SWD Long Haul 50 Review

I tested the SWD Long Haul 50 backpack and this is my verdict.

April 11, 2023
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The Superior Wilderness Designs Long Haul 50 is one of the best ultralight backpacking packs in terms of load-carrying abilities. It only weighs two pounds, but the aluminum frame, plush shoulder straps, and padded hip belt combine to comfortably carry up to 40 pounds. SWD usually has long lead times, though, so plan accordingly.

Product Overview

SWD Long Haul 50

Price: $299

SWD Long Haul 50

✅ High weight carrying capacity

✅ Extremely comfortable

✅ Massive side water bottle pockets

✅ Easily customizable

✅ Durable stretch mesh outer pocket


❌ Doesn’t come with a hip belt or shoulder strap pockets

❌ Long lead time to purchase


  • Weight: 2 lbs 0.5 oz
  • Weight/Load Capacity: 50 pounds
  • Volume/Carrying Capacity: 50-liter internal volume, 10-liter external pocket volume
  • Frame: Two removable 7075 aluminum frame struts
  • Frame Material: Aluminum
  • Suspension System: Two aluminum frame stays, removable foam back panel, padded hip belt, padded shoulder straps, load lifters, sternum strap

The Superior Wilderness Designs Long Haul 50 ultralight backpacking pack is an excellent choice for thru-hikers and ultralight backpackers alike. It weighs a mere two pounds and is durable enough to use for years, thousands of miles, or both.

It’s made with high-quality recycled Ecopak EPLX200 material and durable Venom mesh for the font exterior pocket and foam back panel sleeve. It has massive side water bottle pockets that can fit two large bottles on each side. And the roll-top closure can extend up to 50 liters or roll down to 35 liters when you have less gear.

The Long Haul is one of the best backpacking packs I’ve ever tested for carrying heavy loads. With an average ultralight backpacking load, this pack feels like you’re barely carrying anything at all. The aluminum frame, removable foam back panel, generously padded shoulder straps, and large cushioned hip belt make this pack comfortable for long days on the trail.

This pack is great for seasoned ultralight backpackers and thru-hikers who need extra capacity for long food and water carries or months on the trail. It’s also an excellent choice for those looking to transition into a more minimalist backpack since it carries weight as well as packs that weigh over twice as much as this one.

The only real downside to this pack is that you’ll likely have to wait a while to get your hands on one. All Superior Wilderness Designs packs are made to order by a small team in Minnesota, and their lead times are often over 10 weeks.

For other ultralight backpack reviews, read our post on the best ultralight backpacks.

Performance Test Results

swd long haul 50 performance score graph

How We Tested:

I have thru-hiked the Pacific Crest Trail, Continental Divide Trail, Grand Enchantment Trail, and Colorado Trail three times, along with countless shorter backpacking trips. I tested the Superior Wilderness Designs Long Haul 50 during the winter on a series of backpacking trips in southern Arizona. The weather was cold overnight, with temperatures dropping into the 20s, so I had to carry extra layers to stay warm.

hiker with swd long haul 50

Weight: 8/10

The Superior Wilderness Designs Long Haul 50 weighs just over two pounds, 32.5 ounces to be exact. This weight includes some standard extra features, all of which are removable. Fully stripped, this pack weighs 25.3 ounces.

These are the strippable components that come standard on the Long Haul 50:

  • One pair of side compression straps: 0.7oz per pair
  • Top Strap: 0.7 oz
  • Aluminum Stays: 4 oz
  • Foam Back Pad: 0.8 oz
  • Sternum Strap: 0.5 oz
  • Roll Top Stiffener: 0.5 oz

Personally, I wouldn’t want to remove the aluminum frame stays on this pack because you’d lose most of the weight-carrying functionality without these lightweight stays. And without removing the aluminum stays, I wouldn’t want to take the foam back panel off. However, this pack can get significantly lighter if you do choose to strip it.

This pack does not have many extra features that add weight unnecessarily. Considering the specs of this pack, it is weighted very well. There isn’t much I would want to add to this pack other than a hip belt or shoulder strap pocket.

Considering comparable ultralight backpacking packs on the market, this pack is about average weight. There are some packs that weigh slightly more and some that weigh a little less. But comparatively, this pack’s two-pound weight is very competitive. And this is one of the best ultralight packs for carrying a heavy load.

hiker using swd long haul 50

SWD Long Haul 50 weighs 2 pounds, 32.5 ounces (25.3 ounces, fully stripped).

Price: 9/10

The Long Haul 50 is very competitively priced. There are less expensive packs out there, but they don’t perform as well as this one. For a handmade pack made of high-quality materials that can carry weight as well as the Long Haul 50 does, you can’t do much better for this price.

This pack has one of the best frame designs of any pack I’ve ever used. It is extremely durable and has all the other features you’d want in a full-framed ultralight backpacking pack. To get all this for that price is a great deal.

You’ll probably want to add an extra pocket or two to the front of this pack, either on the shoulder straps or hip belt. I added a single shoulder strap pocket to this pack during testing, so I had a place to store my phone while hiking. You can add shoulder or hip belt pockets to this pack when ordering it from SWD, but they will cost extra.

A small hip belt pocket costs an extra $20, and a shoulder strap pocket also costs $20. There is also a larger hip belt pocket available from SWD that costs $30 and a double lycra shoulder strap pouch that costs $25. As you can see, there are a lot of extras you can add to this pack, but they will start to increase the price pretty quickly. I’d recommend adding at least one of these pockets, though.

hiker beside swd long haul 50

The SWD Long Haul 50 is priced at $299.

Storage and Capacity: 10/10

The Long Haul 50 has a 50-pound weight capacity. For an ultralight pack, this is an extremely high weight capacity. I carried a 40-pound load with this pack for a day just to see what it was like, and it was surprisingly comfortable. I wouldn’t recommend carrying over 40 pounds regularly with this pack, but you could carry 40+ pounds with this, and it will be much more comfortable than most competing ultralight packs.

With an average ultralight backpacking load of approximately 30 pounds, this pack is the most comfortable of any pack I’ve worn. The aluminum frame stays do an excellent job of transferring the bulk of the load onto your hips. This pack actually disperses the weight of the pack across your back in ways that most ultralight packs only claim to.

The Long Haul 50’s frame actually extends all the way from the load lifters to the hip belt, which isn’t often the case with ultralight backpacking packs. Most other ultralight pack frames stop at the shoulder straps, which makes the load lifters less effective at transferring the load of the pack. When you loosen the load lifters on this pack, you feel an immediate increase of weight on your hips. When you tighten the load lifters, you feel a definite increase in weight on your shoulders.

swd long haul 50 front pocket

External pocket of SWD Long Haul 50.

Also, if you unclip the hip belt, you can see just how much of the weight of the pack is transferred via the frame onto your hips. When I performed this test, I was shocked at how much weight the hip belt was supporting. This frame works really well.

In terms of volume, this pack has plenty of space to carry everything you would need for any length of a backpacking trip. For thru-hiking, this pack is the perfect volume for everyone but the most ultralight thru-hikers. The internal volume is 50 liters, but the top closure can be rolled down to 35 liters. This gives you enough space to carry extra food for longer carries or more layers during colder conditions.

The pack consists of the main 35-50 liter compartment, two side water bottle pockets, and a rear stretch mesh pocket. The main compartment is big enough to carry the bulk of your backpacking equipment. The side water bottle pockets are big enough to carry two water bottles per side. These side pockets are even big enough to carry two 1.5-liter Smartwater bottles or two Nalgene bottles.

swd long haul 50 features water bottle pocket

Two 1.5-liter bottles can easily fit in the pack's side compartments.

The stretch mesh outside pocket can also carry a lot of gear, too. I regularly carried a wind jacket, fleece hoody, water filter, a few bars, toilet kit, headlamp, and some assorted tools in this outside pocket. There was definitely room for more with all that stuffed in, too.

The weight-to-volume ratio of this pack is pretty average. Most 50-liter packs weigh about two pounds, and the Long Haul 50 is the same in this regard. When you compare the Long Haul’s weight to its carrying capacity, this pack blows every other ultralight pack out of the water.

There is no other ultralight pack that carries weight as well as this does. This pack even handles heavy loads better than the majority of less weight-conscious backpacking packs I’ve tried.


Carrying a camera tripod with the SWD Long Haul 50.

Internal Frame: 10/10

The Long Haul 50’s internal frame does an excellent job of distributing the weight of the pack across your back, between your shoulders and hips.

The frame consists of two removable 7075 aluminum frame struts. The rest of the suspension system is made up of a removable foam back panel, a padded hip belt with v-shaped adjustment straps, padded shoulder straps, load lifters, and a sternum strap.

The frame and suspension system on this pack gives great support overall. The frame struts have a slight curve to them, which helps disperse weight onto your hips. The foam back panel sits inside a stretch mesh sleeve that rests on your back. This prevents the frame or anything in your pack from digging into your back while hiking. The foam back panel can also be removed and used as a sit pad during breaks.

hiker packing with swd long haul 50

The shoulder straps and hip belt have thick and supportive foam. The face material is a soft mesh that is more comfortable than the 3-D spacer mesh used on a lot of backpacks. The shoulder straps have a subtle S-shaped curve to them, so they wrap around your upper back and shoulders nicely.

Many say that women tend to like S-shaped shoulder straps, like those found on the Long Haul 50, more than traditional J-shaped straps. I’m a man and find the S-shaped straps on the Long Haul to be very comfortable. I know women who use other Superior Wilderness Designs packs and love them, too.

Ultimately, the shape of shoulder straps and hip belts that are most comfortable to you comes down to personal preference, regardless of your gender. But, from my testing and research, I can say that most people like how the SWD shoulder straps feel, regardless of gender.

swd long haul 50 features close up frame

Comfort: 10/10

The Long Haul 50 is one of the most comfortable packs I’ve ever worn. This is mostly due to its unparalleled weight-carrying capacity. This is the most comfortable full-framed ultralight backpacking pack I’ve worn. I’ve already said this a lot, but it’s worth repeating.

The Long Haul 50 doesn’t chafe on your back when wearing it all day, nor are there other issues with comfort. I would not change anything about this pack in terms of comfort.

Some ultralight packs feel heavy on your back. Some packs feel really light when you have nothing in them, but then all those sacrifices made to cut pack weight seem to make the gear inside it seem to weigh more. With the Long Haul 50, I can carry more gear, food, and water than I’d reasonably want to carry. The only thing that gets uncomfortable with this pack is my legs because my knees, ankles, and leg muscles aren’t used to carrying that much weight.

hiking with swd long haul 50

I've worn several full-framed ultralight backpacks, and the Long Haul 50 is the most comfortable.

Features: 7/10

The Long Haul 50 has about the right number of features to make it a highly usable ultralight backpacking pack without unnecessary features that add weight. The only feature I would add to this pack is a shoulder strap or hip belt pocket to store small items I need to access often.

This pack has the following features:

  • External attachment points: There are webbing loops sewn into most seams on the pack, so you can attach gear or move the compression straps to where you need to attach something to the pack.
  • Side compression straps: These straps come installed near the top of the sides of the pack, but since they’re moveable, you can put them lower on the sides of the pack. You can also put them on the top or bottom of the pack to attach a bear canister, sleeping pad, or both.
  • Bear canister attachment points: You’ll have to buy extra straps unless you’re willing to sacrifice the use of your side compression straps, but there are webbing loops to attach any cord you have available to secure a bear canister on top of the pack.
swd long haul 50 features close up side strap

The side compression straps can be moved and positioned on the lower sides of the pack.

  • Sleeping pad attachment points: Like the bear canister attachment points, these are simple webbing loops that you can attach an SWD strap to (not included with the standard purchase), or use any other straps you have on hand to attach your sleeping pad to the bottom of your pack.
  • Roll-top closure: This pack has a roll-top closure with strips of ½-inch plastic to stiffen the roll-top system. The stiffeners are also removable.
  • Side water bottle holders: These are some of the largest water bottle pockets I’ve seen. They’re also angled toward your back to make reaching what’s in the pocket easier.
  • Stretch mesh exterior pocket: This is made of a very durable Venom stretch mesh material and is big enough to stash a rain jacket, wet rainfly, and more.

Compared to other packs, the Long Haul 50 has some of the most versatility as far as attachment points are concerned. The pack uses compression straps that are moveable to almost anywhere on the pack you’d need them. You can move the included side compression straps to the bottom to attach a sleeping pad or angle them across the side of the pack to get more vertical compression. You can also attach the straps to the top of the pack to attach a bear canister or the bottom to attach a sleeping pad.

Aside from the very versatile moveable straps, there aren’t many extra features on this pack. This is common with ultralight packs because more features mean more weight. This pack balances weight savings with the right features.

hiking with swd long haul 50

Adjustability: 7/10

The Long Haul 50 is about as adjustable as other ultralight backpacking packs. It is adjustable in terms of weight, torso, and waist belt size. This is more adjustability than most ultralight packs, too.

It comes in three torso sizes: Small (16-18" torso), Medium (18-20" torso), and Large (20-22" torso). Within each size, you can move the waist belt up and down 3 inches along the back panel via removable clips and daisy-chained webbing.

You can also adjust the torso length slightly by tightening or loosening the shoulder straps, like every other backpack. However, by moving the waist belt, you can really dial in the torso length to fit this pack to your body.

swd long haul 50 features close up hip belt

Built-in and removable waist belt are available for SWD Long Haul 50.

You can get this pack with a sewn-in 26, 28, 30, or 34-inch waist belt. Or, you can have the pack made with a full-wrap removable waist belt that is 26, 30, or 34 inches. Each side of the waist belt has a v-strap that can be as long as 11 inches.

It can also carry a variety of volumes. The top extension collar can be stuffed full so that the main compartment is 50 liters, and it can be rolled down to 35 liters. The exterior pockets can be stuffed full with another 20+ liters of gear.

The pack also has load lifters, which allow you to adjust how the weight is loaded onto your back. There is a lot of adjustability options with this.

adjusting strap of swd long haul 50

Adjustable load lifters in SWD Long Haul 50.

Waterproofing/Resistance: 9/10

The Long Haul 50 is made of waterproof material, but it isn’t seam-sealed. The seams are flat-felled, which means they would be easy to seal if you wanted a completely waterproof pack. But as this pack comes, it is very water-resistant. It’s almost waterproof, but not quite fully.

I performed a waterproof test to see how well this pack would hold up in a heavy rainstorm. To perform this test, I filled the pack with pink tissue paper and put it in the shower at my house. I left it under running water for 5 minutes to test its water resistance.

swd long haul 50 waterproof test

I waterproof-tested the SWD Long Haul 50 and I found it to be "almost waterproof".

After an extended downpour in the shower with the pack resting on the bathtub floor, the majority of the tissue paper remained dry inside. The only section of the pack that had more than a slight amount of moisture was the bottom, where the water pooled on the bottom of the tub and seeped in through the seams.

The waterproof level of this pack is pretty comparable to other ultralight packs that are made of laminate materials but don’t have sealed seams. If I were using this pack in rainy conditions, I would still use a waterproof pack liner. But in light rain, this pack will keep your gear dry enough as long as you don’t set it down in a puddle.

swd long haul 50 waterproof test inside

After the waterproof test, the SWD Long Haul 50 will keep your belongings dry enough in light rain.

Durability: 9/10

This pack is one of the more durable packs out there. I would expect this pack to last as long as the most durable ultralight packs out there. It would easily last for multiple thru-hikes. I suspect this pack could be used for many years and 1000s of miles before it started to fail. I’ve seen a lot of Superior Wilderness Designs packs on trails over the years and have yet to see one fail. This says a lot about the durability of their packs.

carrying swd long haul 50

The EPLX200 Ecopak material used for the main pack body is a laminate material that is very durable. It’s thick enough to stand up to abrasions and doesn’t tear easily.

The Venom Mesh used on the back panel and the front pocket is very durable as well. Compared to other mesh materials, this Venom Mesh seems to be the most durable you can find. I’ve used this pack for a couple of months now, and the mesh shows no signs of wear. Usually, the exterior mesh pocket is the first thing to show wear on an ultralight pack. While it might be the first thing to show wear on this pack, it doesn’t have any signs of wear yet.

If anything, this pack is overbuilt. However, overbuilt is not a problem in terms of durability, and all that extra thread must not add that much weight. All of the main body seams on this pack are quadruple-stitched and flat-felled. All stress points are reinforced, and bar tacked. This pack will likely outlast most other ultralight backpacking packs.

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About Sam Schild

By Sam Schild (aka “Sia,” pronounced sigh): Sam is a writer, thru-hiker, and bikepacker. You can find him in Denver when he’s not out exploring in the mountains somewhere..

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