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Superior Wilderness Designs 50L Long Haul Backpack Review

Winter hiking with the Superior Wilderness Designs 50L Long Haul Backpack
Winter hiking with the Superior Wilderness Designs 50L Long Haul Backpack

Superior Wilderness Designs Long Haul 50 Backpack

Comfort
Weight
Suspension
Features
Adjustability
Sizing
Durability

Very Good

The Long Haul is a lightweight 50L backpack suitable for multi-day trips and thru-hikes. Made with a durable waterproof fabric called XPac, it's very durable in challenging conditions with a complete set of features that provide good flexibility.

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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 50L Long Haul Backpack has a large main compartment, narrow at the bottom but flaring wider at the top. The top closes with two snaps (shown), with a single glove hook to hang a reservoir.
The 50L Long Haul Backpack has a large main compartment, narrow at the bottom but flaring wider at the top. The top closes with two snaps (shown), with a single glove hook to hang a reservoir.

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 roll top closes with a buckle and has a Y strap that can be used to lash gear to the top of the pack
The roll top closes with a buckle and has a Y strap that can be used to lash gear to the top of the pack.

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.

The Long Haul has a rear mesh pocket, which is surrounded by six attachment points, that can be used to attach gear to the rear of the pack
The Long Haul has a rear mesh pocket, which is surrounded by six attachment points, that can be used to attach gear to the rear of the pack

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.

The SWD Long Haul has removable hip belt pockets with waterproof zippers.
The SWD Long Haul has removable hip belt pockets with waterproof zippers.

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.

Each hip belt pocket is also attached using an elastic strap.
Each hip belt pocket is also attached using an elastic strap.

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 Z-style side compression does not provide much side compression at the bottom of the pack, but then again X-Pac doesn't stretch very much.
The Z-style side compression does not provide much side compression at the bottom of the pack, but then again X-Pac doesn’t stretch very much so you don’t really need compression to keep it from bulging.

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 frame stays are pre-shaped for ease of use
The frame stays are pre-shaped for ease of use.

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 shoulder straps have sewn on daisy chains so you can easily hang gear off of them.
The shoulder straps have sewn on daisy chains so you can easily hang gear off of them.

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 Superior Wilderness Designs Long Haul 50L Backpack is made with X-Pac, a waterproof ultralight fabric, similar to cuben fiber but slightly heavier and less expensive.
The Superior Wilderness Designs Long Haul 50L Backpack is made with X-Pac, a waterproof ultralight fabric, similar to cuben fiber, but slightly heavier and less expensive.

Assessment

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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15 comments

  1. Given that these packs and HMG packs are around the same price, which would you actually buy?

    • Hyperlite Mountain Gear’s Southwest models, because they have been ruggedized for durability and have sewn-on pockets, a sold external rear pocket, internal reservoir pocket, a better external attachment systems, etc. All the things you’d probably have to pay extra to get SWD to customize (which would neutralize the price difference.

      My main packs are the HMG SW 2400 and the HMG SW 3400, which work perfectly for my needs.
      https://www.hyperlitemountaingear.com/2400-southwest.html
      https://www.hyperlitemountaingear.com/3400-southwest-pack.html

      The SWD Long Haul has promise though. They just need to fix the pack’s components to be more competitive with HMG.

      • I have the HMG Windrider 3400 and just ordered a customized long haul from SWD, I was thinking of selling the HMG but your experience and opinion (which I trust a lot) is making me think I should just keep both. I wish I saw your comment on customizations before I ordered though, since they are solid suggestions. Thank you for the review!

      • If you just ordered it I bet you have time to change the order. They only have one person making the packs…

      • I’m not shopping for a pack, but I like my pack to have a durable fabric in the main bag, and I don’t see cuben fitting the description. I have seen a few cuben packs fail to different degrees, from having a bunch of holes to catastrophic. I love the carry of my old white HMG 2400 Ice Pack, but it’s not durable enough for my needs. And the full dyneema is more than I can afford. I don’t understand the obsession for Cuben in packs. Particularly when DP fabrics are available at a much higher denier and much lower price than cuben at essentially the same weight. Although I haven’t tried the heavier fabric offered by HMG in the last couple of years (black 150 denier?). I could be wrong, but I don’t think it’s as durable as a full VX-42 or a VX-42/21 hybrid.

        It may be worth inquiring at SWD. They would probably offer at least a full VX-21, and even that seems more durable than the Cuben offered by HMG, although again I don’t have experience with their new 150 denier fabric. But I would probably go with SWD over HMG even on a full VX-21. Hoping that HMG will move to DP fabric some time in the future… Wishful thinking, on my part, it appears…

      • I really doubt HMG will ever go to XPac. They’re in the Dyneema tent to stay. You might try Zimmerbuilt. Interesting designs.

      • I reached out to SWD about possibly sewing the pockets in and he said it’s definitely an option but the pockets will be smaller.

        Apparently they’re also using larger cords now that will fix the moving around issue, so future bags probably won’t Have that problem. I decided to let the pockets be removable, but requested 2 wider elastic cords instead of just one.

        Overall I’m really excited about the bag and I’m really impressed with how they do business.

  2. In your opinion, how does this compare to the Granite Gear Crown 60-2 that you recently reviewed?

    • The Granite Gear pack is much more refined with better external attachments and compression. But the biggest difference are the materials and shape. The Crown has a bigger butt (somewhat wider bottom) and requires more compression because the material isn’t as stiff. On the flip side, the Crown is not as durable. Are you trying to decide between the two?

  3. Thinking about it. I’ve worn down my GoLite Pinnacle but it’s still usable. It weighs 34 oz. and is comfortable. Most of the time, I’m carrying just under 30 lb. to start and my trips are usually 1 to 2 nights on the trail. Most of my hiking is in the desert Southwest so that includes hauling water. My desert hikes are usually on established trails in the mountains. I do hike in Arkansas in the forest and sometimes bushwhack up there.

    Of course, right now it’s really wishful thinking because I can barely walk after my back surgery. I have a follow up with the doctor tomorrow to try to get a handle on what’s going on with the sciatic issues. I feel like the surgeons pretty much put me out to pasture on this so I’ve initiated some doctor visits to try to force their hand so to speak.

  4. I just placed my order for one! I went with the XPac front pocket bc I too always get holes in front net pockets. I also ordered it with roll-top side compression, a dual-adjust hip belt buckle, and no hydration port or haul loop. And of course I chose their new teal color for most abused parts of the pack!! :) I like your idea about the sewn-in hip belt pockets. I’ll email them and see if that’s an option. I’m excited to try out the XPac material. I haven’t been having the best of luck with Cuben packs, so I’m hoping my Long Haul will solve my problems! SWD was always very responsive to my emails and customization requests. I just may end up building a Superior 25 for SUL and lighter UL trips. :)

  5. Woodstock the Hiker

    How effective is the weight transfer of the frame compared with the ULA Circuit or GG Gorilla/Silverback? Is the Long Haul actually comfortable and effective at weight transfer to the hips in the 30-35 pound range?

  6. Woodstock the Hiker

    Thanks. I don’t really want to carry 35 pounds consistenly. I’m trying to find a pack to replace my Atmos (which I really like) because the hip belt is too large for me and my torso is too long for anything but the size large. I tried the Exos and have the same problem, but even more so. This is why I’m looking into cottage manufacturer UL packs, being able to get a large pack and a small hip belt. I’ve been pretty set on the Circuit but came across SWD on Carrot Quinn’s blog the other day. Just wondered how you thought the two compared.

    • I like the Circuit the better of those two, mainly because i like the hip belt better. It attaches to the pack body with velcro and has 2 inches of vertical play since the velcro patch is wider than the hip belt. Those two inches make it really easy to dial in the torso length if that’s a problem for you. Loadwise, they both use framestays.Not sure what mesh SWD designs is using these days, but I think the Circuits is more durable.

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