Superior Wilderness Designs Long Haul 40 Pack Review
The Superior Wilderness Designs Long Haul 40 pack is a customizable, mid-size, ultralight backpack that acts as the perfect companion for backcountry trips both long and short. If you’re looking to lighten your load but aren’t quite ready to ditch your hip belt and frame, this might be the pack for you.
Superior Wilderness Designs (SWD) offers tons of custom features for their packs so you can add the things you need and leave off the things you don’t. It even comes with removable features (like frame stays and external loops) to lighten your pack for shorter trips.
The Long Haul 40 pack is for hikers who have a light or ultralight base weight (less than 13 pounds) and a strong sense of what they are looking for in a pack. If you’re seeking a versatile and customizable pack for anything from overnights to thru-hikes, this pack could be the perfect fit.
SWD Long Haul 40 Pack At-a-Glance
- MSRP: $294 (standard, without add-ons)
- $338 with my add-ons, not including DCF lunch boxes
- Capacity: 50L (40L internal + 10L external)
- Average (no custom add-ons): 26 oz.
- Average (with all removable items removed): 21 oz.
- My size medium with custom add-ons: 31.5 oz.
- My size medium with all removable items removed: 26 oz.
- Max Carry Capacity: 35 pounds (15.8 kg)
- Main body: X-Pac VX07
- Side pockets: X-Pac VX21
- Bottom: X-Pac VX42
Conditions of Review
I was able to truly test this pack on its maiden voyage during a weeklong trip in the Wind River Range (with a 7.5-day food carry). I’ve also taken it out for a few quick overnights in my home state of Colorado. In addition to beautiful days in the backcountry, I have also experienced rain (and smoke and hail) while using this pack.
Large Front Mesh Pocket
As a frequent user and abuser of my mesh pocket, I have to have a lot of faith in its durability and elasticity. This one fits all the stuff (snacks) I cram into it and so far has held up to all the times I’ve thrown my pack to the ground after a long climb.
Two Side Water Bottle Pockets
The water bottle pockets are great if you have two one-liter bottles in them. They don’t have elastic, just a cinch cord closure, which seems like too much of a pain for me to tighten while walking. This means if you only have one one-liter bottle in there it can be loose and potentially fall out when bending over, glissading, etc.
Ultra-Comfy S-Shaped Shoulder Straps
The “ultra-comfy” part of this description is no lie. I find the shoulder straps don’t cut into my shoulders at all (even with lots of food in tow), which is a problem I’ve had with other packs.
These load lifters lift the weight just like they should.
Fully Padded Sewn-In Hip Belt
VERY comfy hip belt that distributed the weight of my massive food bag nicely.
Removable Sternum Strap
You can indeed remove it as well as move it up or down depending on where you prefer it to fall.
Side Compression Cord
Unless you are really into making your pack look tiny I think you could remove this. I usually use compression cords for hanging wet socks, but the front shock cord lashing works nicely for this, making the side compression unnecessary (at least for me).
One Pair Trekking Pole/Ice Axe Loops
These attach at all four corners of the mesh pocket and are very nice for attaching other accessories when you aren’t using them for an ice axe or trekking poles. I use one to carry my trowel and another for my spork.
Front Shock Cord Lashing
This is great for drying clothes while hiking and storing your sit/sleeping pad for easy access. I really enjoy this feature for the convenience it adds to the pack.
Roll-Top Closure with Top Snaps
I was still able to snap close and roll the roll-top closure a few times even with my ridiculous amount of food. The snaps feel nice and sturdy and make it easier to close the pack.
Because I added vertical roll-top compression straps, I don’t use this feature much but it is another option for storing a sit/sleeping pad or potentially a bear can.
This is the carry strap at the very top of the frame. It feels very sturdy and is large enough to fit your whole hand through (as opposed to some packs that only leave enough room for a couple of fingers).
I got rained on several times in the Winds and my pack did not collect water at all thanks to the waterproof X-Pac material. SWD does still recommend using a pack liner since their packs are not seam sealed.
Foam Back Pad and Removable Aluminum Stays
Even in the heat of August, I didn’t mind not having a trampoline or mesh on the back of this pack. Additionally, the aluminum stays are very easy to remove if you are doing a shorter carry and want to lighten your load even more.
Cord/Tension Lock Sleeping Pad Straps
In hindsight, these were not necessary. They attach on the back of the pack so the sleeping pad falls down below your pack (rather than sitting on the front). Next time, I’d ditch this add-on and just stick with using the front cord lashing or V-top strap for my sleeping pad.
Vertical Roll-Top Compression
I LOVE this feature. It basically means instead of rolling down and each side buckling together in the middle, there are straps on either side of the pack to buckle down the top. It’s a great way to easily compress your pack and keep the top closed even when your pack is really full. I also just like the way it looks more than the typical middle closure.
Lycra Shoulder Pouch
I usually keep a smaller water bottle or MiO drink mix in here for easy access (and, let’s be honest, sometimes snack trash if I don’t feel like getting out my bag). It’s a nice, versatile little addition.
Dual-Adjust Hip Belt
This was recommended to me by Brandon from SWD and I’m glad I decided to add it. For longer, heavier carries, the dual straps make adjusting your load a lot easier and result in a more comfortable carry.
Zippered Upper Side Pocket
Another great suggestion from the SWD team. It perfectly fits all my electronics (including my 20,000 mAH battery pack)—which makes pack organization a little easier.
Two DCF Roll-Top Lunch Boxes ($39 each)
Another suggestion from the team. These also function as dry bags and I used one for my food in the Winds (which meant I was hanging it every night as well). It held up to my novice bear hanging attempts, which is saying a lot. I used the other for clothes and I really liked having the extra bit of organization and water protection.
I’d like to start out by reiterating that the first time I used this pack I decided to do a 7.5-day food carry. Why did I think that was a good idea? I’m not sure, but this pack wholly stepped up to the plate.
Even with all that weight, the padding was thick enough to keep any straps from cutting into my shoulders or hips. The weight distributed wonderfully and I really did not feel like I was carrying that much food. My back never even got sore. My legs are a different story, but I digress. Even with a full (borderline too full) load, this pack held up wonderfully and comfortably.
Customization and Customer Service
As a perpetually indecisive human being and avid backpacker, the thought of a customizable pack both excites and terrifies me. Luckily, Brandon from SWD was very helpful in narrowing down what features I might find helpful.
The ability to customize this pack means you can really make it into what will work best for your style of backpacking. If you’re a minimalist, you can go bare-bones with no add-ons. Have a penchant for organization? You can add lots of pockets and stuff sacks.
Probably my favorite thing about this pack is its efficiency—no matter the length of the carry. Sitting at 40L of internal volume, it’s not too big for a short weekend trip, and it’s also very capable of handling longer carries comfortably. In my opinion, it’s the perfect size for someone who wants just one go-to pack for all their trips (rather than switching out different packs for different trip lengths).
X-Pac is a multilayer laminate fabric made by a company called Dimension Plyant. Originally, they made material for sails and realized the properties important for sailing (light, strong, and waterproof) would also work great as pack material. The different numbers refer to the weight of the face fabric. The higher the number, the stronger the face fabric of that particular X-Pac material.
The standard Long Haul 40 consists of three different weights of X-Pac: VX07 for the body, VX21 for the water bottle pockets, and VX42 for the pack bottom. You can also upgrade to the Rugged Long Haul 40, which consists entirely of VX21 or VX42.
The use of X-Pac in the Long Haul 40 pack makes the pack durable, light, and UV resistant. I personally find its ability to retain shape and waterproofing to be the most attractive qualities. Even when it rained, the pack didn’t absorb water and become heavy, meaning there was no need to carry a pack cover. As stated, you should still use a pack liner since SWD does not seam seal.
Long Haul 40 Pros
Customization: SWD has one of the most robust lists of customizable features I’ve seen for a backpack without straight up making a pattern yourself.
Comfort: Seriously, in case I haven’t emphasized it enough, this thing is COMFY.
Size: Not too big, not too small. It’s perfectly in the middle for maximum efficiency.
Weight: This is a lightweight pack that can comfortably carry a heavier load than most packs in its class.
Material: I really like not having to worry about rain seeping into the fabric and that the pack retains its shape for easy packing and unpacking.
Customer service: The SWD team has been really helpful, which gives me added trust in their product’s longevity.
Long Haul 40 Cons
Water bottle pockets: I wish the water bottle pockets had elastic instead of a cinch closure.
Cord/tension locks for sleeping pad: I wish these attached at the front of the pack rather than on the bottom (near the hip belt). It makes it awkward to carry a foam sleeping pad this way.
Price: The price can go up pretty quickly if you want to utilize a lot of the add-on options.
I would absolutely recommend the Long Haul 40 pack to any backpacker with a lighter base weight. I would recommend it even more vehemently to more experienced backpackers who can make informed decisions about exactly what they want in a pack.
While add-ons can add to the price quickly, I think it’s worth it to get a pack that is tailored specifically to you. The base price is comparable to other packs in the category (and more affordable than some).
- MSRP: $230
- Weight: 17 oz.
At a similar size capacity with the ability to customize several features, the MLD Prophet is a comparable pack. It is slightly lighter than the average Long Haul but also has a lower max carrying capacity.
- MSRP: $330 (basic)
- Weight: 30 oz. (basic)
While there are not as many customization options (and it’s a bit pricier), Atom Packs does give you the option of adding the coveted bottom pocket.
- MSRP: $310
- Weight: 2 lb. 0.3 oz.
For a comparable, non-customizable option, HMG’s Southwest model is only slightly heavier than the average Long Haul and also features a removable aluminum stay frame and waterproof fabric.
This product was donated for purpose of review.
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