeable.
The My Trail Company Backpack UL 50 is an inexpensive, frameless backpack that only weighs 22 ounces. It checks all of the “ultralight-style” backpack checkboxes including a front mesh pocket, reachable side water bottle pockets, compression, and is made with durable fabrics. A 50-liter backpack like this is good for multi-day trips if you have high volume, but relatively lightweight gear like a hammock sleep system that includes a tarp, quilt, and under-quilt. I’d caution you, however, to avoid loading the pack beyond its max recommended load of 25-30 pounds when it starts to become ungainly to carry due to hip belt slippage.