Review: Superior Wilderness Designs Superior 50
Full disclosure: I paid for this pack, but was provided a 20% discount code by the owners.
Superior Wilderness Designs (SWD) is a newcomer to the backpacking gear world and what caught my attention was the simplicity of their design, their willingness to work one-on-one with you to get you the pack you want, and that they're a local Michigan company based in Romeo.
The Superior 50 (now called the long haul) is a custom made ultralight pack with a roll top closure system. As of this writing it costs $200 before any add-ons. I paid $175 after add-ons were calculated and my discount was applied.
It is constructed of:
- Hyper D 300 diamond weave ripstop nylon (pack body)
- 210d Dyneema X (bottom, back, side pockets, straps, hip belt)
- 70d hex woven ripstop nylon (roll top collar)
The maximum weight I'd recommend carrying in it is 30 lb. It has a foam back pad for comfort and protection against any pokey things in your pack and 2 vertical aluminum stays to transfer the weight to the hip belt. The foam and/or stays can be removed if you'd like to further lighten up the pack. This will reduce your max carry weight to (in my option) around 20 lb.
The aluminum stays can be bent and shaped to fit your back better if you decide the original shape isn't comfortable for you.
I ordered my pack with a few customizations:
- Load lifters
- Front pocket made of 4-way stretch material instead of mesh
- Hiking pole loops at the corners for storing poles / hanging wet clothing
- Oversized side pockets large enough to fit my cook kit
- An additional logo on one of the hip belt pockets because I like it
As a result of my customizations the weight is different than what is listed (23 oz.) on the SWD website:
Foam back pad: 0.75 oz. / 21.2 g
Aluminum stays (2): 4.25 oz. / 120.4 g
Pack body: 21.5 oz. / 609.5 g
Total: 26.5 oz / 751.2 g
I've been able to take this pack out on a number of trips since I received it in April. The longest so far being my 4 days at Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. With loads up to 25 lb. I've found the hip belt and shoulder straps to be really comfortable. They have not produced any chaffing or hot spots even on hours long stretches of nonstop hiking.
The pack carries very well and the amount of space it provides is understated by the "50 L" designation. With the large roll top collar I believe this pack could carry upwards of 70 L. The amount you can put in this pack is not limited so much by the size as it is the ability to carry heavier loads, but that is expected of an ultralight pack.
The huge 4-way stretch front pocket option I requested is perfect for carrying wet things, trowels, water filters, rain jackets, and other things you don't need to keep dry. The shock cord across the front pocket makes it easy to really cinch down the stuff you're storing there to give your pack a lower profile and the side compression cords work really well to keep the main pack body compact.
The oversized water bottle pockets can fit two 1L Smartwater water bottles side by side and have a bungee to cinch in smaller sized things. They also fit my Imusa 12 cm pot and have drainage holes in case of a leak or if you're hiking in a downpour.
The hip belt pockets are made of really durable Dyneema X fabric and are oversized enough that I can fit my phone (Galaxy S6), a Clif bar, and a bag of trail mix into one of them. They close using a waterproof laminated zipper.
One option I would go without is the load lifters. I keep them pulled in all the way all the time, so if they were just sewn in place statically it would mean not having another strap hanging off my pack. This is more of a recommendation than a criticism since I asked for these!
My main complaint about this pack so far has been the adjustment straps for the shoulders and hip belt. The webbing does not slide as smoothly as other packs I've used. At first I found this really annoying, but came to the realization that you can dial in where you need them to be and never move them again. Even the hip belt never gets loosened. I just suck in my stomach when I am putting it on and it fits the same way it always has. I've learned to live with the pack this way, but I think webbing that slides easily would be a big improvement and honestly it is something consumers expect when purchasing a pack. I'm not sure if the big pack makers use a different kind of webbing that is slicker than this webbing, but everyone should be using it.
Things to keep in mind if ordering:
I'm a pretty average sized guy at 5'10" / 172 lb. I ordered a size medium because that is always my pack size. I find this pack to be a little bit too small for my torso. If I were to order it again I would ask for a large.
If you're a heavier person make sure to mention hip belt strap length to them. I find the hip belt straps to be a little short even for a person of my size. They work, but it got me thinking about people bigger than me and how this would work for them.
Over all this is a really nice pack if you've already whittled down your pack weight and you're looking for a lightly framed or frameless pack option. Superior Wilderness Designs is a new company with a growing following, so if you're looking for something not everyone else has they're worth taking a look at. The craftsmanship is very good and the ability to work with them one-on-one to create your perfect pack is very appealing.
As of this review the 2 people who run Superior Wilderness Designs are finishing up a PCT Thru Hike using their SWD packs! If that doesn't say "trail tested" then I don't know what does! Last time I spoke to them they were expecting to have their operations back up and running sometime in October 2016.