The Bonfus Framus 48 Pack and the Cirque of the Towers in Wyoming's Wind River Range.
This summer, I hiked with the Bonfus Framus 48 Pack in the Columbia River Gorge, The Goat Rocks Wilderness, the Wind River Range in Wyoming, and the Beartooth Range in Wyoming and Montana. Additionally, I wore it loaded up on local training hikes in Portland’s Forest Park and the stairmaster in the gym; and my partner took it from Rogers Pass to Canada on the CDT, through the Bob Marshall Wilderness and Glacier National Park.
This review isn’t first impressions — It is the product of 500 plus miles of travel in varied environments and conditions, including on and off trail travel, and varied gear lists and lengths of carry between resupply.
In the end, I liked this pack a lot, and my partner stole it from me.
Suspension and Carry
If you are an ultralight backpacker using a framed pack you’ve probably got an X factor in your trip that pushed you from a frameless pack to a framed one. Maybe it’s a long resupply, shoulder season insulation, big water carries, or auxiliary gear like traction for snow and ice.
When your total pack weight is starting to push past 20 pounds, the Framus is a great option. The adjective that kept coming to mind when I wore it was “responsive”. This pack moves with you on technical terrain and rides easy putting miles away on trail.
I found the top of the comfort range to be right around 33 pounds.
The suspension consists of dual internal stays with a little bit of foam, a well padded hipbelt, load lifters and cushy shoulder straps. The removable dual internal stays can be bent to your preference, but I found the stock bend to be excellent for me.
The hipbelt is sewn to the frame and seems to hit the sweet spot of soft and comfortable without being so soft it collapses under load. The hipbelt includes daisy chains upon which I put some Dyneema hipbelt pockets, and the cushy shoulder straps have daisy chains upon which I put a phone pocket.
The sternum strap is tied to the shoulder straps with webbing, eliminating extra hardwear. This might make it a smidge more time consuming to adjust, but also prevents it from ever slipping out of position and saves a little weight.
In the Beartooths, I was with my partner and Special Agent Johnny Utah (my dog), with 8 days of food, a little overflow food from Utah, and a Zpacks triplex, which does not pack particularly small. Throw in some water, and I had a few days of off-trail travel with a pack weight eclipsing 30 pounds to start. I don’t think I’d want to go past the mid-thirties with this pack, but for a 25oz pack the performance was impressive.
Construction and Material
The pack body is constructed from Ultra 200, available in black or white. This is the second pack I’ve used extensively with this fabric, and thus far it seems to be living up to the hype as the new premium material of choice.
The pack construction is top notch. The side pockets are a durable robic, and while I’ve read reviews that said they could only get a single water bottle in the side pockets, I had no issues with two. This may be because I used a Smartwater and a Lifewater bottle, the Lifewater being a smidge skinnier. At any rate, the pockets are very deep, with fixed elastic at the top that keeps the bottles well secured during scrambling.
The top down compression straps of the rolltop collar closure nest inside the water bottle pockets, but don’t interfere with their use, and retrieving a bottle without taking the pack off is hassle free. I typically stored a cook pot and tent stakes in one side pocket and water bottles in the other.
Side compression is done with thin cord and line locks, which doesn’t seem to have much effect for compression but is handy for securing taller gear from the side pockets.
The top Y strap works well for securing a fleece or sit pad. I didn’t test it with anything as substantial as a bear can… but it could hold one, or a wet shelter.
There is a single ice ax loop, and a stretch front pocket that can hold a lot of gear for access without opening the pack.
While always using a pack liner, I did have some days of hiking in significant precip and did not have any water get in through the seam taped construction.
Good to Knows
The cons of the Bonfus Framus pack are very nitpicky. The roll-top closure has snaps to close it, but it would be very nice if the top down compression attachments had male and female connectors, so you could snap them to each other. This can be handy during breaks, tossing your pack in a car, etc.
The webbing tabs/ loops for side compression could be a bit larger and beefier for minimal weight penalty, allowing the user to attach gatekeepers or other attachment systems for auxiliary gear. As it is, the pack is really only equipped to carry something like snowshoes or a shovel in the top strap. This is a shame, as it would make an excellent fast and light shoulder or winter season pack.
I have put small holes in the mesh. It remains to be seen if they get large enough to warrant repair or impact function. It’s important to note that I travel through terrain that is not very nice to packs. I wouldn’t expect the mesh to be problematic for a typical thru-hiker.
The ice ax loop would be better placed slightly lower on the pack body. Its present placement brings the pick of the ax in contact with the mesh instead of the more durable Ultra material. I found myself wrapping a bandana around the pick to ensure no damage was done. The upper pack body attachment for the ice ax is minimalist and works well, but is too small to deal with in cold weather with gloves on.
In summary, a casual look at the Framus and it seems like many other UL framed packs: internal dual stays in a very typical pack body… but there is a secret sauce that I can’t quite identify that makes it stand out. It was immediately apparent to me the moment I put the pack on loaded up — high-quality construction at a near best-in-class weight with an excellent carry. It’s hard to imagine anyone being disappointed in this pack.