Superior Wilderness Designs is a Michigan-based ultralight gear manufacturer that has just introduced a backpack designed for thru-hiking called the 50L Long Haul. Weighing 29 ounces, it’s made with X-Pac, an ultralight waterproof laminate like cuben fiber, but less expensive and more durable. While less well-known, X-Pac is a tried and true material that has been used for years to make tough lightweight packs by many companies including Wild Things, Arcteryx, Mystery Ranch, CiloGear, and Seek Outside.
- Model: 50L Long Haul Backpack
- Weight: 29 ounces, including pockets
- Type: Multi-day, roll top backpack
- Volume: 50L
- Frame: Two removable aluminum stays
- Colors: Multiple color combinations available
- Torso sizes: Torso small 16″-18″, medium 18″-21″, large 21″-23″
- Max comfortable load: 30-35 pounds
- MSRP: $275
Superior Wilderness Designs is a small enough shop that they’re willing to customize their packs in terms of color combination and features. While the Long Haul is a very nice backpack “off the rack,” there are a few minor tweaks that I’d recommend considering. I’ll elaborate on those below.
Internal Storage and Organization
The Long Haul is a roll top backpack with a single large main compartment. The pack itself is slightly flared, not as deep at the bottom, but gradually flaring toward the top. Roll top packs are advantageous because they provide top compression, useful for maximizing space utilization and stabilizing your load.
The pack has a glove hook on inside the pack behind the shoulder pads for hanging a reservoir system, with one hydration port, situated on the right hand side of the pack. There are no other pockets or netting in the interior.
The top of the main compartment snaps closed using two snaps and the sides of the roll top connect with a buckle on top of the pack. There’s also a Y strap that wraps over the top. The webbing on the Y strap is rather narrow and does not provide enough of a grip to hold a Garcia Bear Canister on top of the pack by itself. There are enough attachment points along the sides and rear of the pack however, that you could probably jury rig something with cord and cord locks. Barring that, a Garcia fits inside the main compartment in a vertical position.
Side Water Bottle Pockets
The Long Haul has two side water bottle pockets, both reachable while wearing the backpack. The pockets are long and “shaped” with extra volume in the bottom of the pocket, rather than being flat and flush along the side of the pack. Heavy-duty elastic sewn along the top hem, keeps bottles or gear from popping out or bouncing against the side of the pack. The pockets are hard-faced with X-Pac for extra toughness.
Rear Mesh Pocket
There’s a rear mesh pocket on the back of the Long Haul, good for stuffing layers into and wet gear. While it is made with tough 100 denier mesh, my experience with such mesh pockets is that they get ripped up pretty quick. My preference would be to have a solid back pocket made of X-Pac, similar to the pack’s water bottle pockets for durability, or a dense stretch mesh with very small holes that is less prone to catching on protruding vegetation and ripping.
Hip Belt Pockets
The Long Haul comes with two optional hip belt pockets that can be removed, if desired. This is convenient when you want to hang gear from the daisy chains sewn to the exterior of the hip belt: for example, an insulated water bottle hooked to a carabiner in winter.
When used, the pockets attach to the hip belt with an elastic strap, which wraps around the padded section of the belt, and two mini-cord locks which pass through gaps in the daisy chain. The cord and cord-locks allow you to position the pocket where you want it along the hip belt, either closer to the hip belt buckle or closer to the water bottle pockets, or anywhere in between.
However, the pockets have a tendency to move around a lot and flip up and away from the hip belt because they’re not sewn to it. It’s kind of annoying. While it is nice to have pockets that can be removed, I’d rather have them sewn to the hip belt permanently.
External Attachment and Compression System
The Long Haul’s Rear pocket has six beastie dee rings sewn to the perimeter of the rear mesh pocket and comes with an elastic cord that criss-crosses though them so you can attach gear, like snowshoes or a sleeping pad, to the rear of the pack. I’d like to see more of these beastie dee rings above the two shoulder straps and on the front seam of the side water bottle pocket, next to the hip belt, to make it easier to attach gear to the top of the pack or along the sides.
The four corner beasties have ice axe/trekking pole loops and tool holders, also fashioned out of elastic cord and toggles. While this is probably sufficient for hiking an open trail in summer, they’re not secure enough for off-trail or winter hiking, where a pack made from durable X-Pac should excel. I’d recommend beefing up the pack with proper webbing ice axe loops and more secure shaft holders.
The side compression system on the Long Haul is comparatively weak compared to other packs, but it’s also less important because X-Pac is so stiff and has so little stretch to it, no matter how much you stuff into the pack.
As it is, the pack comes with a thin side compression cord, shown above, which is routed in a Z-shape through three beastie dee rings before it terminates inside the side water bottle pocket. That’s an odd place to terminate a compression cord so I removed it by cutting it out with a pair of scissors.
Instead, I think the pack needs a second tier of horizontal compression across the bottom of the water bottle pocket. Adding a beastie dee to the bottom front of the pocket would let you add an elastic cord running from it to the beastie at the bottom of the rear mesh pocket and attach a ski to the side of the pack, for instance. Cordage or webbing that could be passed over or through the water bottle pocket is another versatile option.
Backpack Frame and Suspension
The frame system on the Long Haul consists of two aluminum stays secured in stay pocket inside the main compartment. These are pre-shaped out of the box, a good thing actually, since most new pack users aren’t well versed in how to bend pack stays and most manufacturer documentation on the subject is abysmal.
The shoulder straps on the Long Haul have sewn-on daisy chains and plastic rings so you can easily add accessory pockets or hang devices from them. The pack also has load lifters, anchored to the top of the frame stays, as well as a hang loop.
The hip belt is fairly wide and sewn to the base of the pack, providing excellent load transfer. I rate the maximum comfortable load at 30-35 pounds.
The Long Haul Backpack is a new pack from Superior Wilderness Designs, an ultralight backpacking gear manufacturer based in Michigan. Weighing 29 ounces with a volume of 50L, the Long Haul is a good size for multi-day backpacking trips, with all of the must-have features you’d expect on an ultralight backpack such as a rear mesh pocket, side water bottle pockets, optional hip belt pockets, and a roll top closure.
Made with X-Pac, a waterproof fabric similar to cuben fiber, but less expensive and more abrasion resistant, the Long Haul is built for durability. Pre-bent aluminum stays and a sewn-on hip belt also provide superior comfort, excellent load transfer, and a body hugging fit, while a plethora of attachment points make it easy to tailor for technical hikes.
The base pack is really rather nice, definitely in the same league as Hyperlite Mountain Gear backpacks, but less expensive because X-Pac is used instead of cuben fiber.
While I do make a few suggestions about how to improve the pack above, they’re relatively minor and can easily be implemented with a little customization by the manufacturer.
Alternatively, I’d like to see a hardened version of the Long Haul offered by Superior Wilderness Designs, specifically designed for more rugged conditions and off-trail use with a solid X-Pac rear pocket, wider webbing straps, a bigger hip belt buckle, sewn on hip belt pockets, more robust tool holders, and more attachment points around the perimeter and pockets of the pack. X-Pac is a durable ultralight fabric, ideal for making packs, so it seems a waste to make packs using it if the components you add to those packs aren’t as robust.
For complete specs, visit the Long Haul product page at Superior Wilderness Designs.
More About X-Pac
The X-Pac used in the Long Haul is from Dimension Polyant’s VX line of material. The finished material consists of four layers of material sandwiched together and laminated rather than being one layer of woven material with a PU coating. The face fabric is an abrasion resistant nylon with a coating of C6 DWR water repellant, there is an X-ply polyester yarn (the black X-pattern you see in the white material) underneath that for increased bias stability and better tear resistance, the next layer is a clear film which adds the waterproofing (200 psi) and some stretch control, and that is all backed by a layer of polyester which adds seam strength and durability.
There are two grades of X-Pac used on the Long Haul:
- VX07 on the body. This is a 70 denier material that comes in at 5 oz. per sq. yd. It is a good middle of the road fabric, being pretty abrasion resistant, yet still very light.
- VX21 is used on all of the high-wear areas, such as the bottom and the side pockets. It is a 210 denier material that weighs 6 oz. per sq. yd. This material is very abrasion resistant.
Disclosure: Superior Wilderness Designs provided the author with a sample pack for this review.
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