The KS Ultralight R-50 is a backpack designed for a variety of applications including climbing, hiking, snow sports, and many others. It boasts a minimalist but rugged design that could appeal to ultralight backpackers looking for gear able to withstand a beating.
Features and Specifications
- “Joker-Hat” top closure
- Padded waist belt with .3 in (8mm) foam
- 500D Cordura on the outside
- 3D Mesh on the inside
- .4 in (10mm) foam shoulder straps
- Removable .78 in (20 mm) sternum strap with whistle included
- Optional side pockets
- Daisy chain on pack and hip belt
- Removable waste pocket (optional)
- Removable Front pocket with key holder hook (optional)
- Pack weight: 16.9 oz (480 g)
- Pack volume: 50L (open), 45L (rolled down)
- Pack body fabric: Cordura 1000D
- Waist pocket fabric: X-Pack VX21
- Front pocket fabric: X-Pack VX21
Description of Field Testing
I tested this backpack while guiding for Backpacking Light in the early and mid-summer over two separate trips. The varying conditions of each trek gave me an opportunity to fully explore this pack.
The first trek was during the first week of June in Montana in the Beartooth Range. We spent some time between nine thousand and eleven thousand feet. We came across a plethora of conditions including sunshine, rain, and snow. The snow was deep enough that we were very thankful we brought snowshoes.
The second trip was during the early part of July, and we had nothing but sunshine and glorious weather. We spent several days between nine thousand and eleven thousand feet.
My performance assessment of the KS Ultralight R-50 will address the following items:
- Finish Quality
The R-50 is a minimalist backpack, but it is evident that KS Ultralight was careful and intentional in its construction. The seams are reinforced with ribbon (like most backpacks) but are also reinforced in areas of extra stress: the hip belt, shoulder harness, and where any webbing is sewn.
The R-50 fit well. I am six-foot-one and around one hundred and seventy-five pounds. The shoulder straps rode comfortably, and I didn’t have to keep transferring weight back and forth between hips and shoulders like I sometimes do. The hip belt also fit well.
The pack length was perfect for my torso. The KS Ultralight was comfortable even after dozens of miles and several days.
The R-50 is just large enough to accommodate short ultralight multi-day trips. I was able to pack all my gear into the 45L space for my short guide trips. This would be a struggle on longer trips.
The pack comes with optional aluminum stays along the backside. I don’t carry a bedroll or anything else that could be used to provide stability to a frameless pack, so the stays helped the pack feel more solid while hiking.
There is no padding on the body of this pack. I placed my insulating (soft) pieces of gear strategically inside the pack in order to provide a little padding. I found it to be comfortable as long as I packed carefully.
I utilized the removable waist pockets as well as the removable front pocket and enjoyed having select pieces of gear so accessible. I also appreciated that both the removable waist pockets and the front pack have waterproof zippers. I was able to open and close the waist pocket zippers with one hand, which comes in handy while snacking on the go.
The Cordura fabric is very tough. Finding a pack that is both light and durable can be difficult, but the R-50 checks both boxes. This pack is solid and can take a pretty good beating when compared to other pieces of lightweight backpacking gear.
I am usually very careful with my gear. With this pack, I was intentionally not as careful because I wanted to evaluate the Cordura’s resistance to abrasion. After using and abusing the R-50, the only wear spot I was able to notice is on the corner of one of the removable waist pockets. The rest of the pack shows little-to-zero wear. The areas where the shoulder straps meet the pack all look like new. The same goes for the waist belt, the daisy chain on the pack, and the hip belt.
I found the KS Ultralight R-50 to meet my needs in many areas of ultralight backpacking. The pack is minimal yet fits well, rides comfortably, packs easily, and keeps some of my most needed gear accessible. The aluminum stays give the R-50 a little more support than the standard minimalist pack, but you still have to pack carefully and make wise gear choices. This is a rugged pack that can take a beating and will last a long time, even in less-than-optimal circumstances.
Where to Buy
- The KS Ultralight Gear 50L Backpack can be purchased from KS Ultralight Gear.
- The Atom by Atom Packs is a similarly small, minimalist pack that requires careful choices.
- How small is too small? A good community discussion regarding pack volume.
Product Review Disclosure
Updated September 15, 2018
- How we acquired these products: Product(s) discussed in this review were either acquired by the author from a retailer or otherwise provided by the manufacturer at a discount/donation with no obligation to provide media coverage or a product review to the manufacturer(s).
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