• Ben Kilbourne

Complete Guide to SWD Packs' Load-carrying Ability


Whether you're planning a thru-hike of the PCT, a weekend trip in your local mountains, or a weeklong ski/packraft adventure through the Bob, Superior Wilderness Designs has a pack for you. Different trips necessitate different types and amounts of gear and thus result in different loads — 20 lbs or less for a thru-hike and often over 50 lbs for packrafting.


This guide is intended to help you choose a pack based on the amount of weight you anticipate carrying. We will answer the question "Which pack is right for me?" by looking specifically at the load-carrying abilities of the different Superior Wilderness Designs backpacks. For simplicity, SWD have separated their packs into five categories: Superior, Movement, Long Haul, Wendigo, and Big Wild.


  • The Superior packs are Ultralight Frameless packs optimized for loads of 10 to 20 pounds.

  • The Movement packs have a single stay and hanging hip belt and will carry 20 to 30 pounds comfortably.

  • The Long Haul packs have a hanging hip belt, loadlifters, and two stays that extend two inches above the shoulder straps. These packs will do everything from a thru-hike to a desert canyon bushwhacking adventure and will haul 30 to 40 pounds easily.

  • The Wendigo pack is essentially the Long Haul but with a tall frame and a burlier hip belt. It has two stays that extend four inches above the shoulder straps and utilizes the Big Wild's hanging hip belt. The Wendigo will carry 40 or 50 pounds no problem.

  • The Big Wild pack has a tall frame and a very robust hip belt. It has two stays that extend four inches past the shoulder straps. The Big wild will haul 40 to 50 pounds with ease.



Superior

Ultralight Frameless Pack for Carrying 10-20 lbs


The Superior is a frameless backpack for thru-hiking, fastpacking, and quick overnight trips. It, like most frameless packs, will be most comfortable with weights in the 10-20-pound range. That said, this pack's thick and wide shoulder straps disperse pressure better than many competitors' packs, so 20 pounds may feel like much less than that.


This pack's load-carrying range can be increased by adding an optional hanging hip belt. With the hip belt, weight can be distributed between shoulders and hips. We would recommend using a hip belt with the Superior if you have some water hauls planned.


This Pack is Best for:

  • Thru-hikes

  • Weekend trips

  • Travel

  • Quick overnighters

  • Fastpacking

Sizes and Average Weights:

  • Superior 30 (17 oz to 20 oz)

  • Superior 35 (18 oz to 21 oz)

  • Superior 40 (19 oz to 22 oz)

Load-Carrying Ability

  • Optimized for loads of 10-20 pounds or less.

  • Max recommended load of 30 pounds for short durations.

Movement

Ultralight Single-Stay Pack for Carrying 20-30 lbs


The Movement backpack is designed for the modern-day backpacker with a dialed kit. This pack is near as light as its frameless sister—the Superior—while being capable of much greater loads. 20-30 pounds will feel like nothing in the Movement. And when you have to load your pack up with water and it starts to creep into the 40-pound range, this pack will still be comfortable for short durations.


The Movement has a single aluminum stay and a floating hip belt that clips directly to the bottom of the stay and to the sides of the backpack. This design very effectively transfers the load to your hips. The single stay ends right at the top of the shoulder straps, but two modular loadlifter straps clip to the rolltop two inches above it and can effectively shift the load towards your body when the pack is very full.


This pack is best for:

  • Thru-hiking

  • Weekend backpacking

  • Scrambling

  • Travel

Sizes and Average Weights:

  • Movement 35 (average weight 22oz to 24oz)

  • Movement 40 (average weight 23oz to 25oz)

  • Movement 50 (average weight 24oz to 26oz)

Load-Carrying Ability:

  • Optimized for 20-30 pounds or less.

  • Max recommended load of 40 pounds for short durations.

Long Haul

A Do-Everything Pack with Double Stays and a Short Frame for Carrying 30-40 lbs


The Long Haul is a do-it-all backpack with two aluminum stays and a short frame. The stays extend two inches above the top of the shoulder straps in all pack sizes, and load-lifter straps are attached where the stays terminate.


The Long Haul comes stock with either a sewn-in hip belt or a full-wrap hanging belt which attaches to the bottom of each stay for optimal load transfer. The full-wrap belt makes the belt size interchangeable and also makes the torso size adjustable by up to 4". This pack's dual stays, in conjunction with either the sewn-in or hanging hip belt, makes this pack comfortable to 30 or 40 pounds.


This Pack is best for:

  • Off-trail adventures

  • Canyon hiking

  • High-routes

  • Bikepacking

  • Thru-hikes requiring some load-carrying ability

Sizes and Average Weights:

  • Long Haul 40 (average weight 29oz to 34oz)

  • Long Haul 50 (average weight 30oz to 35oz)

Load-Carrying Ability:

  • Optimized for 30-40 pounds or less.

  • Max recommended load of 50 pounds for short durations.

Wendigo

Load Hauling Pack with Double Stays and a Tall Frame for Carrying 40-50 lbs


The Wendigo is essentially the Long Haul but with a tall frame and a burlier hip belt. It has two stays that extend four inches above the shoulder straps, giving the loadlifters the angle they need to be really effective with heavy loads. A loadlifter angle of 30° to 45° is helpful for relieving weight from the shoulders when hauling water through the Grand Canyon.


These packs also utilize the Big Wild's burlier hanging hip belt. It clips to the bottom of each stay for optimal load transfer and is made with relatively stiff foam which keeps it from collapsing at heavier loads. The hip belts on this pack are interchangeable so you can swap out the size if you ever need to and the torso size is also adjustable by up to 4" by moving the hip belt up or down on the pack. The Wendigo will carry 40 or 50 pounds no problem.


This Pack is Best For:

  • Trips over a week long

  • Off-trail adventures

  • Canyon hiking

  • Packrafting

Sizes and Average Weights:

  • Wendigo 50 (average weight 31oz to 36oz)

  • Wendigo 70 (Average weight 32 to 37 oz)

Load-Carrying Ability:

  • Optimized for 40-50 pounds or less.

  • Max recommended load of 60 pounds for short durations.


Big Wild

Load Hauling Pack with Double Stays and a Tall Frame for Carrying 40-50 lbs


The Big Wild, like the Wendigo, has a tall frame with two stays that extend four inches above the shoulder straps. The tall frame gives the loadlifters a 30° to 45° angle, which is crucial for relieving weight from the shoulders when hauling packrafting gear and a week of food.


You'll notice that the Big Wild and Wendigo have the same load-carrying range. This is because they are foundationally the same, both utilizing the same thick and stiff hip belt that won't collapse under giant loads. The main difference between these two packs is that the Wendigo has a solid rear pocket and the Big Wild has no rear pocket. Both packs have interchangeable hip belt sizes and adjustable torso sizes.


This Pack is Best For:

  • Packrafting

  • Big wilderness adventures

  • Winter adventures with bulky gear

  • Trips over a week long

  • Off-trail adventures

  • Canyon hiking


Sizes and Average Weights:

  • Big Wild 70 (average weight 36oz to 40oz)

  • Big Wild 95 (average weight 37oz to 41oz)

Load-Carrying Ability

  • Optimized for 40-50 pounds or less.

  • Max recommended load of 60 pounds for short durations.

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