Waymark Gear Lite 50 Backpack w/ECOPAK Review

Waymark Gear Lite 50 Backpack Review 640

The Waymark Gear Lite 50 is a lightweight internal frame backpack suitable for multi-day backpacking and thru-hiking trips. Weighing two and a half pounds, the Lite 50 has a standard UL rolltop design with a sewn-on hip belt, a front mesh pocket, and durable side pockets, including two side pocket configurations to choose from. The pack is available in multiple colors and the sewing and construction are absolutely top-notch, making the Lite 50 a real contender for backpackers that want a lightweight roll-top pack made with waterproof fabric that is durable and can haul heavier weights when necessary.

The Lite 50 is available in X-Pac or ECOPAK, a new composite fabric that shares the lightweight and durability characteristics of X-Pac but is made with 100% recycled polyester and has a lower environmental impact. We review a Lite 50 made with a grade of ECOPAK called EPX200 below, but you’d be hard-pressed to tell the difference between X-Pac and ECOPACK by appearance. While the Lite 50 is available in both fabrics, the packs made with them cost the same and have a very similar performance profile. You really can’t go wrong with either one.

Specs at a Glance

  • Type: Internal Frame
  • Volume: 51L: Main (39L), External Pockets (12L) (varies slightly by size)
  • Weight: 2 lbs 8.4 oz  (actual)- may vary +/- based on sizing and configuration
  • Tested build: M/L Torso, XXL Hip Belt, 1 hip belt pocket, upper right side pocket
  • Weight without Frame Stays (2): 2 lbs 4.0 oz (actual)
  • Max Recommended Load: 35 lbs
  • Pockets: 4, but more are available
  • Seam-Taped/Sealed: No, a pack liner is recommended.
  • Gender: Unisex
  • Load lifters: Yes
  • Hydration compatible: No
  • Canister Compatible: BV500 on top under Y strap or inside
  • Material: VX21, Recycled EPX200 ECOPAK, Heavy Duty Mesh
Read More:  How Waterproof is Silnylon? - SectionHiker.com
The Waymark Lite 50 has a classic roll-top UL style design
The Waymark Lite 50 has a classic roll-top UL style design.

Backpack Frame and Suspension

Waymark Gear relaunched the Lite 50 backpack this year with an internal frame system to appeal to a broader swath of lightweight backpackers (the previous model was frameless). The new frame system increases the pack’s max recommended load to 35 pounds and helps prevent bulky objects from poking you in the back. The frame system is also removable for people who don’t need it or want it

The Lite 50 has two aluminum frame stays housed in stay pockets in the main pack bag.
The Lite 50 has two aluminum frame stays housed in stay pockets in the main pack bag.

Internal Frame

The Lite 50 has two aluminum frame stays that slide into stay pockets on the interior of the pack. The stays are pre-bent and will fit most people out of the box, but you can also bend them to suit your torso shape if required (See: How to Bend Frame Stays). This makes them more customizable than rigid frames that you can’t modify, in addition to being lighter weight.

The frame stays run the length of the main pack bag and terminate right behind your hips, where they have the highest impact on load transfer. There’s also a 1/8 inch foam pad between the frame stays and the back of the pack for added comfort.

The pack’s load lifters are anchored to the pack bag at the top of the frame stays, instead of being sewn through the pack bag and onto the frame stay pockets. They still work effectively since the backpack material has so little stretch.

Daisy chains on the shoulder straps make it easy to add accessory pockets and gear
Daisy chains on the shoulder straps make it easy to add accessory pockets and gear

Shoulder Straps

The shoulder straps are sewn to the pack bag with a short piece of webbing instead of being sewn directly to the back panel. This lets them rotate and mold around different chest shapes. The shoulder straps have a very slight S-curve at the top to do the same (good for men with large chests and women’s busts). Daisy chains are sewn to the exterior of both shoulder straps so you can easily add accessory pockets or attach electronics to them. That’s really a must-have for me.

The dual strap hip belt system lets you adjust the tension on the top or bottom of the hipbelt but is easier to operate because it runs through a single center buckle.
The dual strap hip belt system lets you adjust the tension on the top or bottom of the hipbelt but is easier to operate because it runs through a single center buckle.

Hip belt

The hip belt is sewn to the back of the pack which boosts the pack’s load-carrying capability and responsiveness so it moves with you. There’s a noticeable difference between packs that have sewn-on hip belts vs ones that are mass-produced as separate components and connected with velcro.

The hip belt is moderately padded and lined with wicking mesh to keep your waist comfortable and drier when you perspire. There’s a very modest lumbar pad that prevents the hip belt from slipping under load and is really exemplary. My lower back is irritated by large lumbar pads, but this one isn’t noticeable, which is good. It’s covered with the same mesh and padding as the rest of the hip belt.

While the hip belt closes with a single buckle, it exerts pressure on your hips like a much more complicated two-strap belt (on each side) so you get a snug fit without fiddling with 4 straps and trying to keep them the same length all the time.

The outside of the hip belt has a daisy chain that is used to lock the hip belt pockets in place. It can also be used to hang gear from, like a winter hot water bottle.
The outside of the hip belt has a daisy chain that is used to lock the hip belt pockets in place. It can also be used to hang gear from with a carabiner, like a winter hot water bottle holder.

The outside of the hip belt has a daisy chain that can be used to attach items or pockets to the hip belt. One hip belt pocket is included with the base model and is attached to the hip belt with two elastic straps and a velcro strap (which threads through the daisy chain), so it won’t slide out of position. This also means you can move the pockets forward or backward along the hip belt where you want them to be. Each hip belt pocket is 6” wide x 5” tall x 2” deep in size, it has a water-resistant zipper, and holds a lot of stuff.

When sizing the hip belt, be aware that they run small on the Lite 50. I ended up with a size XXL hip belt which Waymark lists as 40″-44″ long although I wear a waist size of 37″-38″ in pants.

Comfort

Weight

Suspension

Features

Adjustability

Sizing

Durability

Durable and Superbly Crafted

The Lite 50 is a lightweight and durable multi-day or thru-hiking backpack made with a highly durable and waterproof fabric called EcoPak. It has a lightweight frame that makes it easy to carry heavier loads when you have to, without weighing you down when you want to make tracks!

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Backpack Storage and Organization

The Waymark Lite 50 is laid out like a typical ultralight backpack with side water bottle pockets, a long mesh front pocket, and a roll-top closure with a top Y-strap.

The Lite 50 is available with 3 external side pockets (shown) or two.
The Lite 50 is available with 3 external side pockets (shown) or two.

The base pack comes with two side pockets both made with solid fabric, one which is longer (13″ tall, left-hand side) than the shorter one (8″ tall, right-hand side). You can also opt for an added upper right-hand pocket (8″ tall, right), which makes the pack very similar to the Gossamer Gear Mariposa 60’s unique pocket configuration.

  • The shorter, bottom, 8″ pocket can hold up to two x 1 liter bottles and is reachable while wearing the pack. Water bottles stored in it do not fall out if the pack tips over. (The pack does not have an interior hydration pocket, or an interior hook for suspending one, or a hydration port.)
  • There is a compression strap above the 13″ pocket which makes it good for storing a small tent if you carry one or another shelter like a tarp.  A NEMO Switchback or a Thermarest ZLite folding foam pad can also fit in this pocket. You can’t reach back and pull a water bottle out of it, however.
  • The upper right-hand pocket, if you opt for it, is good for storing a small stove system.
  • None of the side pockets have drain holes, so you’ll want to use a pack liner if you hike in a rainy climate.
The taller side pocket and upper compression strap is great for carrying a small tent or a Tenkara fishing rod
The taller side pocket and upper compression strap is great for carrying a small tent and a Tenkara fishing rod

The front pocket is made with heavy-duty mesh with an elastic hem on top and gussets on the bottom so it will expand when stuffed. It works best with clothing, but it can be a little difficult to use with bulkier or pointy objects like a stove system or crampons when the pack is stuffed. I prefer a densely woven stretch mesh pocket myself because it’s less likely to get caught or ripped on vegetation off-trail.

The upper right hand pocket is good for storing a stove system.
The upper right-hand pocket is good for storing a stove system.

The roll-top has a strip of velcro inside to hold the sides together for rolling, but the ends only buckle to themselves instead of buckles or straps on the body of the backpack, limiting the amount of top-down compression you can get. This type of closure also lends itself to getting hung up on vegetation if you hike off-trail, much the same way that the exposed metal bar would if you were carrying an external frame pack. I probably spend a lot more time hiking off-trail than most people, looking for historical artifacts, and fly fishing brushy mountain streams, so my preference is for roll tops that lie flush against the body of a pack rather than creating a loop that can trap tree branches.

The roll top has a short piece of velcro to secure the sides, but the end buckles only connect to themselves providing limited top compression
The roll top has a short piece of velcro to secure the sides, but the end buckles only connect to themselves providing limited top compression.

There’s a Y-strap that loops over the roll-top and can be used to carry bulky items like a foam pad or climbing rope. The strap is long enough that you could lash a bear canister to the top of the pack but you’ll probably want to add some additional straps or cord to keep it from slipping off. Alternatively, a large bear canister, like a Bearvault BV500, does fit inside the pack vertically and the frame stays prevent it from poking into your back.

Compression and External Attachments

The amount of compression offered by the Lite 50 is limited. If you get the three-pocket configuration, there’s just the one compression strap over the tall pocket. If you just get the two-pocket configuration, you do get a second compression strap over the shorter side pocket.

I think the two-pocket configuration is definitely the more flexible, but that upper right-hand pocket can be really nice if you can figure out what to put in it. It can hold a stove, a cold soak kit, food, a water filter/purification kit, your toilet kit, etc. I carried a Gossamer Gear Mariposa 60 with a 3-pocket configuration for years and always found a use for the upper pocket.

The problem with a single compression strap, even if you have two, is that it’s not really good for much on the Lite 50, other than preventing tall skinny objects from falling out of the side pockets. For example, you really need two straps, one on top of the other to carry snowshoes on the sides of a pack. There are also not any good anchor points, like tiny webbing loops, along the pack seams where you could attach cord to lash additional items to the outside of the pack. This would be an easy addition though.

The Lite 50 comes with elastic ice axe shaft and trekking pole holders which is a nice touch on a cottage pack.
The Lite 50 comes with elastic ice axe shaft and trekking pole holders which is a nice touch on a cottage pack.

Finally, the Lite 50 comes with a pair of webbing loops to hold trekking poles and a single webbing strap to hold a mountaineering ax. Elastic shaft holders are provided for both, which is a nice touch you often don’t find on many cottage company packs.

Comparable Lightweight Backpacks with Internal Frames

Recommendation

The Waymark Gear Lite is a 50-liter backpack that’s designed, according to Waymark, for transitional hikers who want to switch from heavier packs and loads to lighter-weight backpacking gear but still want to carry a few small luxury items. The external pockets, including the long mesh front pocket, make the pack really easy to use, while the pack’s narrow width makes it very responsive on scrambles and when climbing.  The hip belt is downright exceptional and doesn’t slip under heavier loads, in part because it’s sewn to the pack body, while the daisy chains on the shoulder straps and hip belt make it easy to attach accessory pockets, electronics, and navigation tools.

Disclosure: Waymark Gear provided the author with a backpack for this review.

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