The Chicken Tramper Ultralight Gear 45 Liter Backpack (CTUG-45) is an ultralight roll-top backpack made with XPAC, a lightweight waterproof fabric related to Dyneema DCF, but more abrasion resistant and less expensive. The pack is fairly unique in that it has an optionally removable internal frame made from carbon fiber arrow shafts, an external sit pad pocket, shoulder straps, and a sewn-on hip belt with a lumbar pad that gives it a max comfortable load of 30 pounds. You can also clip a fanny pack to the hipbelt so that the front pocket hangs in front of you, where it can be useful in town and for travel.
Specs at a Glance
- Weight: 30 oz includes frame (2.0 oz) and sitpad (1.4 oz)
- Volume: a large 45L (closer to 48L)
- Internal frame: Yes, optionally removable
- Top closure: Roll-top
- Pockets: 3
- Gender: Unisex, but J-Shaped shoulder straps or female-friendly S-shaped straps are available
- Color: Two color, with a wide range of color options.
- Hip belt pockets: No
- Load lifters: Yes
- Hydration Compatible: No
- Sleeping Pad Straps: Yes
- Canister compatibility: Vertical
- Waist: Custom to your dimensions.
- Torso Length: Custom to your dimensions.
- Material: XPAC VX21
Backpack Storage and Organization
The CTUG-45 is is a roll-top with a large main compartment, side mesh pockets, and a front mesh pocket. While it is labeled as a 45 Liter backpack, it’s clearly closer to 50 Liters in size. When computing pack volume, Chicken Tramper includes the volume of the pack’s open pockets, the main compartment up to the load lifters, and the extension collar minus 3 fabric turns. While the latter is a refreshingly conservative way to measure pack volume among ultralight pack manufacturers, it also means you have even more volume above the load lifters to pack gear or food.
The roll-top has strips of velcro sewn along the hem, but doesn’t have a stiffener. The roll-top buckles also only clip to themselves but do not clip down along the sides. While there is a Y-strap on the top that can be used to hold the roll-top “down” or to attach a pad to the top of the pack, the lack of side clips makes it much easier to snag the roll-top on vegetation when hiking off-trail. Those side clips are one of the key advantages of a roll-top in my experience, but I spend a lot of time off-trail too.
The mesh pockets are made with dive mesh used to make scuba gear bags, which has a large weave but is very tough stuff and hard to rip. Even if you do, you can easily run cord through the large holes in the weave to seal the pocket up again and prevent items from falling out, an old school trick.
All of the mesh pockets can be cinched tight on the top with line locks and elastic cord to prevent items from popping out but they do not cinch fully shut. The side mesh pockets can each hold two Smartwater bottles and are reachable & replaceable when the pack is worn, and the front pocket is large enough to hold many smaller items or a wet tent fly with ease.
The pack does not have an internal hydration sleeve or hydration ports to run a hydration hose. There isn’t even an interior hang loop or hook to hang a reservoir.
The base pack also does not come with sewn-on hip belts but they can be easily added to webbing straps sewn to the hip belt’s exterior. Chicken Tramper sells accessory hip belt pockets as well.
Backpack Frame and Suspension
The CTUG-45 has a frame made from carbon-fiber arrow shafts. While this sounds very “cottage”, it’s worth noting that my first Gossamer Gear Mariposa Plus, circa 2007, (now called the Mariposa 60) also had frame stays made from carbon fiber arrow shafts. Gossamer Gear has since switched to an aluminum stay.
Chicken Tramper does those frame stays one better by adding a crosspiece along the top, creating a U-shaped stay. The bottom of the side stays terminates right behind the hip belt, which is sewn onto the pack and not attached with velcro, like so many other ultralight backpacks. I’ve always found that you get a better load to hip transfer if a pack has a sewn-on hip belt like this because there’s less buckling of the hip belt wings and lumbar area when loaded.
The U-shaped frame still has a lot of torsional flex in it, since it doesn’t have a crosspiece on the bottom, although it is dampened considerably when you pack the main compartment full of gear. The overall effect is a fairly lively pack, that maintains its shape well with different loads, doesn’t collapse, and tracks the hips well. There is still a modest amount of barrelling when the pack is packed full, but you can make it less noticeable with a little gear shifting.
The CTUG-45 also has a sit-pad pocket located behind the shoulder straps on the pack’s front. Chicken Tramper ships the pack with an egg carton pad, actually two cut-down panels of a Therm-a-rest ZLite foam pad (1.4 oz). The included sit pad is substantially shorter than a Zlite pad and a regular ZLite will not fit it in the pack’s pad pocket.
The sit pad is just used as padding and doesn’t provide any structural benefit, but it’s very easy to remove and replace, so you can use it as a sit pad or to keep your bum dry or the chiggers off you when you want to sit down and take a break. If you’ve never used a backpack with a removable sit-pad before you’ll quickly discover a million uses for the thing, such as a hammock porch or tent vestibule floor.
The CTUG-45 has 3″ wide shoulder straps that have daisy chains sewn on the outside making it easy to hang accessory pockets. They’re lightly padded on the inside with wicking mesh and are available in a J-Shape or female-friendly S-shape. The top of the shoulder straps are not sewn to pack bag but attached with webbing so they rotate more freely, providing more comfort for people with “curvier” chests.
The CTUG-45 also comes with load lifter straps, which are anchored to the pack bag just in front of the frame. The angle of the load lifter straps can be adjusted using a metal buckle located at the top of the strap, which is a premium feature you usually only find on higher-end packs.
The hip belt doesn’t come with pockets and is covered with two lines of daisy chain webbing so you can attach accessory pockets to them. It closes with a central buckle, although there is a separate strap adjustment om the top webbing strap so you can tighten the top of the hip belt tighter than the bottom. Women are likely to find this more useful than men, who tend to have squarish hips.
That was the case for me, as the hip belt consistently slipped down my hips when worn regardless of how much weight I carried in the pack. I really like this backpack, but the hip belt fit made it a challenge for me to use. Rather than engineer it from scratch, I suspected this problem can be solved by beefing up the lumbar pad on the back of the hip belt to make it a little firmer. I’ve prototyped this, by sliding a piece of foam under the lumbar pad and it makes a noticeable improvement in reducing hip belt slippage.
Fanny Pack Front Pocket
Chicken Tramper has a nifty feature not found on other multi-day backpacks, which is the ability to attach a fanny pack to the CTUG-45, so that the fanny pack’s storage hangs in front of the pack, where it’s actually useful in town or when traveling. The fanny pack clips to the hip belt webbing with small clips and hangs high enough that it doesn’t hit your unmentionables. I don’t particularly like using it personally, but I can see how it would come in handy for air travel, town resupplies, or campground/hostel shower rooms when you want your wallet and personal effects close at hand.
External Attachment System and Compression
The CTUG-45 comes with side compression straps made with line locks and elastic cord routed in a figure 8 pattern. You’re not forced to use them in this configuration however and you can reroute the cords in whatever pattern you want or remove them entirely. XPac has very little stretch, so if you have a habit of carrying a very full pack, you can often get away without using any compression.
In addition to the top Y-strap mentioned above, the pack comes with a pair of cord-based sleep bag attachment straps located below the front pocket and a rudimentary ice ax loop. These are removable if you don’t want to use them.
Comparable Lightweight Backpacks
The Chicken Tramper Ultralight Backpack 45-Liter pack is fun to carry and I’m impressed by the ingenuity of two guys who own Chicken Tramper in boot-strapping such a fully-featured pack so early in their company’s evolution. I’m also very bullish on backpacks made with XPac because it’s so much more durable and less expensive than Dyneema Composite Fabrics, in addition to being a lightweight and waterproof material. While I did encounter an issue with the way the hip belt on this pack fit my squarish man hips, the minor lumbar pad modification I illustrate above seems to have fixed it and can be easily duplicated.
As a company, Chicken Tramper is at the stage where they are customizing their packs to fit their customers’ individual dimensions. If you are looking for a multi-day backpack that fits your torso length and hip belt length exactly, and want to work with a manufacturer that you can have a personal (business) relationship with, I’d encourage you to give Chicken Tramper a go. You’ll probably become a lifelong customer.
Disclosure: The author received a sample pack in exchange for an honest review.
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