Well, this review is coming up on about 4 months late at this point. The global COVID-19 pandemic cancelled almost all of my longer hiking plans for the year a few times over, but here we are. The Superior Wilderness Designs Long Haul is designed and built from the ground up by Brandon and Ashley, and I wanted to do it justice, as we try to do with all of our reviews. I do want to be up front and say that I’ve not yet been able to use this bag for any true multi-day hikes. However, I’ve kept it loaded up as such for all of my testing, over all sorts of terrain and distances from some full days on the trail to just walking my dogs. Once I’m able to re-plan our group’s multi-day hikes, I’ll be sure to add an update to this review.
This specific Long Haul is the largest available at 50L. It’s also available in 40L and 35L variants, if you’re someone that has their kit a bit more dialed in than I do, or if you mostly just focus on Summer camping. Keep in mind that these packs are all built to order, and each is tailored to the request of the user; myself in this case. If you want to learn more about Brandon and Ashley, you can read an interview we did with SWD here.
Now, as we just mentioned, and before we continue, note that a lot of the features on this pack are specific to my personal wants and needs. This would be the case if you were to order from SWD as well, which is what makes the bags truly unique. I’ll try to focus on the standard features, and call out when a specific feature was an additional request or modification. You can see the custom options available here, which are expanding all of the time.
|Height||34″ unrolled||86.4cm unrolled|
|Capacity||3051 cu. in. + 610 cu. in.||50L internal + 10L external|
|Primary Materials||VX07, VX21, X42|
Quality and Comfort
“Workhorse” and “ultralight” don’t often share the same sentence, but that’s how SWD describes the Long Haul, and that’s how I would too. It definitely slides more towards lightweight than UL, but for me that was a good thing. While I strive for lightweight hiking, my overnight setup would be the laughing stock of the UL world. So, I was pleasantly surprised at how easily and comfortably I was able to carry around my full kit for miles and miles. The padding and support built in to the bag is everything you need and nothing you don’t. The Long Haul 50 is rated for up to 35lbs, comfortably, so you should definitely have a lighter weight kit dialed in for this kind of bag, but there’s plenty of capacity for creature comforts.
The straps are surprisingly well padded for such a lightweight pack, and the padding is nice and airy, not overly dense. They’re well shaped which lets them really hug the body and spread weight across your shoulders and chest. The load lifters are attached right to the removable, shaped aluminum stays on either side of the pack, which helps drive some of the weight into your hips, but also allows quick adjustment while hiking to shift the weight where you need it at any given moment. I’ve learned that even with the lightest of packs and loads, after a few miles I always find myself wanting to adjust load lifters, so these are a must for me.
My specific Long Haul has the removable foam backpanel option. This moves both the stays and the foam pad to the outside of the pack. If your’e really trying to slim down what you carry, this option will let you use the foam back panel as your sit pad. Alternatively, it also (optionally) adds shock cord to the backpanel so you can completely remove the provided foam pad and lash your sit or sleep pad to the backpanel if it doesn’t fit inside the usual sleeve. Or you can just completely go without it. If you’re wondering, there are drain holes at the bottom of the sleeve.
Working alongside the load-lifters and stays is a hip belt, padded very similarly to the shoulder straps. The lightweight padding and airmesh wrap all the way around between the two wings, providing some nice lumbar support. It’s really comfortable, especially when paired with the optional dual-adjust upgrade. I really love the dual-adjust, and highly recommend adding it to get your belt dialed in just right.
Like many hiking packs, the torso length comes in a few sizes, and this is also paired with the belt size. While the torso fits me perfectly, thanks to the SWD sizing guidelines, the belt came up a little short. Now, I first want to say that this is completely my fault. SWD does a great job of describing size and fit, and if I would have asked for a Medium torso and a Large belt, I know they would have obliged. So if you’re ordering, even though the torso and belt sizes are currently listed together, do a double check on both sizes.
Both the belt and shoulder straps are made from a 400D diamond ripstop nylon. This is true no matter which fabrics you select for you pack. It’s a good decision for durability, and it helps keep the overall cost of manufacturing down since you’re not getting any actual benefit to XPac or DCF shoulder straps.
The rest of the bag is made of materials that are generally up to you. My specific Long Haul is the standard material set – a VX07 body with VX21 side pockets and back panel and a matching double-layer boot. If you’re worried about the durability of VX07 (you shouldn’t be), SWD also offers a Rugged version which is outfitted the same, except with a VX21, X42, or VX42 body. This can add almost half a pound, so if you don’t really need it I’d say stick with the standard. If you really want to splurge, the Long Haul is also available in 2.9oz DCF, which unlike the VX packs, comes fully seam taped so you don’t need to worry about water intrusion or adding a dry bag.
The offerings at SWD are changing all of the time, so double check the materials and colors when ordering if you’re looking for something specific.
One thing worth noting, more specifically if you’re not familiar with ultralight oriented bags, is that you’re not going to find any finishing on the internal seams – no binding tape. This isn’t something you have to worry about. It’s just one of the ways that ultralight bag makers keep the ounces down without sacrificing too much durability.
For hardware, we’ve got (what looks like) Duraflex all around, with 1/2″ webbing everywhere you see webbing; the side, top, and bottom compression, as well as on the shoulder straps.
The customization possibilities are even doubly true for the organization options available from SWD. Personally, I like at least a little bit of external organization and compartmentalization to my gear, just so I can have some quick access items like snacks, a headlamp, water filtration, and whatnot. I know plenty of lightweight and ultralight backpackers like to shave ounces by eliminating as much organization as possible, and that’s still an option you have here. By default, the Long Haul simply comes with side pockets and a mesh stash pocket. Like above, I’m going to try and talk mostly about the default options, but I’ll touch on some of the available customizations and why I chose the ones I did.
The side pockets are something you get on every Long Haul. SWD offers a few different materials and colors, VX21 and X42 included. I stuck with VX21 to match the other accents on the bag. The pockets themselves each hold two tall 1L water bottles and have a shock cord cinch top to keep them from shifting around over rough terrain. The top also angles forward slightly, giving you a better chance of grabbing a bottle with the bag still on your back. This is never very easy, no matter how the bag is designed, so if you want to run a bottle rather than a bladder I’d recommend also adding a shoulder mounted pouch to carry one bottle on your front.
One neat feature of the side pockets is that the compression cord (or webbing, if you choose), runs behind and through these pockets. This lets you compress your bag’s contents separately from the side pockets, and it improves access and security on both accounts.
Where my specific Long Haul starts to differ should be obvious by the photographs. Above the standard side pocket I added a small zipper pouch. This can come either with a cinch top or with a zipper and it doesn’t interfere with the lower pocket. This is where I usually keep items like my headlamp, water filter, and other items that I don’t want to break into the main compartment for.
On the other side, I opted for a tall pocket. This is where I keep my entire sleep system sans insulation. I use a waterproof silnylon stuff sack to stash my hammock, tree straps, bug net, tarp, and some other odds and ends, and it fits in here perfectly. This way I can get my camp set up right away without having to fully take apart the contents of my main compartment. This is also a great area to stash your tent if that’s what you’re running.
Around front, my stash pocket is the pretty standard mesh you see on many other lightweight packs. SWD offers a lot of other options here, including lycra and XPac, and you can even add a zipper to the top. I opted for a tiny lycra half-pocket which sits inside the mesh pocket. I’ll usually keep a hat and pair of gloves in here so I can get at them quickly but they stay separate from any wet gear I may have thrown in to the main stash pocket.
On top of the pack, I chose to add a small zippered compartment that gets built into the roll-top. The direction you roll the top down, and how far, will determine whether or not you can easily access this pocket, but it’s usually not an issue. I imagine this to be true even with the standard closure which just connects together at the top. This is where I like to keep items that I absolutely need to secure and not lose, like my keys and wallet, since I won’t be accessing this compartment for any other reason.
In order to keep the silhouette a bit cleaner, and to give some vertical compression, I opted for the vertical roll-top closure rather than the standard horizontal. The only real change here is the addition of compression straps on either side of the bag, where you can clip the roll-top’s buckles. This doesn’t effect the pack’s ability to still be secured horizontally if you prefer that for any reason. It’s worth noting that while my variant does not have removable compression straps, SWD now ships these with hardware that makes them removable, which allows you to add them to any SWD pack at any time that’s been sewn as of this publication. Otherwise, you can just stuff these into the side pockets if you’re not using them.
The main compartment here is probably as you’d expect it; (mostly) empty. The only options I’ve added here are the hydration sleeve / hanger and the hydration port. The weight this adds is minimal, and I like being able to run a bladder sometimes. The sleeve is just mesh though, so if you spring a leak you might be showing up to camp with wet gear unless it’s already protected otherwise.
Looking back down to our hip belt you’ll see that the Long Haul ships with two removal pockets. These can match your setup or you can mix it up a bit. These are about 0.8L each and are great for holding trail snacks or small electronics. In a similar fashion to the shoulder mounted pouches, these attach via elastic webbing as well as high quality Duraflex hardware.
And for further organization, there’s cord and straps abound. Each side of the bag has cord (or webbing, if you choose) compression which you can use to secure longer items, like trekking poles. The bottom of the bag can also have optional straps to secure a sleeping pad, or anything else awkwardly shaped – I opted for the removable option with cord instead of webbing. And, as mentioned above, you can add optional cord to the back panel allowing you to use your sleep or sit pad as that back padding. I like to keep my sit-pad here as it also provides a bit of ventilation.
While this isn’t necessarily part of the pack, I’ve also come to really enjoy SWD’s Lunch Box system. These are simple water resistant cubes made to nest perfectly inside all of their packs. This is a great way to add some separation inside your pack without adding too much weight, and since they’re sized to fit perfectly, they leave no wasted space.
SWD also offers a whole array of shoulder strap mounted pouches, among other organizational items. I like the water bottle pouch so I can keep a 750ml bottle quickly accessible. The lycra pouch works great for keeping your phone or other small item up front and out of your pockets too. It’s even a good option if you find yourself in and out of the forest, taking your glasses on and off.
- The ability to tweak size, materials, and features to each individual is invaluable on a pack you’re potentially going to be spending hundreds or thousands of miles with.
- The website and ordering process pumps you full of information and gives you the why and how of every option and add-on.
- Great padding, comfort, and suspension for something so lightweight.
- The optional Lunch Box system is a great companion to SWD bags. It fits perfectly and leaves no empty space.
- Brandon and Ashley are real people and they’re there to help you whenever you need it.
- The ability to select torso and waist size individually when purchasing may prevent people from making the same mistake I did.
- Available options are almost overwhelming and it would be nice to see them built into the ordering process rather than separate line items. However this is not a knock on the bag itself.
- Unfinished seams and other lightweight construction techniques might make those new to UL gear a bit wary of the longevity. You can’t pack this the same way you pack your Mystery Ranch meat-hauler.
- Lots of cord and linelocs add to the learning curve of getting the bag dialed in.
- The small (optional) roll top pocket can become difficult to access depending how full or empty the bag is. I’d still add it every time though.
While I’ve always enjoyed day hiking and the outdoors, I’ve only just recently started falling in love with longer backpacking trips. The COVID-19 pandemic put a big “X” on basically every single one of my trips this year, and the weather up here in the North East is often fickle enough to only allow us a few months of snow-less camping. It bums me out a bit, but the SWD Long Haul just makes me all that more excited to get back out there when I can. It is so far the best balance of weight and comfort I’ve yet to find, and I love that this bag is mine. It’s been tailored to suit my needs on the trail, and that makes a huge difference to me. What I chose might not work for you, and that’s okay; that’s why can choose exactly how to outfit your Long Haul, or the frameless Superior.
If you’re looking for your next, or even first ultralight or lightweight bag, SWD gets our seal of approval. We know our readers come from all walks of the gear world, so we do try to talk about the bags we review to a wider audience. This is definitely a lightweight bag. This means you need to pack lightweight. If that’s not something you’re used to, there’s plenty of knowledge out there to be had, especially in our very own community.
Disclaimer: The Long Haul 50 was provided by Superior Wilderness Designs for use in this review. The contents of the review were not shared prior to publication. Our reviews are impartial and never changed to keep a brand happy.