unsolicited gear review: SWD 35L full suspension pack

Questions about equipment and supplies to bring on a trip (including reviews).

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torpified
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unsolicited gear review: SWD 35L full suspension pack

Post by torpified » Sun Oct 21, 2018 4:52 pm

As threatened, here are impressions of the superior wilderness designs pack I, after becoming insanely excited that Michigan had its own ultralight cottage gear industry, acquired last spring. To spare ou all time/anxiety, the bottom line echoes the evaluations of paulbates and thesneakymonkey: SWD gear is intelligently designed, well made, extremely functional, unusually colorful, and a pleasure to use.

What I got: a 35L full-suspension Superior, with optional loadlifters and shoulder pouches. I think this is close to identical to the 35L Long Haul they now offer. (It seems like they've reconceptualized their product line so that anything with full suspension is a Long Haul.) It's purple and weighs 23 oz. 35L is the interior capacity; a large number of external pockets increases that (as well as the pack's functionality) considerably.

How I mean to, and how I have, used it: while it's POSSIBLE to fit a bear canister in this pack, it's such a tight squeeze that attempting the operation when either canister or pack are wet, or when hands are cold, could well induce fatal exasperation. (The canister I tried and barely succeeded in fitting was a Bearikade weekender.) I'm keeping my Exos 50something L for bear canister and longer trips, and using the (pound lighter) SWD for shorter trips in jurisdictions where bear canisters aren't necessary. The SWD has seen me through a variety of dayhikes, the shortest possible backpacking trip on IR, and--this was the significant test--a lap of Mount Rainier on the Wonderland Trail. Modulo a few user-specific and readily addressed minor annoyances, it performed incredibly well, and (possibly unfortunately) confirmed my kneejerk pro Michigan jingoism.

Field performance: the elevation of the Wonderland Trail varies (with alarming frequency) between 2800 and 6800 ft. It touches the frontcountry in a number of places, making it simple for the addled midwesterner to stash a food cache in a campground she'll reach midway through her trip. I took my lap in midSeptember. Winter was thinking about starting; daytime temps ranged from the 30s to the 60s. A few nights it dipped well below freezing. The first half of my walk I was ensconced in a cloud that delivered a variety of temperature-dependent forms of precipitation. Put somewhat more bluntly, it was hypothermia weather. People who had been trying for years to secure a permit for this trail (they're released on a lottery system) were aborting walks for safety's sake.

Thanks to the weather and my metabolism (one reason I deserve to be called "torpified" is that if I stop moving, I return to my ground state of chilled, sluggish, and confused almost instantly) I needed to have snacks and water so readily available that I could consume them on the go. I also needed rain gear and breaktime insulation within easy reach. Also, I needed to have a variety of temperature-regulating accessories (beanie, baseball cap, buff, wool gloves, rain mitts) handy so that I could adapt to changing conditions on the go. Finally, I needed a place to store a soaking wet rainfly and (sadly) a tent whose floor was saturated that segregated these drenched things from my core sleeping duds. The SWD pack met all these needs better than my Exos would have. Both the side pockets and the mesh back pocket are capacious; they held sodden tents and breaktime insulation separately and easily. The waistbelt and shoulder strap pockets accommodate snacks and accessories. Despite carrying a much smaller and lighter pack than most people I encountered, I bore up better under the challenging conditions. Although there were periods of distinct discomfort, they never approached the status of reasons to abort. (Also, I was repeatedly accused of being a dayhiker, and also repeatedly the beneficiary of remarks to the effect that "of course you're moving faster than I am --look how teeny your pack is!")

Thanks to the food caches, I never needed to carry more than 3 days of food/20 or so pounds. I did this in complete comfort, although sometimes comfort achieved through the cagey deployment of loadlifters. Given how I handle food, I suspect that 4 days is the outer limit of the pack with respect to capacity. For me, 4 days works out to 22-23 pounds of food. I suspect that the pack would remain comfortable with loads up to 30 pounds, or even more.

There are a few things I wish were different, where my wishes presuppose my considerable idiosyncrasies. My back is (i) long compared to my waist and shoulder girth, and (ii) between SWD's standard S/M and M/L sizes. Getting a pack that's too short means having the waistbelt float above where it's meant to; getting a pack that's too long means having the shoulder straps float above the shoulders. Because I prefer the latter suboptimality, I got the ML. While I'm sure that that was the right call, it meant that if I loaded and battened down the pack stupidly, the pack would force me into an unattractive and kinematically incorrect hunchback posture. It didn't take long to figure out how to manage available degrees of freedom in order to avert this---but it was something I had to figure out. Another issue very clearly connected to my aberrant stature: I wanted to tighten the sternum strap more than it allowed. While I'm not sure why there couldn't be narrower sternum straps than the one my pack came with, I've never seen any.

Bottom line: I'm a big fan! This condition persists after discovering that the brand is kind of trendy. I do still wish they'd incorporate IR into their logo, which is an astronaut's eye view of Lake Superior.
Last edited by torpified on Mon Oct 22, 2018 6:29 am, edited 2 times in total.

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thesneakymonkey
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Re: unsolicited gear review: SWD 35L full suspension pack

Post by thesneakymonkey » Mon Oct 22, 2018 5:28 am

Nice review! Love mine (as you know) :)


Topic author
torpified
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Re: unsolicited gear review: SWD 35L full suspension pack

Post by torpified » Mon Oct 22, 2018 6:25 am

DOH! I put this in Food&Cooking, not Gear. I guess it carried food? Is there a way for me to refile it, or do I need administrative powers?

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