Waymark Gear Lite 50 Backpack w/ECOPAK Review

Waymark Gear Lite 50 Backpack Review 640

The Waymark Gear Lite 50 is a lightweight internal frame backpack suitable for multi-day backpacking and thru-hiking trips. Weighing two and a half pounds, the Lite 50 has a standard UL rolltop design with a sewn-on hip belt, a front mesh pocket, and durable side pockets, including two side pocket configurations to choose from. The pack is available in multiple colors and the sewing and construction are absolutely top-notch, making the Lite 50 a real contender for backpackers that want a lightweight roll-top pack made with waterproof fabric that is durable and can haul heavier weights when necessary.

The Lite 50 is available in X-Pac or ECOPAK, a new composite fabric that shares the lightweight and durability characteristics of X-Pac but is made with 100% recycled polyester and has a lower environmental impact. We review a Lite 50 made with a grade of ECOPAK called EPX200 below, but you’d be hard-pressed to tell the difference between X-Pac and ECOPACK by appearance. While the Lite 50 is available in both fabrics, the packs made with them cost the same and have a very similar performance profile. You really can’t go wrong with either one.

Specs at a Glance

  • Type: Internal Frame
  • Volume: 51L: Main (39L), External Pockets (12L) (varies slightly by size)
  • Weight: 2 lbs 8.4 oz  (actual)- may vary +/- based on sizing and configuration
  • Tested build: M/L Torso, XXL Hip Belt, 1 hip belt pocket, upper right side pocket
  • Weight without Frame Stays (2): 2 lbs 4.0 oz (actual)
  • Max Recommended Load: 35 lbs
  • Pockets: 4, but more are available
  • Seam-Taped/Sealed: No, a pack liner is recommended.
  • Gender: Unisex
  • Load lifters: Yes
  • Hydration compatible: No
  • Canister Compatible: BV500 on top under Y strap or inside
  • Material: VX21, Recycled EPX200 ECOPAK, Heavy Duty Mesh
The Waymark Lite 50 has a classic roll-top UL style design
The Waymark Lite 50 has a classic roll-top UL style design.

Backpack Frame and Suspension

Waymark Gear relaunched the Lite 50 backpack this year with an internal frame system to appeal to a broader swath of lightweight backpackers (the previous model was frameless). The new frame system increases the pack’s max recommended load to 35 pounds and helps prevent bulky objects from poking you in the back. The frame system is also removable for people who don’t need it or want it

The Lite 50 has two aluminum frame stays housed in stay pockets in the main pack bag.
The Lite 50 has two aluminum frame stays housed in stay pockets in the main pack bag.

Internal Frame

The Lite 50 has two aluminum frame stays that slide into stay pockets on the interior of the pack. The stays are pre-bent and will fit most people out of the box, but you can also bend them to suit your torso shape if required (See: How to Bend Frame Stays). This makes them more customizable than rigid frames that you can’t modify, in addition to being lighter weight.

The frame stays run the length of the main pack bag and terminate right behind your hips, where they have the highest impact on load transfer. There’s also a 1/8 inch foam pad between the frame stays and the back of the pack for added comfort.

The pack’s load lifters are anchored to the pack bag at the top of the frame stays, instead of being sewn through the pack bag and onto the frame stay pockets. They still work effectively since the backpack material has so little stretch.

Daisy chains on the shoulder straps make it easy to add accessory pockets and gear
Daisy chains on the shoulder straps make it easy to add accessory pockets and gear

Shoulder Straps

The shoulder straps are sewn to the pack bag with a short piece of webbing instead of being sewn directly to the back panel. This lets them rotate and mold around different chest shapes. The shoulder straps have a very slight S-curve at the top to do the same (good for men with large chests and women’s busts). Daisy chains are sewn to the exterior of both shoulder straps so you can easily add accessory pockets or attach electronics to them. That’s really a must-have for me.

The dual strap hip belt system lets you adjust the tension on the top or bottom of the hipbelt but is easier to operate because it runs through a single center buckle.
The dual strap hip belt system lets you adjust the tension on the top or bottom of the hipbelt but is easier to operate because it runs through a single center buckle.

Hip belt

The hip belt is sewn to the back of the pack which boosts the pack’s load-carrying capability and responsiveness so it moves with you. There’s a noticeable difference between packs that have sewn-on hip belts vs ones that are mass-produced as separate components and connected with velcro.

The hip belt is moderately padded and lined with wicking mesh to keep your waist comfortable and drier when you perspire. There’s a very modest lumbar pad that prevents the hip belt from slipping under load and is really exemplary. My lower back is irritated by large lumbar pads, but this one isn’t noticeable, which is good. It’s covered with the same mesh and padding as the rest of the hip belt.

While the hip belt closes with a single buckle, it exerts pressure on your hips like a much more complicated two-strap belt (on each side) so you get a snug fit without fiddling with 4 straps and trying to keep them the same length all the time.

The outside of the hip belt has a daisy chain that is used to lock the hip belt pockets in place. It can also be used to hang gear from, like a winter hot water bottle.
The outside of the hip belt has a daisy chain that is used to lock the hip belt pockets in place. It can also be used to hang gear from with a carabiner, like a winter hot water bottle holder.

The outside of the hip belt has a daisy chain that can be used to attach items or pockets to the hip belt. One hip belt pocket is included with the base model and is attached to the hip belt with two elastic straps and a velcro strap (which threads through the daisy chain), so it won’t slide out of position. This also means you can move the pockets forward or backward along the hip belt where you want them to be. Each hip belt pocket is 6” wide x 5” tall x 2” deep in size, it has a water-resistant zipper, and holds a lot of stuff.

When sizing the hip belt, be aware that they run small on the Lite 50. I ended up with a size XXL hip belt which Waymark lists as 40″-44″ long although I wear a waist size of 37″-38″ in pants.

Waymark Gear Lite 50 Backpack

Comfort
Weight
Suspension
Features
Adjustability
Sizing
Durability

Durable and Superbly Crafted

The Lite 50 is a lightweight and durable multi-day or thru-hiking backpack made with a highly durable and waterproof fabric called EcoPak. It has a lightweight frame that makes it easy to carry heavier loads when you have to, without weighing you down when you want to make tracks!

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Backpack Storage and Organization

The Waymark Lite 50 is laid out like a typical ultralight backpack with side water bottle pockets, a long mesh front pocket, and a roll-top closure with a top Y-strap.

The Lite 50 is available with 3 external side pockets (shown) or two.
The Lite 50 is available with 3 external side pockets (shown) or two.

The base pack comes with two side pockets both made with solid fabric, one which is longer (13″ tall, left-hand side) than the shorter one (8″ tall, right-hand side). You can also opt for an added upper right-hand pocket (8″ tall, right), which makes the pack very similar to the Gossamer Gear Mariposa 60’s unique pocket configuration.

  • The shorter, bottom, 8″ pocket can hold up to two x 1 liter bottles and is reachable while wearing the pack. Water bottles stored in it do not fall out if the pack tips over. (The pack does not have an interior hydration pocket, or an interior hook for suspending one, or a hydration port.)
  • There is a compression strap above the 13″ pocket which makes it good for storing a small tent if you carry one or another shelter like a tarp.  A NEMO Switchback or a Thermarest ZLite folding foam pad can also fit in this pocket. You can’t reach back and pull a water bottle out of it, however.
  • The upper right-hand pocket, if you opt for it, is good for storing a small stove system.
  • None of the side pockets have drain holes, so you’ll want to use a pack liner if you hike in a rainy climate.
The taller side pocket and upper compression strap is great for carrying a small tent or a Tenkara fishing rod
The taller side pocket and upper compression strap is great for carrying a small tent and a Tenkara fishing rod

The front pocket is made with heavy-duty mesh with an elastic hem on top and gussets on the bottom so it will expand when stuffed. It works best with clothing, but it can be a little difficult to use with bulkier or pointy objects like a stove system or crampons when the pack is stuffed. I prefer a densely woven stretch mesh pocket myself because it’s less likely to get caught or ripped on vegetation off-trail.

The upper right hand pocket is good for storing a stove system.
The upper right-hand pocket is good for storing a stove system.

The roll-top has a strip of velcro inside to hold the sides together for rolling, but the ends only buckle to themselves instead of buckles or straps on the body of the backpack, limiting the amount of top-down compression you can get. This type of closure also lends itself to getting hung up on vegetation if you hike off-trail, much the same way that the exposed metal bar would if you were carrying an external frame pack. I probably spend a lot more time hiking off-trail than most people, looking for historical artifacts, and fly fishing brushy mountain streams, so my preference is for roll tops that lie flush against the body of a pack rather than creating a loop that can trap tree branches.

The roll top has a short piece of velcro to secure the sides, but the end buckles only connect to themselves providing limited top compression
The roll top has a short piece of velcro to secure the sides, but the end buckles only connect to themselves providing limited top compression.

There’s a Y-strap that loops over the roll-top and can be used to carry bulky items like a foam pad or climbing rope. The strap is long enough that you could lash a bear canister to the top of the pack but you’ll probably want to add some additional straps or cord to keep it from slipping off. Alternatively, a large bear canister, like a Bearvault BV500, does fit inside the pack vertically and the frame stays prevent it from poking into your back.

Compression and External Attachments

The amount of compression offered by the Lite 50 is limited. If you get the three-pocket configuration, there’s just the one compression strap over the tall pocket. If you just get the two-pocket configuration, you do get a second compression strap over the shorter side pocket.

I think the two-pocket configuration is definitely the more flexible, but that upper right-hand pocket can be really nice if you can figure out what to put in it. It can hold a stove, a cold soak kit, food, a water filter/purification kit, your toilet kit, etc. I carried a Gossamer Gear Mariposa 60 with a 3-pocket configuration for years and always found a use for the upper pocket.

The problem with a single compression strap, even if you have two, is that it’s not really good for much on the Lite 50, other than preventing tall skinny objects from falling out of the side pockets. For example, you really need two straps, one on top of the other to carry snowshoes on the sides of a pack. There are also not any good anchor points, like tiny webbing loops, along the pack seams where you could attach cord to lash additional items to the outside of the pack. This would be an easy addition though.

The Lite 50 comes with elastic ice axe shaft and trekking pole holders which is a nice touch on a cottage pack.
The Lite 50 comes with elastic ice axe shaft and trekking pole holders which is a nice touch on a cottage pack.

Finally, the Lite 50 comes with a pair of webbing loops to hold trekking poles and a single webbing strap to hold a mountaineering ax. Elastic shaft holders are provided for both, which is a nice touch you often don’t find on many cottage company packs.

Comparable Lightweight Backpacks with Internal Frames

Make / ModelVolumeWeightMaterial
Waymark Gear Lite 5050L36-39 ozXPac or ECOPACK
Gossamer Gear Mariposa 60 Backpack60L31.2 ozRobic Nylon
Gossamer Gear Gorilla 50 Backpack50L29.8 ozRobic Nylon
Hyperlite Mountain Gear Junction 240055L31.8 ozDyneema DCF
Northern Ultralight Sundown 4648L26.2 ozXPac
Superior Wilderness Designs Long Haul 40L50L32.7 ozECOPACK

Recommendation

The Waymark Gear Lite is a 50-liter backpack that’s designed, according to Waymark, for transitional hikers who want to switch from heavier packs and loads to lighter-weight backpacking gear but still want to carry a few small luxury items. The external pockets, including the long mesh front pocket, make the pack really easy to use, while the pack’s narrow width makes it very responsive on scrambles and when climbing.  The hip belt is downright exceptional and doesn’t slip under heavier loads, in part because it’s sewn to the pack body, while the daisy chains on the shoulder straps and hip belt make it easy to attach accessory pockets, electronics, and navigation tools.

Disclosure: Waymark Gear provided the author with a backpack for this review.

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16 comments

  1. I assume the BV500, if placed inside the pack, needs to be vertical?

  2. This or Mariposa 60?

    • You’ll have to decide that yourself – depends on your priorities. Note pluses and minuses below.

      Lite 50 (50L)
      -heavier
      +much more durable
      +ecologically sounder w/ECOPAK
      -pay extra for a second pocket
      -no drain holes in pockets
      -no gear attachment loops
      +sewn on hipbelt (sizing is a potential issue)
      +frame stays
      -not hydration compatible
      +waterproof fabric
      +daisy chains on shoulder straps and hip belt
      +roll top
      -limited resale value (since the sizing is fixed and custom)
      -8 week backlog

      Mariposa (60L)
      +lighterweight and higher volume
      +can change hip belt if you lose weight
      -fairly fragile fabric
      -not waterproof fabric
      +stretch front pocket
      +superb lightweight frame (removable)
      -annoying top closure
      -no daisy chains on shoulder straps or hip belt
      +hydration compatible
      +drain holes in pockets
      +lots of gear loops for custom attachments
      +lots of torso lengths and hip belt sizes
      +easy to sell used
      +immediate product availability

      Either way, you really can’t go wrong. They’re both fun to carry and use.

      • Very nice comparison – thank you Phil!
        Market looking really promising for 2022.
        Waymark testing out Ultra material.
        Redesigned Durston DD40 and new DD55. Most likely will use Ultra200.
        MountainSmith Zerk60 (not confirmed)
        gossamer Gear redesigned Silverback 55 – to be announced any day now.
        granite Gear Crown3

      • Ultra looks promising. I think MLD has made an exodus with it. Regular EPX200 is kind of ho-hum but a big step up from Robic nylon.

  3. My understanding is this material can be seam taped. If so, would taping them add additional strength to the seams or does this material hold stitching really well?

    As the next generation materials are ushered in, will DCF still have a place?

    • The material holds stitching really well. Seam taping is time-consuming and expensive. The reason people might care has to do with waterproofing, not seam strength.
      Will DCF still have a place? Who knows. But I wouldn’t ever bet your backpacking company on a specific fabric.

  4. Though I haven’t seen this pack in person the absence of drain holes in the side pockets would have concerned me as well. So I contacted the company and asked them about this and received the following response within an hour:

    We’re happy to hear you found some value out of the review of our pack on Section Hiker.
    As for the drain holes, we recommend that if you plan on hiking in rainy climates or in an extended downpour, that you use a pack cover, as well as use a waterproof pack liner. In a downpour, getting your entire pack wet as well as items in your main front pocket will be far more of an issue at that point. If you are hiking in a light rain or have short intervals of rain throughout the day, the amount of water that would actually get into your side pockets would be negligible. We’ve had hundreds of hikers on the AT with our packs and haven’t had feedback of anyone having issues with our pockets not having drain holes, when also using a waterproof pack liner.
    Currently we do not have a design or option to add drain holes to the side pockets.

    Please let me know if you have any other questions. Thanks!


    Devin Ashby | General Manager

  5. I’m surprised you didn’t list the Osprey EXOS as a “comparable pack”. I’ve added zippered side pockets to mine for better organization of items I may need during the hike.

    Many times I’ve posted here and on Backpacking Light forums my antipathy to SULers affection for 1.) frameless packs 2.) no straps on hiking poles 3.) ti “cooking” mugs 4.) tarps WITH added floored netting liners
    5.) 1/2 length mattresses/pads 6. SUL thin soled hiking shoes

    There are very good reasons for frames in packs (with good hip belts), straps on hiking poles (when used properly) anodized aluminum pots, UL one man tents, full length mattresses, decent sole protection and support on hiking shoes

    Not saying I don’t try to save weight. I own a Dyneema Tarptent Notch Li solo tent, carbon fiber hiking poles, Western Mountaineering down bag, etc. But I save it where it does not cause me discomfort, on the trail or in camp.

    Sorry to digress on my digressions but even the mention of frameless backpacks will set me off.

    • I strongly agree with your digressions,but gram weenies abound !! I do think however in the long run,it helps all of us whether we are UL’rs or not. I just think about the pack I used to have back in the 70’s. Every time I see someone resupplying a AMC hut, it takes me back there ! Thank God for evolution !!!

    • Which zippered side pockets have you added? Do you mean belt pockets? I’ve wondered if the Zpacks hip belt pockets would work on an Exos hip belt.

  6. This was one of the most enjoyable and informative review I’ve read in a long time, including the comments!

    Well done!

  7. Thanks for the good details. I am using a Waymark EVOLV and find it superb. The ability to have a longer pack so as to add stuff if needed with good rolltop is a major need.
    Small thing – for people outside of the US it would be good if you would include metric measurements. You have many followers outside US I imagine who would appreciate that.
    Thanks again for the great work you do.

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