Taking the leap into the ultralight lifestyle can be daunting. Many who don’t want to sacrifice the comfort and durability of traditional packs — but feel limited by the weight and hardware — are ready to try out the simpler, lighter, and sexier options. But there are always tradeoffs when you shave weight, and out of all the gear you carry on trail, your pack (and how well it fits!) is arguably the most important.
The LiteAF brand creates bespoke packs with the detailed-oriented hiker — mostly thru-hikers — in mind. They are flashy and bright and light, all while staying highly functional with intelligent little details. Note: I did not buy a custom pack, but a pre-made pack (more on that below).
In short: Making the compromise between comfort and making miles on trail can feel like a catch 22, but the LiteAF 46L Curve Full Suspension appears to be a pack that can do it all. I know this pack inside and out (quite literally). It was my whole world during a successful bid to complete the Appalachian Trail in 2023 — and after making it 1,700 miles, convinced me it’s worthy of a review.
- Main fabric Ultra 200 and Dyneema (body and side pockets), UltraStretch Mesh (front pocket)
- Pack style Ultralight, rolltop closure
- Frame Removable curved aluminum support stays (full suspension)
- Volume 46L body, additional ~15L in external pockets
- Verified weight 25-34 oz., depending on features
- Carry weight 35 lbs.
- Hip belt sizes S (up to 38”), M (up to 44“), L (up to 48”), XL (up to 55”)
- Overall sizing Custom, dependent on torso sizing
- Ultra 200 and EPLX fabric options
- Thick ultra-stretch mesh exterior
- Fully customizable
- Seam-sealed interior
- Straps that aren’t compromised by boobs
- Hip belt is extremely adjustable
- Standard Ultra 200 fabric doesn’t perform well on wet sharp rocks
- Water bottle pockets are susceptible to wear and tear
- Velcro plus snap closure on the pack itself isn't the best
LiteAF 46L Curve Full Suspension Review
It was time for a change when I walked into Damascus, Va., for Trail Days. My current pack, the REI Flash 55L, wasn’t cutting it and I was ready for an upgrade. Something that fit better and was more functional for thru-hiking the Appalachian Trail. After trying out around half a dozen packs, I ended up with a fancy tropical rainbow-colored LiteAF 46L Curve Full Suspension.
Details That Add Up: Fit, Hip Belt, and Straps
Many think that ultralight means the loss of comfort. The lack of padding on the pack was originally concerning, but I was pleasantly surprised how it performed. The placement of spacer mesh on the exterior of the bag, hip belt, and shoulder straps, plus the internally fully padded back, was huge.
Additionally, all nylon straps are ribbed to prevent slippage while hiking. All of these intelligent details added up — I was able to stay comfortable during some of my most difficult and biggest miles with using this pack.
This bag is designed with multiple body types in mind — from the straps to the hip belt to the adjustment. Like many femme persons in the hiking world, I worried that switching to an ultralight pack meant it would be designed for a 6’5” skinny white dude, and not accommodate my 34DD boobs. Thankfully, the S-curved padded straps work with my body shape.
I was pleasantly surprised to find that the fit was not compromised by bloating, swelling, hips, and boobs. The dual adjustment points (side and front) on both the sternum strap and hip belt were a lifesaver, perfecting fit and comfort on days where I needed to make adjustments. I was still able to be comfortable, and did not fight the pack to fit my body.
All in all this pack is comfortable, to a point. Granted, I am a sweater. I do not glow daintily while I hike … I drip. One of the main reasons I ditched my REI Flash 55L was a bad pack rash from the lack of breathability. While the LiteAF 40L has internal padding for a comfortable ride, it still lacks breathability. My pack rash did not subside after switching to this pack … but it didn’t worsen either.
I had an ultralight pack, but this does not mean I was ultralight. The spacious UltraStretch front pocket, the five-point side adjusters, and roomy pack meant I didn’t have to play Tetris to make all my gear fit.
With a big, roomy seam sealed interior, the body of the pack easily fit my gear and kept it dry with only a thin pack liner. The front pocket is perfect for quick and easy to stow and find gear that I was constantly using. Also, the secret trash stash pocket on the bottom of the pack prevents trash from leaking or getting near gear you want to keep clean.
A bonus intelligent detail: drainage holes in both the body of the pack, and the side pockets prevented moisture buildup within the pack and allowed the pack to dry while empty at night.
Durable in Most Situations
Recently, LiteAF informed me that I bought one of its pre-released printed ECOPAK EPLX bags at Trail Days. LiteAF is now releasing a new line of printed EPLX packs, which will be even more durable than the Ultra200.
Specifically in 2023: this UltraStretch mesh fabric comes standard, the standard pockets are slightly taller, and there’s added UltraStretch upper side pockets. So if a sexy strong(er) bag is your thing, this might be your sign. According to LiteAF, currently all of the 46L Curves have these updates.
This pack excelled through all of Virginia through Northern Massachusetts, but I began to notice more wear and tear on this bag in rockier and wetter sections of trail — specifically, those sections that require rock scrambling.
My pack at this point had put up with 1,200 miles of damage, the water bottle pockets were beginning to show noticeable wear, and by the end of the trail, only one of my water bottle pockets was fully intact when I summited Mt. Katahdin in Maine. The UltraStretch mesh has some punctures from scrambling down wet rocks, and there are abrasion marks across the body of the pack.
This is the level of damage I expected living solely out of this pack for 2,200 miles.
The Appalachian Trail is notoriously the roughest of the Triple Crown on gear. I wish I had the water bottle pockets made out of a stretchy durable material such as the UltraStretch mesh (which is not currently an option, but one I’d like … ahem).
LiteAF 46L Curve: Conclusion
Let’s face it: the one major drawback on this pack is the price. In other words: being LiteAF is expensive AF. I ended up getting the Trail Days discount, saving me about 15%. A fully tricked-out customized LiteAF is going to set you back about $400-500. Again, LiteAF makes packs to order, unless you buy one of its “On the Shelf” packs which will set you back ~$300.
If you want a pack that will serve you and your needs on a thru-hike, or as an avid backpacker over the course of multiple trips and lots of miles, it might be worth that splurge.
While the price tag and potential pack rash might be a drawback, this bag has so much good going for it.
For those looking to make the switch to the ultralight life, LiteAF could be the pack you are looking for. LiteAF really thought out what core features hikers need in a pack for any length of trip. Designers thought outside the box making sure that this bag can comfortably fit a range of body types. Worry not, femme hikers! Your curves, bloating, and boobs will not interfere with the fit of this pack.
But this pack is not an entry into ultralight. With the price tag, it’s a commitment. By having bespoke bag options, hikers can choose which features (hip belt, added pockets, etc.) they find essential and make their perfect bag — without settling for a boring pack.