10 Modern Ultralight backpacks - Part 2

In this project, 10 UL backpacks were compared by three individuals under the same conditions: Takahiro Watabe from Yamatomichi Lab, Hidenori Maehara, the manager of the Yamatomichi Kamakura, and Masaaki Mita, the editor-in-chief of Yamatomichi JOURNALS. The second part focuses on testing medium to large size backpacks ranging from 38L to 60L.

The comparison involves carrying the same weight in each backpack to assess comfort and features. As mentioned in part 1, these reviews are not meant to give any of these bags a bad rep. It sheds light on factors like frame presence, back pad, shoulder strap shape, and UL backpack trends.

This project offers valuable insights for those interested in UL backpacks and helps potential buyers consider their options based on each backpack’s unique features and suitability. It contributes to the outdoor community’s understanding of these products.

What does the future hold for UL backpacks? Let’s find out!

Text/Direction: Mita Masaaki
Photography: Hikaru Otake

Click HERE for Part 1

The Backpacks

BONFAS Iterus 38L



Z-PACKS Arc Haul Ultra 60L Backpack

GOSSAMER GEAR Mariposa 60 Backpack

The following terms will be used to describe the parts of the backpack.

We start off by trying on our very own THREE

Masaaki: Now, let’s move on to backpacks ranging from 38L to 60L. Instead of the 5kg weight used in part 1, we’ll use the 8kg weight used in THREE’s in our stores. But before that, let’s try the THREE as a reference for this class of packs. “tries on THREE” Yeah, just like the MINI, it feels almost too ordinary for us, and there’s not much to say, good or bad, about it at this point “laughs.”

Standard – Coyote 2023

Mesh – Navy 2023

Zip – Yellow 2023

Weight: 602g-649g
Capacity: 40L/45L
Main Fabric: X-pac VX21
Type: Frameless

Hidenori: “tries on” The comfort it provides at its load limit of 10kg is impressive. Compared to other packs in the same class, the tape-style hip belt is less likely to interfere with leg movement, making it very comfortable to walk. However, it can’t handle heavy loads. I once tried hiking with a 14kg load just out of curiosity, and it reaffirmed that the comfortable load limit is indeed 10kg. We’ve been telling customers in the store to “keep your load under 10kg,” so many times that it’s become a bit of a running joke “laughs.”

Takahiro: “tries on” With this weight, the load is balanced nicely both vertically and horizontally, not just on the shoulders or hips. It feels comfortable, and there’s no noticeable discomfort since we’re accustomed to it.

Masaaki:Trying on different packs today, it’s become clear that the when you don’t notice any discomfort its a direct sign that the backpack’s comfortable.

⑥ BONFAS - Iterus 38L

Italian-made UL Backpack with a Well Balance of Excellence

capacity: 38L
Weight: 400g
Main Fabric: Ultra200
Type: Frameless


Masaaki: The first of the medium to large-sized backpacks, the Bonfass Itel’s 38L. This is an unusual Italian brand in the UL category. Like the YAR GEAR we saw in Part 1, it’s also frameless, featuring cutting-edge materials, Ultra 200 on a traditional UL backpack style, with pockets on the bottom and shoulders, incorporating all the current trends in UL backpacks, but at a larger size capacity.

Hidenori: “tries on” It’s frameless, but it doesn’t feel uncomfortable even with 8kg on my back. Honestly, it can be worn comfortably even without a hip belt, so whether you use it or not doesn’t matter much. The shoulders don’t feel too tight either, and I really like this shoulder strap. If you have strong shoulders like us, it might not matter as much, but for women, who rely more on carrying on the hips might struggle with a heavy load with this pack. But overall the comfort is quite good. It feels similar to how it feels when I have 5kg in the MINI. It’s similar to the YAR GEAR in that sense.

Masaaki: The shoulder straps have a pretty solid S-curve.

Hidenori: They hold well, but it doesn’t feel constricting. I probably wouldn’t use a hip belt myself.

Masaaki: But the bottle does tend to hit your arm when you put it in the shoulder pocket. I wonder if it can be positioned a bit more to the inside? I noticed that in the backpacks we reviewed so far, a lot of them had the same problem. Maybe it’s challenging to avoid this.

Hidenori: Honestly, with this one, you might not even need use it for a bottle. It could be useful for carrying snacks or sunglasses though.

There is a mesh material shoulder pocket on the left chest. The shoulder straps forms an S-curve, and while the padding is not very thick, it provides a snug fit.

Takahiro: “tries on” It does feel a bit like the MINI, but it feels light considering it’s carrying 8kg. If I had the same weight in the MINI, it might dig into my shoulders more. Not feeling the weight might be due to it distributing the load well on the hips and balancing.

Hidenori:True, if you put 8kg in the MINI, it pulls back a bit more.

Masaaki: This backpack has a gimmick where you can attach a folded sleeping pad to the back using bungee cords. When I tried attaching the Minimalist Pad, it fit perfectly. 

The bungee cord on the inside allows you attach a back pad such as a sleeping mat.

Masaaki: “tries on” Ah, indeed, there’s a sensation that it fits snugly on the back. The length of the bag is just right for me. The shoulder straps surprisingly feel quite nice. The balance between the bag itself and the shoulder straps seems excellent. The size of the bag seems to be surprisingly important. But even though the shoulder straps are nice, the mesh pocket is somewhat underwhelming, as Maehara-kun also mentioned, so I feel like you could do without it. At the very least, it’s not suitable for bottles here.

⑦ ATOM PACKS - The Atom+ EP

British-Made Internal Frame with Premium Finish

Capacity: 50L
Weight: 675g
Main Fabric: ECOPAK
Type: Frameless


Masaaki: Next up the ATOM PACKS – Atom+ EP from the UK. What a beautiful bag. They manage to incorporate recent trends like bottom pockets, shoulder pockets, and ultra-stretch materials, setting themselves apart from other brands. Their website is also sleek, and the photos look great.

Takahiro: Atom Packs allows customization of fabric colors and materials, which is a great feature.

Masaaki: The main fabric is ECOPACK. An eco-friendly material.

Takahiro: It’s made from the same material as the Ultralight 200, similar to X-Pac, but it’s slightly cheaper and uses recycled materials, making it environmentally friendly.

Hidenori: Lately, it seems that European and American brands are transitioning from X-Pac to this eco-friendly type of materials. “tries on” It’s not bad, but it feels a bit pulling at the back. The shoulder pocket is great; it doesn’t touch your arm even when you put a bottle in it.

Masaaki: The shoulder pocket has a cool design, right? Why do you think they flipped the fabric there?

Takahiro: Probably to make it easier to insert solid items.

The S-curved shoulder straps offer a good fit, and both the design and placement of the pockets are well-executed. The hip belt is also removable.

Masaaki: Also, this one has a carbon frame built-in, and it can carry up to 13.5 kg, which puts it in the same category as the ONE for hiking and trekking. But it has a 50L capacity and doesn’t come with a load lifters.

The internal frame is constructed by connecting black carbon pipes with white plastic pipes.

Hidenori: “tries on” It’s not bad, but in terms of the shoulder strap feel, I think I prefer the Bonfus. This one feels heavy on the shoulders alone. But the hip belt design is good. It doesn’t feel like there’s a frame on your back, unlike the ONE.

Takahiro: The ONE has a frame that crosses in an X-shape, so it you can feel the frame touch your back.

Masaaki: Does the frame help distribute the weight on the hips?

Hidenori: It does, but if you tighten the hip belt too much, it pulls back a little.

Masaaki: So, maybe a load lifter would be a good addition.

Hidenori: It balances better when you shift the weight more towards the shoulders and avoid overloading the hips.

Takahiro: So, it’s more like the THREE than the ONE in terms of how it feels on your back.

Details like pull tabs on the side pockets that allow for quick release and tightening show attention to detail in the finishing.

Takahiro: “tries it on” It’s not an amazing impression, but considering the design and attention to detail, I might want to use this for specific occasions. However, I do wish there was load lifters. It would make it much more comfortable to carry.

Masaaki: “tries on” Ah, the hip belt feels nice. But it pulls back a bit. I think load lifters would be a good addition. Since it already has a frame for distributing the weight to the hips, I’d like to wear it with slightly looser shoulder straps, but that would pull the center of gravity backward. So, load lifters would be great.

Hidenori: Having a load lifter would indeed be fantastic.

Masaaki: Yeah, it’s about the same weight as the THREE. The design is good, you can customize it, and it looks so good that you’d want to buy it just based on looks alone. It’s a shame.

Takahiro: I checked the website for the Atom Packs we reviewed earlier, and it seems that the 60-liter class backpacks come with load lifters.

Hidenori: Westerners tend to have a more pronounced forward tilt in their pelvis, so their spine curves, and the backpack naturally sits on their hips. In contrast, many Japanese people have straighter spines, so the backpack tends to slide down. That might be a factor.

Takahiro: I see, so it might be a difference in body types.


Traditional Frameless UL Backpack from a Longstanding Brand

capacity: 55L
Weight: 510g
Main Fabric: UltraGrid 200d
Type: Frameless


Masaaki: Now, let’s talk about the Exodus from Mountain Laurel Design (MLD). MLD is a well-established ultralight gear brand that has been around since the 2000s. Back then, their website used to say something like “I’m currently hiking a long trail, so orders won’t be accepted until two months later.” It’s a true garage brand with a long history. The Exodus is their largest pack at 55L, but it’s frameless and has no back pad. The fabric has been updated, but the design has remained the same, giving it that classic American UL backpack feel. What is this UltraGrid 200d material?

Takahiro: It’s a material similar to Dyneema X Grid, which incorporates ultra-high-molecular polyethylene material into a ripstop weave. The Ultra Grid 200d increases fabric strength by weaving ripstop double compared to competing materials. However, when we tested the fabric, the results were not significantly higher than traditional Dyneema X Grid materials.

Hidenori: Does having such a long extension at the top serve any purpose? It seems like it would be unbalanced when fully packed.

The backpack features a long roll-top closure, which likely occupies a significant portion of its 55L capacity. It’s worth noting that MLD offers smaller 38L and 48L models with the same design and load capacity (up to 12kg), so the roll-top length appears to be the primary factor in determining the capacity.

Masaaki: If you look at the manufacturer’s website, you’ll see that smaller-sized models have the same load rating. So, I think it’s not designed to be fully packed all the time but rather for scenarios like long-distance hikes or sections with scarce resupply options where you might need to carry a lot. Despite being 55L, I think it’s more in the mid-sized category, like the THREE.

Hidenori: “tries on” Oh, the hip belt feels nice. It’s really good. This is great. There’s no load lifter, but it feels good. Maybe it’s because there’s no frame. It feels completely natural. There’s a slight sense of weight on the shoulders, but it sits firmly on the hips, and even without a load lifter, it feels like the weight is close to the back.

Masaaki: Oh, that’s unexpected!

Hidenori: It’s quite impressive!

Takahiro: “tries on” The main body is thin, but the shoulder straps have some thickness to them. Since there’s no padding on the back, it conforms to your body. Personally, I feel like the THREE offers more unity. But it’s not bad at all. In the end, maybe the main body could just be a simple bag?

Hidenori: I think so.

Masaaki: Nevertheless, even if it’s just a bag, there are various factors like width, length, and overall shape.

Takahiro: How the shoulder straps are attached to the bag is also important.

Hidenori: But it’s lighter than the THREE, right? It’s 510g, so about 100g lighter than the THREE.

Takahiro: The THREE prioritizes comfort and offers a luxurious design, even when stripped down. It’s impressive that you can achieve this level of comfort with minimal features.

The top strap is Y-shaped, designed to securely hold a bear canister in place. This detail is a common feature in American-made UL backpacks, not limited to MLD.

Masaaki: “tries on” I haven’t closed the hip belt yet, but it feels really good right from the moment I put it on. It fits perfectly. “Securing the hip belt and shoulder straps” Ah, it feels natural. The thickness and cushioning of the shoulder straps are excellent. Even without a frame or back pad, it sits securely on the back.

Takahiro: These shoulder straps are probably the thickest I’ve seen among those we have tried.

Masaaki: The S-curved form is nice too. I’ve realized while trying this on that shoulder straps in an S-curve are the way to go. There’s no feeling of being pulled back. Even though it’s a thin, frameless pack. Atom Packs, on the other hand, had a frame but still felt like it was pulling me back.

Hidenori: I wonder why that is. It’s surprising how easy it is to carry with this capacity even without a load lifters.

Masaaki: Honestly, I wasn’t expecting much from this one, to be rude “laughs.” I thought it was an artifact from the past. Despite being frameless, it’s quite impressive in terms of comfort.

Hidenori: Perhaps that’s why they’ve survived as a manufacturer for so long. With this, you could carry a bear canister up here, and it should carry well. But the maximum load is up to 12kg, so it has its limitations. Going beyond that might upset the balance.

Masaaki: It’s surprising that having a frame and padding isn’t an absolute requirement for comfort. It’s interesting.

⑨ Z-PACKS - Arc Haul Ultra 60L Backpack

Ultralight and Breathable Frame Backpack Made for Long Trails

Capacity: 60L
Weight: 606g
Main Fabric: Ultra200
Type: External Frame


Masaaki: Now, let’s finally talk about the ZPacks Arc Haul Ultra 60L. ZPacks, based in the USA, is a brand known for making ultra-lightweight gear using high-performance fabrics like DCF and Ultra200, designed for thru-hikers. In the early days, they even made packs that looked like trash bags made of Cuben Fiber, and that was quite shocking “laughs.” This pack, in particular, is their flagship model, featuring an integrated frame and a rare ventilated back panel in the ultralight category. I’ve been wanting to try this one for a while.

Takahiro: This one also uses the Ultra 200 fabric. The shoulder pads are soft, but the S-curve feels good.

Masaaki: A framed 60L pack weighing 606g. That’s light. It may not look fancy, but it seems to have various unique features.

Hidenori: It has two vertical carbon fiber frames and three horizontal resin stays connecting them.

Takahiro: The carbon frames look sturdy, and I don’t think they’ll break easily.

The carbon frame is positioned with exposed ends at both ends of the backpack and is connected by three resin stays. The structure is supported by straps sewn to the mesh on the back.

Hidenori: “tries on” This one feels good. The frame slightly touches the shoulder blades, but I can feel it, and it feels very stable. It has more of a frame feel compared to the ONE.

Masaaki: It mentions a maximum load of 18kg, so they seem quite confident. And at 606g, it’s impressively lightweight.

Hidenori: I can understand why ZPacks is popular in America. MLD feels like an old-school UL pack, but this one is packed with various gimmicks, giving it a modern feel. It does touch the shoulder blade area a bit, but it makes the load feel lighter.

Takahiro: There are straps on the back creating space between the pack and your back, so that might be what’s touching.

Hidenori: If I close this up, it might not touch anymore. “Adjusts it” Ah, That’s better. It feels like the weight is distributed evenly rather than concentrated in one spot. But does this mesh on the back serve any purpose? It seems like it would be cooler without it.

Masaaki: I think the mesh serves the purpose of supporting the back. A couple of straps instead of the mesh could work.

The shoulder straps are suspended from two points at the base of the back and one point for the load lifters, creating space on the back when worn.

Takahiro: “tries on” Yeah, definitely. Even if we add 5-6kg, it should be comfortable.

Hidenori: It’s different from the typical framed packs that heavily rely on hip load. It feels like the weight is carried evenly across the back. Similar to the THREE but with less shoulder strain and more support from the hips, making it closer to the ONE.

Takahiro: It’s quite similar to the ONE. About two-thirds of the weight can be carried by the hips. The back is open, but it feels like it sits well on the hips. I don’t feel uncomfortable at all. I think you could even run with this.

Hidenori: I used an Osprey with an open back like this during the Te Araroa Trail, while my wife used the THREE. The way our backs got wet was completely different. The THREE got soaked and took a while to dry. I really want this one.

When you put it on, there is space between your back and the pack.

Masaaki: “tries on” Ah, it does fit nicely, and it doesn’t pull backward. The shape of the shoulder straps is good too. After trying on various packs, I’ve realized that S-curve shoulder straps are the way to go. It feels like the weight is distributed over the entire back, and I feel like I could carry even more weight. This is great. It looks like it would keep your back cool, and I might want to use it for long-distance hikes.

Takahiro: The firmness of the hip belt is amazing. It doesn’t seem tiring at all.

Hidenori: Although there’s no strap connecting the bottom of the pack to the hip belt, it still feels secure, and I think it’s because the lowest stay goes through the hip belt.

Masaaki: So, maybe it doesn’t need a strap connecting the bottom and the belt. Also, thinking about it, this frame is essentially an exposed outer frame. The history of backpack frames evolved from outer frames to inner frames, and nowadays, outer frame packs are considered old-fashioned. But ZPacks has fused this concept with UL packs, creating a modern and innovative design.

Hidenori: If that’s the case, it’s incredibly well thought out.

With the stays passing through the hip belt, the load is distributed firmly to the hips.

Masaaki: Even though it has an integrated frame, its weight of only 606g may be due to its outer frame structure, which simplifies the design of the bag and reduces the amount of fabric used. Even though it looks raw and prototype-like in appearance, the more you look at it, the more thought you see behind it.

Hidenori: I find it beautiful, to be honest. Its lack of excessive style is a good thing.

Masaaki: That’s where ZPacks’ charm lies, after all. I highly recommend this. Even with a load of almost 9kg, it feels like carrying 6-7kg. And it’s lightweight, keeps your back cool, and is highly waterproof. There are no downsides to this pack for long-distance hiking.

⑩ GOSSAMER GEAR - Mariposa 60 Backpack

The OG Long-trail Backpack

Capacity: 60L
Weight: 962g
Main Fabric: 70D Robic nylon
Type: Internal Frame


Masaaki: The Gossamer Gear Mariposa is our last item. It’s their largest model with a frame, weighing 962g. It gives off a vibe of backpacks from the 2000s to 2010s.

Hidenori: The famous Mariposa, indeed. “tries on” It’s not bad, but it feels like it pulls back, perhaps due to the curved frame.

Masaaki: That’s Surprising with a backpack with a frame.

Hidenori: I think I prefer the weight to be on my shoulder than the hips for this one.

The back features a removable back pad, a detail shared with Gossamer Gear. The shoulder straps and hip belt are equipped with substantial padding.

Takahiro: “tries on” The back length seems too long for me. It pokes at a single point on my hip, even though it distributes the load there.

Masaaki: I wonder if the lower end of the frame is hitting?

Takahiro: Maybe. But it’s not as negative an experience Hidenori’s experience.

Masaaki: “tries on” I find it decent. However, the backpack’s bottom hangs below my hips, making the weight pull downward. I’d prefer a higher bottom line. Gossamer Gear intentionally designs it this way, dating back to the G4. It’s a bit long for me too, maybe 2cm shorter would be better. But it’s not bad. Personally, I prefer the Z-Packs’ comfort, but this has its merits. It handles nearly 10kg well, considering its size, frame, and weight under 1kg. Quite lightweight compared to traditional backpacks.

When viewed from the side, it gives the impression that the bottom is slightly sagging. However, it’s important to note that for this test, the intention was to carry the same weight under the same conditions, so adjustments such as stuffing a sleeping bag at the bottom were not made.


Current Ulralight Backpack Trends

Masaaki: We compared and tried on 10 different packs, and wow, it was a learning experience.

Hidenori: It was quite enlightening.

Masaaki: Doing this kind of comparison and trying them on reveals a lot, right? Of course, it doesn’t cover everything, but still.

Takahiro: Researching other companies is essential.

Hidenori: Totally!

Masaaki: There were many FKT-style packs among the smaller ones, how did you feel about that?

Hidenori: Aside from the bag’s shape, I think it’s the shape and attachment of the shoulder straps that make a big difference.

Masaaki: Palante and Atelier Long Distance seemed similar at first, but they were quite different. But I felt that FKT-style packs are not yet fully refined.



Takahiro: Just adding a lot of storage around the shoulders is not enough; the relationship between the shoulder, body, and gear needs to be well thought out, or else it becomes hard to carry.

Masaaki: YAR GEAR was straightforward and easy to carry. It felt like they added some FKT details to a regular well-balanced UL pack.

Hidenori: It indeed resembled the MINI.

Takahiro: It had bottom and shoulder pockets like the MINI. Still, it was a likable pack.

Masaaki: BONFAS had a similar easy-to-carry quality to YAR GEAR, right?

YAR GEAR – 28L Mountain Drifter

BONFAS – Iterus 38L

Takahiro: The shoulder strap design was good.

Hidenori: It was comfortable even without a hip belt with 8kg.

Masaaki: When comparing Bonfus to the MINI, I wonder how much the trends have changed since MINI’s design from about ten years ago?
Hidenori: There has certainly been a lot of material evolution or change

Masaaki: Right, like Ultra 200, ECOPAK, Dyneema Mesh, etc.

Hidenori: And bottom pockets are also a trend.

The bottom pocket might be new standard!

Masaaki: A clear trend. Also, shoulder pockets.

Takahiro: I wish they had thought more about how to attach shoulder drink holders. Only a few had proper consideration.

Masaaki: True! However, on many of packs the bottle tended to rub against the arms.

Takahiro: Historically, trail running packs had more storage around the waist, but recently, they’ve become more like vests with storage around the shoulders and front. But for packs of this size, it might be okay to have waist storage. I particularly felt this for Atelier Long Distance. With that capacity, it shouldn’t concentrate so much on storage on the shoulders. It could become difficult to use since it becomes top-heavy.

Masaaki: Among these packs, if you had to pick, would you choose the Fast Kumon?

Gossamer Gear – Fast Kumo

LITEWAY – Gramless Pack DCF

Takahiro: Well, the shoulder straps were good, but the bag was a bit cluttered and hard to use. In the end, I think I might run with MINI 2 with shoulder pockets added. The Palante didn’t have much of an impression for me.

Masaaki: Palante didn’t feel as comfortable for me too. Although, I see the inovative designs.

Hidenori: It might be different with the V2, though.

Masaaki: But in this class, where they all use high-performance materials like Ultra200, have ultra-stretch front pockets, and pockets on shoulders and bottoms, they felt a bit boring. They’ve all started to be black toned and similar.

Backpacks That Immediately Reveal Their Design Intentions

Takahiro: The larger class was overall quite good.

Hidenori: It’s a shame Atom Packs didn’t have a load lifters, right?

Masaaki: Yeah, it was a pity. Also, I really liked MLD. It’s amazing how you can have such a comfortable feel with such a thin bag. It was surprising that having a frame and a back pad didn’t directly relate to comfort.



Takahiro: That’s true. There were some that had a noticeable frames, and some that didn’t.

Hidenori: But MLD didn’t have a load lifters and was still very comfortable.

Takahiro: Balancing that plain bag must be skillful with the shoulder strap placement.

Masaaki: Also, Z-Packs stood out among them.

Hidenori: It really did.

Takahiro: It felt like it could handle about 15 kg.

Masaaki: And it only weighs 606g, so it seems good for even lighter loads. If the back is comfortable, it could work for overnight trips.

Hidenori: With such a comfortable back and weighing only 606g, it’s quite impressive. The harness attaches from the shoulder blades, and it feels really solid.

Z-PACKS – Arc Haul Ultra 60L Backpack

GOSSAMER GEAR – Mariposa 60 Backpack

Masaaki: And I felt that Gossamer Gear’s Mariposa still has that traditional feel. I wish it could handle a bit more weight though.

Takahiro: It had a nice, cushioned feel, but it didn’t quite feel like an ultralight pack.

Masaaki: Overall, after trying them all on, did you notice anything in particular?

Hidenori: In terms of appearance, they all look similar, right? They have big front pockets, side pockets, but for the smaller sizes, I realized that the way the shoulder straps attach and their shape are really important. For the larger packs, having a functional hip belt, the frame, the shoulder strap placement, and the load lifter are crucial, and I felt like there are more complex adjustments needed.

Takahiro: You can tell the design philosophy the moment you put them on. Some are meant to be carried only on the shoulders, some distribute the weight between the shoulders and the hips, some focus on hip load, and packs that make this clear immediately are more comfortable. Packs that you can’t tell whether they emphasize shoulder or hip load are harder to adjust, no matter how much you tinker with them. Packs where the design philosophy aligns perfectly with the actual product felt more impressive.

Picture of us testing the backpacks.

Hidenori: Indeed, the first impressions are important.

Masaaki: None of them shifted around. They all fit perfectly the moment we put them on.

Takahiro: I also felt that the S-curve of the shoulder straps is important.

Masaaki: The S-curve ones were all good.

Takahiro: On the other hand, I didn’t notice much difference in the thickness or hardness of the padding when we tried them on.

Masaaki: It might make a difference during long hikes, but whether it fits snugly or not seems to depend more on the right width and angle, I think.

Takahiro: Even if it’s thin, it’s fine as long as the shape is good.

Masaaki: Shoulder straps are definitely important.

Hidenori: Very important.

Masaaki: That’s something we strongly felt this time.

Takahiro: In car design, there’s the concept of starting from the chassis rather than the body, and there are many different bodies on the same chassis. In the case of backpacks, I say thinking about the shoulder strap and hip shape, frame shape should come first. Z-Packs gave me that impression.

Masaaki: Also, I wonder why MLD felt so good. It made me feel like THREE could do without back pads and such. BONFUS and YAG GEAR were also similar, all good, but MLD just felt perfect the moment you put it on.

Hidenori: We really felt the essence of frameless backpack for that one.

Masaaki: We sure did. Up to around 10kg, it seems like frameless packs could work just fine.

Takahiro: The comfort really stood out with the American brands, which have a bit of history. The newer European brands didn’t quite match.

Masaaki: True! American brands indeed have a refined comfort.

Hidenori: Indeed. It seems like the advantage still lies with America, being the birthplace of ultralight backpacking.

Masaaki: Also, trying these on made me realize that the trends in the world of UL backpacks and those designed for hiking and trails are slightly different, for better or worse. Our backpacks have unique fabric choices and it’s rare to see back pads and back meshes. But that doesn’t mean you can simply put out a pack with Ultralight 200 or Ultrastretch and pockets on the bottom and shoulders. I’m curious to see how what we saw today will be reflected in the new packs that are currently in development. With that, let’s each mention the packs that left a strong impression on us, and wrap it up. Thank you for joining us.


Hidenori Maehara’s Top 3

1. Z-PACKS – Arc Haul Ultra 60L Backpack
Frame is exposed, but detailed shoulder pad support across a wide area, including the shoulder blades, is noticeable.
Versatile enough for various trip lengths.

2. BONFAS Iterus38L
Impressive comfort in carrying 8kg weight using only the upper body, even though the backpack itself is lightweight.
Intrigued to test it in challenging snow mountain terrain.

Minimalist design with simple components but provides a comfortable, body-friendly, frameless backpack experience.
Truly embodies the essence of an envisioned UL (Ultralight) backpack.

Takahiro Watanabe’s Top 3

1. Z-PACKS – Arc Haul Ultra 60L Backpack
Impressive, robust frame and back structure. Provides a comfortable carrying experience, even with loads exceeding 10kg. Excellent ventilation for the back. Attractive design; wondering if the mesh fabric on the back can be removed for even more ventilation.

2. BONFAS Iterus38L
Serves as a versatile backpack for various purposes, filling the gap between MINI and Three models.
Offers a pleasing design and comfortable carrying experience. Useful for those who find MINI too small and Three too large for their needs.

Features intricate details and provides a seamless integration with the body.
Capable of carrying a decent amount of weight comfortably, making it suitable for running.
The design is somewhat complex; a more understated color scheme might be preferred.

Masaaki Mita’s Top 3

1. Z-PACKS – Arc Haul Ultra 60L Backpack
Remarkable blend of ultralight backpack weight and the comfort of a framed backpack. High level of craftsmanship combining contrasting elements, making it a highly polished backpack. Top choice for long-distance trail hiking.

Surprisingly comfortable to carry. Although the basic design is old, it offers a high level of craftsmanship that appeals to those who appreciate classic and timeless qualities. A backpack I seriously want to get my hands on.

Exceptional quality in the shoulder straps and a snug fit when worn. Despite personal design preferences, the backpack’s capacity and style make you want to embark on a journey perfectly suited for it.