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 (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 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.
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.
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.
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 by about an inch 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.
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.
Your back is protected from feeling the external frame stays by a foam pad located behind your shoulder, 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. While this construction allows for some air flow behind your back and above your waist, it’s pretty insignificant.
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. This resulted in some slippage with loads above 30 lbs, which could probably be ameliorated by running the bottom webbing straps the full length of the hip belt wings or by switching to a grippier interior fabric that exerts more friction on one’s hiking pants.
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.
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
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 designing and 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.