Conversations frequently revolve around backpacking gear for Virga Co-founders Ben Kilbourne and Porter England.
“We spend a lot of time ruminating on our purchases and trying to decide if that backpack or tent we just bought was actually worth the money or if it was something that can be improved upon,” Ben said.
“Sometimes I find we talk a little too much about all that stuff,” he laughed.
Ben and Porter feel fortunate to have grown up in Utah, where wilderness is ubiquitous and public lands abound. Ben joked, “Our love for the outdoors really started from birth.”
As an avid backpacker and former freelance gear reviewer, Ben estimates he’s tested around 25 backpacks. “The rucksack style is pretty common these days,” he said. “I like the simplicity of those designs, but I always found them to not comfortably carry as much weight and they did not have features that seemed super versatile.”
“There are some really incredible packs out there that are really close to perfect, but just not quite there.”
So Ben and Porter began making a few subtle, game-changing modifications. “We made a pack, looked at it, critiqued it, made another, then another, then another,” Ben laughed.
The Cliffrose 55L is a rugged and versatile pack. Weighing 2.25 pounds, it will carry up to 40 pounds comfortably or 50 pounds if you want it too, Ben said.
“We wouldn't make packs if we didn't think we had something great to offer, “ Ben said. “There's no reason to inundate the UL market with more of the same just because it will sell. We really believe in the pack we are building.”
As a new cottage brand in a big sea of MYOG startups, Virga Packing Company feels support and encouragement from the ultralight community. “95% of people out there are really kind and accepting,” Ben said.
Ben likens the market to the ever growing, unstoppable microbrew industry. “They’re all doing fine and they’re all packed, and that’s because there’s enough demand,” he said. “I don’t see the ultralight backpacking market being all that different. We don’t talk about what we can do to beat each other, we talk about what we can do to keep moving forward.”
The simple and clean design of the Cliffrose 55L makes it aesthetically pleasing, no matter if it’s hauling a partial or full load. The stretch mesh side and front pockets lay flat when empty and won’t get hung up on anything.
“We have something that can go from a very small and sleek pack but can also expand to a 55L pack and accommodate a ton of gear, and it actually looks really good!”
The Cliffrose 55L has a few other notable features too:
- The pack’s shoulder straps are attached with webbing instead of sewn into the pack. This allows for more articulation to match the width and slope of unique shoulder types. “There’s exponentially increased comfort for a variety of body types,” Ben said.
Virga designed their packs to lean into the body, instead of away. While most backpacks are narrower at the bottom and wider on top, Virga built the opposite configuration, keeping the center of gravity close to the body.
- The hanging hip belt is made of extremely dense foam (Evazote) and connected directly to the frame yielding excellent load transfer.
- The pack’s tubular aluminum full-box frame is lighter and stiffer than flat-bar stays and will carry the load without flexing.
In recent months, Ben and Porter have had a chance to enjoy the fruits of their labor and validate the time and energy they’ve invested in Virga. “We’ve gone out on multiple trips and both agree this is the most comfortable pack we’ve ever used!”
“We even got a review that said the pack is not noticeable and it disappeared from their consciousness,” Ben said. “A lot of people think of their backpack as a burden, and for someone to say this burden doesn’t even bother them, that’s the goal right there.”