Superior Wilderness Designs Rugged Long Haul 50 Backpack Review

Superior Wilderness Designs Rugged Long Haul 50 Backpack Review
The Superior Wilderness Designs Rugged Long Haul 50 Backpack is a lightweight backpack that’s built to handle anything, from off-trail bushwhacking and desert travel to regular backpacking and thru-hiking. There’s no exposed mesh on the exterior of the pack to rip and there are plenty of external attachment points to add accessory pockets or lash gear to the outside of the pack. The pack is made with Ultra 400 which is a new ultralight waterproof fabric that’s on par with Woven Dyneema and ten times more abrasion resistant than the Dyneema DCF fabrics found on other lightweight backs. If you want one backpack that can really do it all, the Rugged Long Haul 50 is a great option.

Specs at a Glance

  • Gender: Unisex
  • Volume: 50L closed storage, 10L open pockets
  • Type: Internal frame (stays)
  • Average Weight 32.2 oz (Actual tested weight 36.6 oz – weight varies by size)
  • Pockets: 3, plus the main compartment. Hip belt pockets are an optional add-on.
  • Hydration Compatible: No
  • Seam Taped: No
  • Load lifters: Yes
  • Canister Compatibility: BV500, Garcia; (vertical), BV475, 450, and 425 (horizontal).
  • External Pocket Drain Holes: Yes
  • Max Recommended Road: 40 lbs; the most comfortable max load is 3o lbs
  • For detailed specs, visit Superior Wilderness Designs

Backpack Pockets and Organization

The Rugged Long Haul is an rolltop backpack made with Ultra400
The Rugged Long Haul 50 is a rolltop backpack made with Ultra400.

The Rugged Long Trail is a rolltop backpack with two side pockets and a front pocket, all made with solid Ultra 400d, a new woven fabric made from Ultra High Molecular Weight Polyethylene (UHMWPE) fibers that is ultralight, waterproof, and just about the toughest fabric currently available to make backpacks with, surpassing Cordura, high denier Robic, and Dyneema DCF in terms of abrasion resistance.

The rolltop has a stiffener on top, with one accent color of your choice
The rolltop has a stiffener on top, with one accent color of your choice.

The Rugged Long Trail’s rolltop has a stiffener which makes it easier to gather and roll closed. Some pack makes don’t include this, but I prefer it because I feel it provides more effective compression. The rolltop buckles together on top or the sides of the pack, provided you purchase a pair of additional straps for that purpose. I wish I had realized that when I ordered the pack and recommend you do so, particularly if you hike off-trail: otherwise the rolltop is easy to get caught in vegetation.

There are two solid side pockets large enough to hold two water bottles and they are easily reachable when the pack is worn. Both side pockets have a thick elastic band along the top to secure items and are deep enough to securely hold a 32 oz Nalgene if that’s your preference. The pockets also have drain holes.

There is also a large front pocket, also made with solid Ultra 400, which is large enough for me to hold extra layers, snacks, a wet water filter, a soft squeeze bottle, and my cookpot/stove kit securely and all at once. It also has a thick elastic band on top with drain holes at its base.

Daisy chains on the outside of the hip belt make it easy to add accessory pockets
Daisy chains on the outside of the hip belt make it easy to add accessory pockets.

Both the BV500 and the Garcia bear canister only fit vertically inside the pack, while the BV475 can fit horizontally in the pack’s extension collar. A Y-strap is available as an add-on option, which I’d recommend getting whether you carry a bear canister or not, as the base pack only includes a single top strap.

The base pack also doesn’t come with any hip belt pockets, but you can add these as an option using webbing sewn on the outside of the hip belt. I experimented with two hipbelt pockets from SWD that close with a top flap and hold gear by gravity, rather than closing with a zipper or velcro. They worked quite well for holding snacks, bug dope, a head net, compass, map, fishing gloves, etc. although I’m still hesitant to use them to hold anything that is not easily replaceable like a satellite messenger, camera, or smartphone.

I tried these accessory pockets which don’t have zippers but close with an overhanging flap.
I tried these accessory pockets which don’t have zippers but close with an overhanging flap.

Despite being made with waterproof Ultra 400, the Rugged Long Haul 50 backpack is not seam-taped which is a little surprising because it has externalized frame stays (discussed below), which should make it considerably easier to tape. I did not notice any leakage when hiking in the rain, but I still recommend lining backpacks made with waterproof fabrics with a pack liner because it has multiple uses in the field.

Backpack Frame and Suspension

The Rugged Long Haul is an internal frame backpack with two frame stays that are connected to the hip belt with thick webbing straps, sewn to the base of the pack bag. The webbing straps have daisy chains, which permit you to lengthen or reduce the torso length up to 1-2 inches to dial in a better fit. I wouldn’t call the Rugged Long Haul an adjustable torso length pack because the degree of adjustment is so slight, but it’s still a nice feature that I took advantage of after determining that the torso length was slightly too long for me. Once adjusted, you can dial in a personalized fit without any slippage and move the load almost completely off your shoulders and onto your hips.

The frame stays are sewn on the outside of the pack bag behind your back.
The frame stays are sewn on the outside of the pack bag behind your back.

The frame stays themselves are sewn to the outside of the pack, behind your back, instead of on the interior of the packbag, which is where most lightweight pack manufacturers put them. This simplifies the inside of the pack bag, which does not have a hydration pocket or hydration ports. But I was surprised that SWD does not tape the inside of the pack because it would be far easier to do so than a backpack with internal frame stay pockets. It would add a lot of value to the Rugged Long Haul, given that it’s made with a waterproof fabric like Ultra 400, especially if you wanted to use it for packrafting.

The hipbelt is attached to the pack bag with gatekeeper clips and daisy chains, allowing it to be raised or lowered to shorten or lengthen the torso.
The hipbelt is attached to the pack bag with gatekeeper clips and daisy chains, allowing it to be raised or lowered to shorten or lengthen the torso.

Your back is protected from feeling the external frame stays by a foam pad located behind your shoulders, which is easily removed for use as a sit pad. Although the foam is on the small side, it still makes a good seat to keep your bum warm and dry. You also replace it with your own foam, although you’ll probably have to do trimming. While this construction allows for some air flow behind your back and above your waist, it’s pretty insignificant.

There is a foam pad and a pad pocket that protects you rback from the frame stays.
There is a foam pad and a pad pocket that protects your back from the frame stays.

The Rugged Long Trail’s shoulder straps and hip belt are well padded and both have daisy chains on the exterior for attaching accessory pockets. The shoulder straps have load lifters to pull the pack closer to your shoulders, while the hip belt has a pull-forward closure mechanism that makes it easier to tighten the pack. The hip belt is quite wide and contoured to wrap around your hips, with webbing that can tighten the upper half of the hip belt, but not the bottom half to any significant degree.

Daisy chains on the front of the shoulder straps make it easy to attach pockets or gear.
Daisy chains on the front of the shoulder straps make it easy to attach pockets or gear.

The hip belt is available in three different lengths and can be sewn to the pack or attached to its exterior providing a full 360-degree wrap. One thing I really like about SWD’s sizing is that it is based on the length you need to cover your hip bones with padding and not on waist size. For example, they offer three hip belt sizes which are 26″,  30″, and 34″. Each measurement refers to the amount of padding that the belt will have. By taking this approach to hip belt sizing, backpack makers could simplify pack fitting and deliver hip belts that actually fit instead of being chronically short.

External Attachments and Compression

The Rugged Long Haul really excels when it comes to external attachment points. There are webbing loops all over the exterior of the pack including 4 pairs along the sides to lash gear with, 2 pairs on the front and base if you want to carry a pad or tent under the pack, and more on top of the rolltop if you want to attach a Y-strap to carry gear on top. I love packs like this! They’re so multi-purpose.

The webbing straps are easy to detach and move to other positions on the pack.
The webbing straps are easy to detach and move to other positions on the pack.

SWD uses a special type of clip with its compression straps that make them easy to move to different locations or configurations on the pack. I also like the fact that the side straps are webbing and not string or cord, which doesn’t fair well in terms of durability, utility, or security, particularly when you step off-trail. Two webbing straps are provided on each side of the base pack and extra straps are also available for purchase at a nominal cost.

Comparison Table: Durable Lightweight Backpacks

Make / ModelWeightMaterial
Zpacks Arc Haul Ultra 60L19.6 oz / 556gUltra 200
Superior Wilderness Designs Rugged Long Haul 50L30.7 oz / 870gUltra 400
ULA Ultra 24 Circuit 68L36.7 oz / 1040gUltra 400, Ultra 200
Hyperlite Mountain Gear NorthRim 340034.4 oz / 975gWoven Dyneema, DCH150
Seek Outside Gila 3500 43 oz / 1219gUltra 400
LiteAF Ultra Curve 46L31 oz / 879gUltra 200
Mountain Laurel Designs Exodus 55L18 oz / 510gUltra 400, Ultra 200
Waymark Gear Lite 5039 oz / 1106gEPX200
Atom Packs The Mo EP6033 oz / 936gEPX200
Six Moon Designs Swift X36 oz /1021gLiteskin LS07

Recommendation

The Superior Wilderness Designs Rugged Long Haul 50 is a highly durable rolltop backpack made with Ultra 400 which is an ultralight waterproof fabric that is rapidly replacing Dyneema DCF among ultralight backpack manufacturers. Designed for durability and extensibility, the Rugged Long Haul can be easily configured for many different kinds of trips by adding or removing compression and accessory pockets to suit your needs. If you’re on the market for a durable lightweight backpack that can survive on-trail and off-trail use, you’ll have hard time beating the price and value that the Rugged Long Trail 50 provides without paying someone to make you a custom backpack from scratch. It really is an awesome pack and one that’s easy to get attached to.

Disclosure: SWD donated a backpack for this review.

14 comments

  1. I have the long haul 50 and love it for a lot of the reasons you mention. I was thinking, though, at one time they were offering seam taping as an add on to the new ultra packs. I checked ther site and it no longer seems to be an option. Don’t know why that would be. It’s a pack that you can configure almost any way you want it to be.

    • That is strange…I paid extra to have my Big Wild seam taped just a few months ago.

      • Maybe they just removed the option because it wasn’t economical. I do think it provides a competitive edge though, especially when compared to the HMG North Rim which is seam taped and made with Woven Dyneema in the high wear areas. Although that pack is nowhere as functional to use as a Ruged Long Haul.

  2. Hi, Philip

    How long did you have the Rugged long haul out in the rain for? I also have this pack and it’s not seam taped, and I had been wondering how it would do in torrential rain. SWD says on their site that their packs are “HIGHLY water resistant”, but still recommend a pack liner like you. Thanks for your time and I love your reviews and content!

    • Overnight and for a few hours the next morning. I really wouldn’t worry about it that much. The SWD packs are so heaviliy over-sewn and bartacked, that I doubt rain will get in, especially since all the pockets have drain holes. Falling into a river might make a difference though because the water pressure will be higher. But that’s why people use real dry bag stuff sacks when packrafting.

  3. Thanks for your thorough review. Do you have any plans to review SWD’s Movement pack?

    • Maybe. Sorry, I can’t be more definitive. It’s not in the queue now and it’s not really what I’m going to need for the next 6 months. Possibly in the spring. It looks like another good pack, just from a close look at the pictures.

  4. I got my Rugged Long Haul 50 a few months ago and had it seam taped. Absolutely love it. I’ve already slid/fallen across sharp rocks down a scree field and the fabric still looks perfect.

    Brandon is great to work with and can normally handle whatever custom option you need. I’m running their water bottle pouch and Lycra pocket on the shoulder straps and the ecopak zip hip belt pockets.

  5. Phillip – assuming you wore a medium what were your thoughts on the shorter 22” frame stays? I’m considering the rugged LH50 or the wendigo 50. The only difference is the medium wendigo has stays that are 2” longer to have a more functional load lifter angle with heavier pack weights. Is that something you’d recommend for loads above 30 lbs?

    • I actually found the load lifters worked at a good angle for me on the Rugged. Yeah, I wore a medium. What you say makes sense, but not having used the Wendigo, I suggest you write to Brandon (owner) and ask his opinion.

  6. Phillip
    Great review.
    I have the regular long haul 50 and purchased it for the exact reasons you mentioned.
    I was also able to get it seam sealed after i sent Brandon an email.
    The flexibility of the pack with all the attachments works great for me.
    The side pockets are very large but close up nicely and i carry my cook set, water bottles, water filter etc.
    The hip belt pockets with out zippers work better than expected but i agree and wouldn’t carry any thing of great value or importance. they are pretty secure and east to operate.
    The torso adjustment helped me out to fine tune the height as well.
    Did a section hike a few weeks ago from mad tom notch to Killington on the AT and my stuff stayed dry over 2-3 days of rain. I always take your advice and put everything in drybags as well.
    My BV450 fits in horizontally. Its a nuisance but i think its where things are going and i don’t miss looking for the tree for that PCT hang.
    Thank you
    Bill Compton
    Da Breeze

  7. I’ve had the Rugged Long Haul 50 since June and as I was awaiting delivery, I noticed the seam taping option on the website. I added that. I’ve used the pack on short 2 day hikes in the Whites and recently hiked the Vermont Long Trail. I love the pack. It rained on me constantly on the Long Trail and there was not a drop of water inside the pack. I find it very comfortable to carry which says a lot as a 62 year old guy with spinal stenosis, it’s lightweight and the construction is top notch. There were sections that I was pushing and pulling the pack up rocks on the Chin of Mt. Mansfield but the pack didn’t show the slightest abrasion. When I ordered they didn’t have the giant hip belt pockets you reviewed. I ordered large Ultra pockets and while well made weren’t quite bit enough to carry a full days worth of snacks on one side and easily fit my phone on the other. I’ll order those new pockets shortly.

  8. I take care of my 6 year old Osprey EXOS 65 but I WOULD like it better if it was made from this new Ultra 400 fabric.
    Philip, does Ultra 400 come in light weights suitable for tent floors?

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