Editor’s note: this review first appeared on Section Hiker. We’re resharing it here with permission because of its quality and relevance!
The Framus 48L is an ultralight backpack made by Bonfus, one of a handful of cottage backpacking gear companies based in Europe. It’s set up like most ultralight backpacks with a roll-top closure, two side pockets, and a long mesh pocket in front and comes with removable frame stays and a foam back panel to facilitate carrying heavier loads.
Bonfus offers their packs in three different waterproof fabrics: Ultra 200/400 (which we review below), Dyneema Composite Fabrics, and XPac, which have slightly different gear weights and price points. While their packs are made to order, Bonfus does not offer customizations on the Framus 48L. Bonfus sells and ships the Framus 48L worldwide, but it's also available (exclusively) in the US from Garage Grown Gear.
Bonfus Framus 48L Pack Specs at a Glance
- Gender: Unisex
- Volume: 48L (40L main + 8L exterior pockets)
- Frame: Frame Stays (2) and Foam Pad (both removable)
- Type: Roll-top with top Y-strap
- Hydration compatible: No. No reservoir hook or ports
- Bear canister compatibility: BV500 (vertical), BV450 (horizontal)
- Pockets: 3 (open)
- Hip Belt Pockets: No.
- Torso Lengths: up to 19.5″ and up to 21.5″ (up to 19.5″ tested)
- Weight (Tested): Pack incl frame stays and pad (25.2 oz / 714 g) | frame stays each (1.9 oz / 54 g) | foam Pad (1. 3 / 36 g) | Pack without frame stays and foam pad (20.1 oz / 570 g)
- Materials: Ultra 200/400, 210D Robic, Spandex / nylon mesh
- Seam-taped: Yes
- Max recommended load (per mfg): 40 lbs (we recommend 30-35 lbs for comfort)
The Framus 48L is a streamlined ultralight backpack that’s well sized for weekend backpacking trips, or longer, for hikers who have a well-dialed and miniaturized kit. It has a roll-top closure which clips to webbing straps on the sides of the pack with a Y-strap on top which can be used to secure a sleeping pad or other bulky objects. The top of the roll top closes with two snaps which is a nice finishing touch.
The pack has two side water bottle pockets that can hold a single SmartWater bottle or a Nalgene. I can reach back and grab a bottle, and then replace it, while wearing the pack. While the side pockets have elastic on top to help retain items, I’ve found that a 32 oz SmartWater bottle can fall out when scrambling, so you might want to use a shoulder water bottle sleeve with this pack, or a shorter bottle.
There is also a long front mesh pocket, like most ultralight backpacks, which is good for storing frequently accessed or wet items, so you don’t have to undo the roll top every time you need a layer, a snack, or a water filter. It provides good visibility into the contents of the pocket, and the mesh is quite stretchy, and is fairly durable, but you should still be careful using it off-trail.
The Framus 48L uses zigzag cords and lineloc tensioners, instead of webbing straps, for side compression, which I’m NOT a big fan of, because I don’t think they provide very good compression and because it makes it awkward to secure bulky gear to the side of the pack, such as snowshoes or a foam pad.
Backpack Frame and Suspension
The main compartment in the Framus 48L has an internal pocket to hold a foam back pad and two aluminum frame stays, which slot into stay sleeves. Frame stays are a lightweight alternative to a sewn-in backpack frame and are designed to prevent the torso length from shortening when the pack is filled with gear. They also serve to transfer load into a hip belt making weight easier to carry, using your large leg muscles rather than your shoulders, which aren’t as strong.
The frame stays in the Framus 48L are pre-curved, which I like because most people aren’t familiar with bending stays. But any back ventilation benefit from the 2″ curvature is pretty negligible and you can expect a sweaty back in warmer temperatures. If you want, you can remove the stays and the foam pad to reduce the pack weight, but they weigh so little, I just keep them in place, since they’re harder to misplace that way. You never know when you’re going to need to do an extra water carry and you’ll be grateful for those frame stays when you do.
The Framus 48L’s shoulder straps and the hip belt both have daisy chains on the exterior, which makes the pack easy to customize with accessory pockets. For example, I have the Hyperlite Mountain Gear Shoulder Pocket attached here as well as a Garmin inReach Mini 2. Bonfus also sells accessory pockets, or you can get them from any number of other suppliers (see our list of Recommended Backpack Accessory Pockets).
The shoulder straps are J-shaped, so they’re not as female friendly as S-shaped straps that curve around well-developed chests. The sternum strap however is easy to move because the two ends loop around the shoulder strap daisy chain and don’t require you to reposition a buckle.
The Framus 48L has load lifters (which many ultralight backpack manufacturers leave off packs of this volume) that are useful for heavier carries to counteract any backward pull. They become a lot less effective, however, if you remove the frame stays, because then you’re pulling on fabric and not a rigid frame that can reposition the tilt of the bag.
The hip belt is sewn directly to the pack and not held in place with velcro like more modular packs from other manufacturers. The frame stays terminate right behind the hip belt at the base of the pack, so you get a very good load transfer to the hips. While there is a lumbar pad in back of the hip belt, it is really not noticeable at all, if such things bother you.
Bonfus claims the Framus 48L can carry up to 40 lbs with the frame stays and back pad inserted, but I think the comfortable limit is closer to 30-35 lbs. If you remove the frame stays and pad, the comfortable limit will fall to 20-25 lbs, which is the maximum you can expect for a frameless backpack.
Bonfus offers the Framus 48L in two fixed torso lengths: a medium size (up to 50cm or 19.5 inches) and a large size (up to 55cm or 21.5 inches). Most backpacking companies provide a range of torso lengths that a backpack will fit, like ‘16-18 inches’ which is a good range for women, or ‘18-20 inches’ which is usually the sweet spot for men. The problem with the Bonfus torso length specs is that you don’t know what the lower end of the range is, which can make it hard to know what you’re buying. I wear packs with an 18.5-19 inch torso, so the Bonfus medium size was fine for me. But without further clarification, I’m not sure they cater to people with shorter torso lengths.
The webbing portion of the hip belt is a bit short which can make it hard to close if you’re on the upper end of the size range.
Bonfus does not specify their hip belt lengths, something that I recommended they start doing and which they agreed would be useful. Hip belt length is very important because you want your load to rest on the hip bones, and you can’t do that if the hip belt is too small. As it was, I could barely close the hip belt around my waist and it would have been impossible if I was wearing a midlayer or a shell jacket. The padded portion of the hip belt is long enough, but the webbing connecting it to the center buckle is quite short and could easily be lengthened. I normally wear a 36 inch hip belt, so that’s the upper end you can expect for their medium sized Framus 48L, or a bit less, like 32-34 inches.
When it comes to sizing, I think these are just documentation issues with the Bonfus website specs, which can be easily fixed with some editing. However, going forward, I do hope they expand their torso and hip belt sizing range for men and women at both ends of the sizing spectrum. It’d be nice if they would at least offer multiple hip belt lengths.
The main pack body of the Framus 48L that I reviewed is made with Ultra 200 and Ultra 400 (bottom), which is the latest, greatest, lightest and most durable fabric adopted by ultralight backpack manufacturers, because it is so much more abrasion resistant than Dyneema Composite Fabrics (DCF). Ultra is a wonderful material that feels and drapes like a fabric (compared to DCF) while still having a waterproof backer. The side pockets of the Framus 48L are made with 210d Robic Nylon, which is reasonably durable, but nothing like Ultra 200 or 400.
While Bonfus seam-tapes the inside of the Framus 48L, I’d still recommend using a pack liner with it because seam tape deteriorates over time, especially with constant folding, and can leak under pressure, like when you fall in a stream and submerge the pack or a portion thereof. A pack liner is also useful for keeping wet gear separate from dry gear, and for emergency use as a bivy or poncho.
The construction of the Framus 48L is top notch, particularly for a company that’s this new. The sewing is expertly done, with all of the high stress points reinforced. The seam taping is also very clean.
While the company is headquartered in Italy, all of its manufacturing occurs in Mexico at a small shop owned by Bonfus, overseen by one of the two siblings who founded the company, Stefania Bonfadini. The other sibling, Niccolo Bonfadini, now lives in Norway, where Bonfus gear is designed and tested.
The Bonfus Framus 48L (made with Ultra fabric) is an ultralight backpack that’s well sized for shorter duration backpacking trips or longer ones with frequent resupplies. It’s a roll-top pack that’s durable, highly functional, and easily customized with accessory pockets.
The premium Ultra 200 and 400 fabric used on the pack mean you can carry it without a rain cover, although we still recommend a pack liner.
If there’s one downside to the Bonus Framus 48L, it is the price. While competitive with other Ultra and DCF packs, it is expensive at $320 — and that’s before purchasing accessory pockets.
That said, the Framus 48L is a fun pack to carry and a truly great choice if you can get one that fits you well.
Philip Werner has hiked and backpacked over 8,500 miles in the United States and the UK and written over 2,500 articles as the founder of SectionHiker.com, noted for its backpacking gear reviews and hiking FAQs. A devotee of New Hampshire and Maine hiking and backpacking, Philip is the author of Backpacking the White Mountain 4000 Footers, a free online guidebook of the best backpacking trips in the White Mountains in New Hampshire and Maine. He lives in New Hampshire. Click here to subscribe to the SectionHiker newsletter.