Dillon Frazier of Pilgrim Ultralight hand cuts and sews ultralight packs in his home in Ogden, Utah. A longtime Garage Grown Gear fan, he started making his own packs because he couldn’t find one that matched his needs. A self-described creative and do-it-yourself kind of person, he set out to make the pack for his specific taste, and in the process came up with the Highline Pack.
A Goldilocks pack sitting between frameless and framed offerings, the Highline Pack is named after Utah’s 104-mile long Uinta Highline Trail. “It was designed to be exactly the kind of pack I felt I needed for this kind of trip,” Dillon explains.
“I like to move fast. I like to have lightweight gear,” he says. But last year, when he attempted the Uinta Highline trail, he found the frameless pack he was using wasn’t enough. “I had seven days worth of food. And within the first 20 miles of the trail, you have a 17-mile dry stretch.” He realized that even with his really light base weight, he was still stuck carrying 25 to 30 pounds in food and water. “I found myself pretty sore in the shoulders by the end of the first day,” he says.
Fast forward a year, and he decided to go to the drawing board to develop the perfect pack for the Uinta Highline Trail. “That’s when I came to realize there are all sorts of wonderful cottage brands out there that are making awesome stuff. But I felt like there wasn't a pack maker making the Goldilocks pack — where it offers just a little bit more support than a frameless pack, but it's not a full-blown, full-suspension pack.”
Dillon’s vision was to create a pack that fills the gap between what other cottage brands offer. “There are some awesome companies out there that are making frame packs in that two pound range that can carry 40 pounds. Then there are frameless packs that are good for about 15 or 20 pounds,” he says.
The Pilgrim Ultralight Highline Pack created by Dillion weighs 19.5 ounces (1.2 pounds) and carries up to 30 pounds. The pack includes a hipbelt and ‘half-frame’ suspension.
“People seem to be recognizing that this is something that we've not quite seen before on the market,” he says. “I'm really thankful that there are other people like me out there who have found a need for this niche.”
The Uinta Highline Trail isn’t the only trail with long food and water carries. Sub 10-pound base weight hikers who walk these kinds of trails and routes with long food and water carries are finding a need for what the Highline can offer.
Similarly, the Highline hits the sweet spot for lightweight backpackers who want to bring a few luxury items, like a pillow or small towel for swimming; or who enjoy multi-sport adventures like packrafting; or who find themselves adventuring in shoulder seasons when temperatures are colder and more gear is needed.
Aside from making a pack with a suspension between framed and frameless, which uses a single stay placed on the spine, Dillon is also proud to have a fully detachable hit belt, so you can swap it out. For thru-hikers, who may find their waistlines change over the course of several months of walking, this allows them to keep their same pack even if the original hip belt no longer fits.
Dillon also says another thing that makes Pilgrim Ultralight different from other cottage companies out there is he offers full seam sealing at a more affordable price, making the pack nearly waterproof.
Most of all, Dillon is proud that he sews the packs himself. “If you or anybody out there owns a Pilgrim backpack or any of our other little accessories,” he says, “I’ve sewn 100% of the stitches.”
All of Pilgrim Ultralight’s products are named after places that are important to Dillon and his wife. Pilgrim, for example, is named after Pilgrim Creek in Grand Teton National Park. It’s one of their favorite places for wildlife photography. It’s also a reference to the book Pilgrim’s Progress. “Regardless of whether you have any religious leanings, there’s a specific part that has a lot to do with backpacking,” he says. “The protagonist, for a large portion of the book, carries a heavy load. And later on in the book, he's free of this load.”
“There’s a parallel between that and backpacking, where we're always trying to reduce how much weight we're carrying,” Dillon says.
Pilgrim Ultralight has lots of ideas in store, including higher capacity packs. For now, Dillon says he’s always happy to answer questions that hikers and backpackers have about the Highline Pack or any of his other gear. “Since going live on Garage Grown Gear, I’ve been answering many, many emails every day.” He loves it and encourages anyone who is curious about the Highline Pack to reach out.
You can follow or message Pilgrim Ultralight on Instagram.
Liz “Snorkel” Thomas is a thru-hiker with 20+ long trails on her feet, including the PCT, CDT, and AT, for which she held an FKT. Her trail experiences led her to co-found Treeline Review, an outdoor gear review space dedicated to buying right the first time to reduce waste on the planet.