The Waymark Lite Backpack is a 50-liter frameless roll-top backpack made with waterproof, lightweight, durable XPac fabric that weighs between 28-30 oz depending on sizing and features. It’s available in multiple torso lengths and different sized hip-belts so you can dial in a near-custom fit. Waymark also lets you customize the main pack color and an accent color so you personalize the Lite 50 to match your color preferences. Because it’s frameless, the Lite is suitable for ultralight backpacking with a maximum load of 20-25 lbs. It’s very well made, durable, and super fun to carry, as long as you respect its load limitations.
Specs at a Glance
- Type: Frameless
- Closure: Roll-top
- Seam-taped: No. A pack liner is recommended if you hike in a wet climate.
- Model tested: M/L 18-20” torso w/ XL hip belt
- Dimensions: 34″ tall x 11″ wide x 7″ deep
- Max recommended load: The manufacturer rates it at 30 lb. We rate it between 20 and 25 pounds.
- Volume breakdown
- Main body (minus 3″ off pack height for roll-top) cu/in 2387 = 39.1 Liters
- Exterior pockets: cu/in 732.2 = 12 Liters
- Total Volume: 51 Liters
- Backpanel, Bottom, Hip belt: VX 21 Black
- Side panels and front: VX07 or VX21, depending on color selection
- Side pockets: VX21 RS Soft Black
- Shoulder straps: VX07 Soft Black
- Front pocket: Heavy Duty Lycra or Open Mesh
- Shoulder strap and hipbelt padding: 3D mesh
Backpack Storage and Organization
The Waymark Lite is laid out like a typical ultralight backpack with side water bottle pockets, a long stretch front pocket, and a roll-top closure with a top Y-strap. The base model comes with one hip belt pocket which is attached to daisy chains with velcro on the hip belt. Additional hip belt pockets can be purchased for an additional fee.
The water bottle pockets are made with solid X-Pac fabric for increased durability and can hold up to two tall 1-liter bottles each. The bottles are easily reachable and replaceable while wearing the pack, but the pockets are deep enough that the bottles won’t fall out when you bend over or put the pack down. Note: there isn’t a hydration pocket in the pack’s main compartment or a hydration port to run a hose.
The front stretch pocket is made with densely woven Lycra so it won’t catch on vegetation but it can still drain when filled with wet items. It’s quite long and runs the entire length of the pack, so can get a lot of stuff into it including layers, food, water filtering gear, and other frequently accessed items. You can also order the front pocket with mesh instead, but the Lycra is less likely to get snagged and tear.
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.
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 want to add some additional straps or cord to keep it from slipping off. Alternatively, a large bear canister does fit inside the pack vertically with ease, although you’ll need to pad it out with clothing so it doesn’t poke you in the back since the Lite doesn’t have a frame or padding behind the shoulder straps.
The hip belt pocket has a waterproof zipper and is made with solid X-Pac like the rest of the pack. It attaches to the hip belt with velcro and elastic straps but has such a solid connection, you’d swear it was sewn on. Each hip belt pocket is 6” wide x 5” tall x 2” deep in size and holds a lot of stuff. (Note: A Lite backpack comes with one hip belt pocket. If you want a pack with two pockets, you should order one pocket, not two…because you’ll end up getting three.)
Backpack Frame and Suspension
The Lite is a Frameless backpack with a capital ‘F’, so it’s up to you to pack your gear to compensate for the lack of pack structure. This can be done by placing a folding foam pad inside the main compartment behind the shoulder straps or rolling a foam pad inside to create a tube, although both of these techniques take up a lot of interior volume. Another option is to pack all your gear loose but very tightly or organized in stuff sacks with loose gear, like clothing, filling the gaps in between. The goal of these different techniques is to prevent the pack-bag from collapsing on itself and against your back and to create a “virtual board” that drives more of the load into the hip belt.
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.
The hipbelt is sewn to the back of the pack which boosts the pack’s load-carrying capability and responsiveness so it moves with you. The hipbelt is lined with wicking mesh and has rear stiffeners to prevent collapse under heavy loads. There’s no lumber pad or an option to include one (although you could ask nicely), but the hip belt does not slip at all and is really exemplary. While it 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 Lite has load lifters, but they’re anchored to the top of pack bag and not a frame. Any effect they have is localized to pulling the fabric at the top of the pack bag closer to your head. Load lifters are designed to tilt a backpack frame forward slightly to transfer more of a pack’s weight onto your hips and off your shoulders. But they have to be anchored to the top of a backpack frame to accomplish this and not the pack bag itself. They don’t make any sense on a frameless pack. I’d love to see Waymark add a tubular aluminum frame or frame stays to the pack to boost its max load potential and to make it competitive with similarly sized ultralight packs, but for the moment, it’s still frameless.
Compression and External Attachments
The Lite 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 cottage pack.
Each side of the pack also has a single compression strap which can be used to reduce the pack depth, prevent shifting contents, or lash gear to the side of the pack.
Comparable Ultralight-Style Backpacks
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. Not to denigrate the pack, but I think it misses the needs of that audience because it doesn’t include an optional frame component, like frame stays, a lightweight tubular frame, or even a foam pad pocket. Being frameless, the Lite also tops out at max load of 20-25 pounds, and not 30 pounds as stated on the manufacturer’s website.
I would still recommend the Lite (50) if you are looking for a frameless minimalist style backpack and you’ve gone through the process of minimizing your gear volume and weight, but still want to carry a few small luxury items. The external pockets, including the long Lycra front pocket, make the pack really easy to use. The pack’s relatively narrow width makes it very responsive on scrambles and when climbing, as long as you don’t put heavy items near the top of the rolltop. The hipbelt 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. If you can respect the load limitations of a frameless backpack, then the Lite is really quite a lively and fun pack to use.
I’m also bullish on X-Pac as a pack fabric because of its superior abrasion resistance compared to Dyneema DCF packs. I’m sure many people will also appreciate the fact that the Lite can be ordered in many custom colors, but I care more for its superior durability and lower price. That said, I really like the purple and teal color combination on the pack I reviewed. It made it even more fun to use.
Disclosure: Waymark Gear provided the author with a backpack for this review.
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