Drop, formerly MassDrop, has catered to the ultralight crowd for a while now, dedicating one of their communities to it. From time to time, Drop also releases collaborations with manufacturers, including everything from a run of the Granite Gear Crown X60, to Kylmit sleeping pads, and custom mechanical keyboards. These runs are usually tweaked versions of existing products, but the Drop 40L is a product designed from the ground up by Drop and thru-hiker Dan Durston.
The Drop 40L has a familiar silhouette, taking queues from many popular UL bag makers like Hyperlight Mountain Gear, Superior Wilderness Designs, Six Moon Designs, ULA Equipment, and many more. You get the idea – many UL packs share a similar approach to pack design. But, the Drop 40L can stand on its own, bringing an incredibly low price point and some unique features developed by Dan Durston throughout his thousands of miles of thru-hiking.
This pack has its roots in an original design of Dan’s from back in 2014. It’s a really cool read that you can check out on an old Backpacking Light thread. This particular pack is a press sample, and some things are subject to change between now and the production release.
|Imperial (S/M, M/L)||Metric (S/M, M/L)|
|Height||?, 22″||?, 56cm|
|Length||?, 12″||?, 30.5cm|
|Depth||?, 7.5″||?, 19cm|
|Weight||1.86lbs, 1.93lbs||842g, 876g|
|Capacity||2441 cu. in., 2624 cu. in.||40L, 43L|
These measurements were taken by the reviewer and not provided as official measurements by Drop.
|Primary Materials||Dimension Polyant VX07, VX21|
Quality and Comfort
The main body of the Drop 40L is made from light-grey Dimension Polyant VX07, while higher wear areas like the back, the base of the pack, and pockets are made from a slightly heavier olive green VX21. I had suspicions, at first that at $120 ($150 after pre-sale) the material couldn’t be actual Dimension Polyant X-Pac, but according to Dan Durston, it’s the real deal. X-Pac is a popular material for thru-hiking bags as the material itself is waterproof, and the back facing side is lined with a taffeta to protect the waterproof layers while also providing some contrast to the inside of the bag.
This labeling is slightly different than what is listed on the product page, but this is a press sample and things often change between pre-release and production. While my tags say 45L, the M/L size is listed at 43L. In my experience, all bags load-up differently so you can only really take listed capacity at face value. I’ll say that I feel this bag holds much more than the listed 40/45L, and that’s with the roll-top rolled all the way down, leaving even more room at the top of the bag.
The roll-top is a top-buckle style, rather than having dual side-buckles. The top has a single compression strap that keeps the roll-top in place. You could probably stuff a light jacket or something under here if you felt the need too. I’m slightly worried about the attachment to the front side of the pack, as it looks like it’s pulling, but this isn’t a load bearing area, so it should be okay as long as you’re not yanking it down with all your might.
The shoulder straps are a sandwich of airmesh, EVA foam, and another top layer of mesh. They’re wide, breathable, and comfortable and more than supportive enough for an ultralight style bag. One big plus is that these straps actually have load-lifters, something that doesn’t always come on bags like this. I personally think they’re essential to comfortable carry. The load lifters, like all other webbing on this bag, are 1/2″ wide and connect a few inches down the straps. The straps also have a sternum strap that connects to some internally routed wire, and it’s very adjustable.
The lifters have one of the weaker points on the bag, unfortunately. They’re essentially stitched into the mesh/foam of the straps without much else to reinforce them. I’d worry that these would tear at higher loads, but keep in mind that this bag is meant for lightweight hiking, which is typically well under the 40lb limit that Drop lists on the product page. This is also a press sample – the bag’s designer, Dan Durston, says that the attachment of the lifters are being redesigned on the production model which ships in April 2020, so expect this issue to be fixed. You can also see the small vertical carry handle in the picture below, in case you need to hang your bag from a tree or your hammock suspension.
The hip belt that comes with the Drop 40L is actually quite nice, and permanently attached. It’s padded, lined with airmesh, and has medium sized zippered pockets on either side. The pockets, like almost all other areas on the bag, use high quality YKK zippers. I wish Drop would have gone with YKK Aquaguard zippers all around, but unless you’re stuck out in a downpour I wouldn’t worry about any of the standard zip areas.
I’m far from an ultralight hiker, so I’m glad Drop shipped this bag with a frame. It’s a standard u-shape, made from 3oz of aluminum, and removable for those that want to shave ounces. When it’s in the bag, it helps shift some weight to the hip belt off of your shoulders. There’s also a light layer of PE foam to keep some padding between you and your gear. I imagine you could somewhat successfully replace this with a closed-foam sleep or sit pad if you use one.
There’s more than meets the eye on this pack when it comes to organization. Designer Dan Durston has come up with some really nice organizational features that you’re not often going to see on other bags like this. The left side pocket is pretty unique and so is the somewhat unconventional front pocket.
The Drop 40L has two large pockets on either side of the bag. The right side is typical of lightweight packs, and snugly holds two 1L Smartwater bottles, which have become the ultralight hiker’s bottle of choice.
The left side, on the other hand, is relatively unique. It’s a bit taller with a slightly tighter opening, but the real secret sauce is the QuickPocket. It’s deceivingly large and wraps around the entire bottle pocket, giving it its own bottom and side volume. You could easily fit a compact camera and more in here, or whatever else you’d want quick access to. It’s even accessible while the pack is on your back. Dan worked hard to get this pocket right, and it shows. It has to be one of my favorite features on the bag. It’s also the only pocket on the bag to use an Aquaguard zipper.
Above each of the side pockets you also have some adjustable static cord attached via eyelets on the pack. These are nice for keeping longer items like trekking poles or an axe cinched up close to the pack, or for utilizing as compression straps. These are also removable if you don’t want to use them.
There’s not much to talk about for the main compartment of the bag. It’s your typical black hole, roll-top closure. The only thing of note is the sleeve for the frame and padding mentioned above. There’s a port for a hydration hose, but I’m not sure where you’d hang the bladder even if you wanted to use it, so it seems like an odd addition.
Another nice feature, whether intentional or not, is that you can roll the neck of the bag down over itself, kind of like rolling up a sleeve. This made packing the bag, and digging through it, a lot easier.
The shoulder straps have two permanently attached stretch pockets. These were a bit of a miss for me. While Dan mentioned that they will stretch out overtime, or overnight if you stuff them up, they’ll never be quite big enough to fit today’s larger phones, and even have trouble fitting a smaller water bottle. It’s unfortunate as those are the two main things I’d want to keep here, along with maybe a snack. Maybe they will stretch out more than I think over time, but after keeping them stuffed overnight they still feel too cramped for much of anything. The left stretch pocket has an extra zippered pocket to keep some of your smaller items secure
The hip belt pockets are typical, and are easily accessible while the pack is on. I’ve found that sometimes belts don’t wrap around quite enough, making it a bit more difficult to manipulate pockets on them. I found these just right. If I could change two things about them, it would be for them to be large enough to accommodate a larger modern phone, and for them to have Aquaguard zippers, especially since you’re probably not keeping your phone in the stretch pockets. I’ll also use this paragraph to mention the zipper-pulls – they’re pretty lackluster all over the pack. However, this is a lightweight pack so they were definitely chosen with ounce shaving in mind. It’s something that’s replaceable if it bugs you.
The front pocket is a divergence from typical mesh and stretch pockets. Mesh pockets are usually the first thing to go on those bags because of the tendency to snag, and the stretch panel pockets can wear out over time. Dan solved both of these problems by creating a static panel attached with shock cord. You get most of the same stuff-ability without having to worry about it wearing out. And if the shock cord wears out, it’s something that’s very easily replaceable. The front panel also has it’s own pocket, which is nice for keeping maps or other slim items. However, this is another area where I wish an Aquaguard zipper was used.
The front panel, along with the side cordage, u-frame, and back padding are all removable if you’re the kind of person that cuts down the handle of their toothbrush to save weight. All told, you can get the pack down another ~5.5oz, putting it at around the 1.5lb mark when stripped.
- The price is a steal. Prior to this release, it was relatively difficult to dip your toes into an ultralight bag of this style for under $200.
- The QuickPocket is great and works as advertised.
- The front panel and front pocket are an upgrade over typical mesh and stretch material.
- The suspension is comfortable and carries up 40lbs, which is more than some other lightweight bags.
- The listed capacity seems understated, and you can easily fit even bulkier items by expending the roll-top more.
- The attachment of the load lifters seems like a failure point, but these are supposed to be fixed on the production version.
- I think most of the attachment points on this pack could probably use a bit of reinforcement. Just remember that it’s not a heavy load hauler.
- I would have opted for Aquaguard zippers everywhere.
- The shoulder pockets are too small. A little bump in size could have made a huge difference.
There’s honestly not a lot to dislike about this bag, especially if you’ve been thinking about experimenting with lightweight or ultralight hiking. While this wasn’t made in the USA like other popular cottage brands (Six Moon Designs, ULA Equipment, Superior Wilderness Designs, etc.) you’re still getting a well built and thought out pack that should last you a good while – especially if some of the mentioned failure points are fixed on the production model. It’s comfortable, holds a bunch, and has some unique features you’re not going to yet find on other ultralight packs. The Drop 40L is available for pre-sale via Drop for $120 for only 10 more days as of this publication. When the pack releases in April 2020 Drop will be stocking it for $150.
Editor’s Note: The Drop 40L was provided by Drop as a sample for review purposes. The content of this review was not shared with Drop before publishing. Our reviews are unbiased and never modified to keep a brand happy.