For me, there is nothing more exciting than testing new gear somewhere in the heart of snow-covered steep mountains. But, it requires bringing all the essential gear like extra layers, crampons, ice tools, a mandatory avalanche rescue kit, and much more. Plus, naturally, the elixir of life – hot coffee! Being fully prepared is crucial as the weather can go south within minutes and the margin for a mistake is considerably lower compared to Summer mountaineering. I know, it’s rather a special sort of fun. A consequence is that I’d never take ANY stuff with me which I expect could break or fail in any way. Just that fact alone that I took the Prometheus Design Werx WUULF Pack 24L there should tell you this: this pack fully passed my pre-mountaineering check. It is strong enough, carries well, and can hold a complete winter alpine kit including avalanche ABC.
After multiple awesome designs of outdoor panel loader packs in the last 20+ years, the co-founder of PDW, Patrick (aka Prometheus, hence the company name) finally unveiled his first top-loader. And as expected it’s much more than just another pack on the market. He took a classic alpine daypack, added some unique features, dipped it in his awesome sauce, and yeah, here we’ve got the WUULF 24 – the new mountain adventure daypack.
DISCLAIMER: The WUULF 24 project experienced some delay (caused by global supply chain issues these days) but thanks to that I had a chance to use this pack during all four seasons to give you a full report. It’s easily one of my most complete reviews (read: also a longer read than usual) so grab your double Americano and enjoy the ride!
Also note that my pack was a production prototype, which I received not just to review but also to evaluate in harsh winter conditions. The final pack is almost like mine, with the only practical change in the side pockets design. In the final version, those pockets are made of the same Cordura material as the pack itself – considerably tougher than the elastic pockets on my prototype. That eliminates a potential weak point in the pack’s construction. So don’t be confused to see two kinds of pockets in the photos… because yes, I used them both.
Name: WUULF Pack
Brand: Prometheus Design Werx
Format: Top-loader Backpack
Measurement: Length: 7", Width: 10", Height: 22"
Capacity: 24L (1540 cubic inches)
Weight: 50.4oz (1.43kg)
Material: 500D Cordura, 140D Nylon Ripstop Price: US$179
Who It Suits
It’s a mountaineering daypack for any day trip. Hiking, scrambling, skiing, forest walking and even climbing to some extent – I did all of that with the WUULF on my back, in all seasons. Plus it’s fine also for bushcrafting. So if you like top-loader packs and enjoy the adventurous lifestyle promoted by Prometheus Design Werx, the WUULF 24 is exactly what you’ve been waiting for. Finally!
Who It Doesn’t
Panel loader fans, commuters, and office ninjas might prefer the SHADO 24 panel loader pack in PDW’s lineup. The WUULF is dedicated to outdoor and especially vertical adventures. There are still some EDC features in this pack and it would work in a city too, but it’s rather an extra option and not its primary mission.
If you’ve read any of my reviews before you know how much I like the alpine style top-loader packs. And the WUULF has exactly that slick look, slim and tall. It’s quite clean on the outside, even the side pockets (if empty) are flush with the pack’s main body thanks to a neat design. It’s available in PDW’s classic Universal Field Gray color with a signature orange interior and accents. However, I’d gladly also see a more vibrant variant of the WUULF (pun intended). Like burned orange maybe? Sometimes being easily visible from a distance could be a huge advantage, especially on an adventure pack – if something happens, the rescue team will find you faster, it’s as simple as that. But all in all, the WUULF 24 looks darn good, no doubt about it – professional, adventurous, and with that slight tactical flavor to it, which is basically like Patrick’s signature.
The WUULF is a rugged top-loading pack with additional front access (neatly hidden behind the lid strap). A full-blown harness system with a padded back panel and load-bearing hip belt (removable) make it a small but serious carry specimen. The internal frame is made of aluminum and attached to a polycarbonate sheet, which ensures structural support even under a relatively heavy load for its size.
Practically it means you can easily stuff it with a whole load of gear and attach ice tools and touring poles – the WUULF can handle it all and transfer that to your shoulders, back, and hips. You can even carry skis in A-frame style on the sides, which is not only doable but even comfortable for a 24-liter pack – mostly thanks to an overbuilt harness system. Just beware, the WUULF could be a nice backcountry skiing pack, but not necessarily a resort skiing pack – there are multiple straps and buckles on it, which could easily be snagged by a ski lift. Anyway, it’s a much more structurally rugged pack than it may appear at first glance.
That little pup is also a fully modular construction, so can be gradually stripped down depending on the mission – and you can remove not just the hip belt, but also the lid, frame sheet, and an internal laptop sleeve. The fully equipped pack with a free-floating laptop sleeve weighs 1.45 kg (3lbs 3oz) according to my scale. But for fast and light summit action, it can be stripped down to 930g. And anything in between.
Materials and Hardware
It’s a rugged pack made of 500D Cordura material with a nylon lining, nylon snow collar, and quality hardware including custom all-metal G-hooks. All zippers are YKK so I’d not expect problems here. Prometheus Design Werx is one of those companies that pay attention to the quality of the gear they produce, even if it’s manufactured overseas. To keep the price at a reasonable level (the WUULF costs $179) the whole range of PDW packs is made overseas. The WUULF is manufactured in Vietnam specifically, which is a common pack production spot for top-tier outdoor brands. Is that a good thing? Or maybe not? You must decide with your wallet – just remember that PDW as a company is 100% US-based, with headquarters in San Francisco, California.
Features and Performance
Space and Access
The WUULF opens like a classic top-loader but could also be fully front-zip-open for easy unrestricted access, down to even the furthest corner of the main compartment. What’s more, the main zipper in the final production version has a dual fly, so can be opened from both sides. Yes, you read that correctly – you can access it from the bottom too, which is not a common thing on packs. This comes in truly handy during winter – unloading the pack on a snowy summit in a blizzard to reach its bottom sounds more problematic than doing so on a sunny summer day in a forest, right? The main zipper is hidden not only behind a rain flap but for total camouflage also behind a central webbing (which holds the lid). It’s additionally secured with a snap on top, quite a clever detail.
Of course, the WUULF can be used just as a regular top-loader too, with a snow collar and draw-cord closure. It’s rated as 24 liters but can be overstuffed by another 3 liters or so – that’s a good size for a daypack, easily big enough for a full winter day in the mountains or even a weekend in a shelter during sunny summertime. It’s hydration compatible too – there’s an elastic sleeve for a bladder and tube pass-through, just below the lid’s edge.
Pockets and Organizing
Let’s start with the two Cordura pockets on the outside, each with a corresponding pair of compression straps (with G-hooks) and a bungee cord and toggle. These could be used for items like a tripod or monopod, a rolled jacket, a fixed blade knife, a small axe, or a flask or thermos of course (even my 36 oz. Yeti Rambler fits in there!). Just remember: when mountaineering always secure your bottles with a carabiner or strap, or better yet keep bottles inside – a pint of water in a metal flask falling down the slope works like a deadly projectile for people right below you! And last but not least – thanks to an advanced bungee cord and toggle system the pockets can be seriously expanded and collapsed depending on what you put into them. Then you’ll find two long internal side pockets, each easily holding a 0.7L water bottle. But they are also good for rolled clothes, like a wind shirt or a thin insulating layer like the Arc’teryx Atom SL. Nevertheless, during winter mountaineering one of these pockets has always been occupied by an avalanche probe for quick access in an emergency.
The free-floating lid is essentially one big pocket for items like a headlamp, some energy bars, a multitool, a map, or a compass. Plus there’s a tiny security mesh pocket under it for keys and/or a small wallet. The lid fits snugly and is perfectly aligned with the backpack’s body. It is fully detachable if desired, which could be a good option in some applications. Small hint: reassembly is best done with a small flat stick or something similar, it’s not so easy to do with bare hands. Oh, and there’s a generously sized Velcro panel on it, me gusta!
There’s a laptop sleeve inside – but not your usual padded flat compartment on the back, which would bring two real drawbacks. First of all, placing a flat laptop on an anatomically pre-shaped frame fits a bit awkwardly and surely is not space efficient. But even more importantly, you always have to carry that padded sleeve in your pack, which is a waste of space inside and also extra weight. So PDW did it differently again – there’s a free-floating laptop sleeve, padded on all sides, and attached by two small metal toggles to the loops on the bottom. So not only can it be positioned comfortably anywhere inside the pack but it can also be removed, which I gladly did for all my outdoor adventures. It’s big enough for a MacBook Air or for most tablets including the 12.9″ iPad Pro with Apple’s magic keyboard attached (and that’s a seriously sized package).
Now I’ve got more good news for PDW SHADO pack owners – the EDC insert that comes with your SHADO 24 can be retrofitted perfectly inside the WUULF as well. So if you switch the packs for different missions, you can just easily move the loaded EDC panel from one pack to the other. Nifty.
Size: To give you a flavor of the WUULF’s practical volume here’s a full list of gear, which I packed inside/outside for a day in the snowy terrain:
– Arc’teryx Alpha SV hardshell
– PDW Stratus down hoody
– Arc’teryx Gamma MX softshell hoody
– Backup set of gloves, socks, merino t-shirt, neck gaiter, wool watch cap
– Black Diamond semi-auto crampons (for the summit) and Grivel mini spikes (for the valley)
– Lightweight Blue Ice piolet, Black Diamond winter trekking poles
– Avalanche kit: shovel and probe (the beacon was on my body of course)
– Fuji X-T4 with 16-80/4 lens, extra batteries, carbon fiber tripod
– Thermos (0.7L), 1L of extra water, some energy bars, beef jerky, and always good old dark chocolate
– First Aid Kit, rescue thermal blanket
– Small slipjoint pocketknife (GiantMouse Farley) and compact fixed blade (CRK Inyoni 2)
– Sunglasses, map, compass, wallet, keys, headlamp + backup light
So as you can see it’s not a tiny loadout! For my winter mountaineering, I always carry some backup gear, if not for me then I may need to help someone up there on the trail. So I prefer to carry that extra pound and be ready. I often carry a backup piolet too… two is one, one is none.
A padded mesh back panel, frame sheet, pre-bent aluminum frame, padded shoulder straps with load lifters and sternum strap, padded lumbar pad, and waist belt – what else would you ever need? Well… with such an advanced harness PDW could also have added torso length adjustment to complete the package. Anyway, even as it is, for a 24-liter pack the WUULF’s harness sounds nearly like overkill… but is very welcome actually.
Sometimes people carry heavier gear – just like me when I carry almost 40 lbs of hard metal and glass even in a small pack for a whole day of photo shooting on the snowy ridge. Or when I use it for heavy bushcraft gear like an axe, metal stove, and a saw for some camping fun in a forest. In such cases, a harness like this is a ticket for real comfort during the whole day. I genuinely think this must be the most comfortable of Patrick’s backpacks ever, also including his pre-PDW designs.
One pro tip for you: When you cinch the lid fully down to the pack (on the back) and you open the lid, the load lifter buckles have a slight tendency to dive under the lid’s edge. That can result in the loosening of load-lifter straps. So when you close and cinch the lid make sure these buckles are exposed and not under the lid. Nitpicking? Maybe. But for sure a small hint worth remembering, which applies to some other packs too.
I used this pack a lot for mountaineering, in all seasons and all weather conditions. The WUULF’s overbuilt hip belt and broad shoulder straps provide a comfortable fit, which is close to the body and tight. Even when I was exploring the Bieszczady Mountains with my family in July the venting channel and mesh material on the back panel did a really good job. Breathability was just like on most modern mesh-backed packs, but of course not as good as with a bungee-net style (aka trampoline) back panel. So in the end you have to decide what’s more important for you – better breathability during summer hikes? Or a closer fit, which is more suited for vertical movement in alpine terrain and also for ski-mountaineering? I’d take a closer fit any day of the week, but that’s just me.
A small digress – this year I tried my new fast and light winter boots (Dachstein Serles GTX). It was quite a change after many seasons with classic heavy leather winter boots on my feet. So now I do my hiking in a fast and light style not only in summer but also in winter conditions. Lightweight boots are considerably faster on approach (of course), way more breathable, and made with modern materials, which makes them seriously tough. But still, they are winter-rated and semi-auto crampon compatible. There are plenty of similar models available these days from multiple outdoor names (especially in the US) – so I encourage you to go light and fast this winter. Just make sure your gear is still up to the temperature and altitude. And (if possible) try a couple of models before final purchase – there are still some fine brick-and-mortar mountaineering stores out there, not just online shops.
The Cordura fabric with a nylon liner inside plus webbing-reinforced stitching lines make for a relatively weatherproof construction, especially for winter conditions. I carried this pack in heavy snow more than once and didn’t notice any leaking inside. However, it’s not a waterproof pack as the stitching lines are not backed with sealing tape, fabric panels are not welded together, etc. So if a storm or even serious rain is in the air you should additionally secure all critical items inside the pack against soaking. I’m not a huge fan of rain covers, which are a pain to use in windy conditions (like during a storm) and cover all gear attached to the pack on the outside, which you might need in a hurry. Instead, I prefer a superlight dry-bag inside my pack or just a plastic waste bag – it works too. Of course, the optional front access via zipper would be disabled… but there’s no free lunch, you know? And if you need a truly fully waterproof daypack, go with the PDW All Terrain series or get one of the Arc’teryx Alpha FL series, or something similar – but they all come with other significant limitations versus the WUULF, as you can guess.
As a true mountain man’s backpack, the WUULF is thoroughly ice tool compliant with two loops and two Velcro gear keepers. You can (and should) use the bottom section of the central lid strap to additionally secure the tools’ bits so they won’t flap around and be dangerous for your climbing mates (an essential feature for me). If two gear keepers are not enough, just make some bungee cord and toggle ones and put them on the daisy chains; there are multiple DIY tutorials on YouTube. There are also no less than three grab handles on the pack: one on top and one on each side – all big enough to use with gloves (except maybe the biggest mitts). Need more? So there are two compression straps on each side, front daisy chains, extra leashing points on both sides, and even one row of laser-cut MOLLE on each shoulder strap and three rows on the waist belt. Wow! So if you want, you can strap to your WUULF everything except the kitchen sink.
But wait, there’s even more! PDW also put a MOLLE ladder on the bottom, which could be used to attach a big pouch, dry-bag, or even a rolled sleeping kit there. And not only this – I usually had my crampons attached there. Yeah, this pack is quite serious about MOLLE.
Last spring and summer the WUULF also worked extensively as my bushcraft daypack – I wanted to test if it would be a true multi-mission adventure pack. The outer fabric is definitely tough enough, and multiple attachments and pockets allow for basic bushcraft tool carry – a folding saw, hatchet, auger tool, big camp knife, etc. For a day in the forest (including cooking lunch) the WUULF is surely big enough and it’s got all the necessary features. If you’re looking for a pack that could work both in the mountains and in the woods, the WUULF 24 could be a good option.
I tried my WUULF also in the city when traveling to Dresden in Germany last year. I used it with the lid and iPad insert, but without the waist belt of course. It is small and slim enough for the crowded city center or a walk in the park. And here’s another tip: inside the iPad sleeve I put all the maps, city guide, family documents, our printed tickets, etc. and that seriously helped me to organize the load. All other items were just stuffed inside the pack, which is okay but not an ideal solution. In the lid, I put my IFAK and some snacks. So if you’d like to use the WUULF as your one and only “vacation pack” (so mostly for outdoor, but also occasional city cruising) I’d give it a solid thumbs-up. However, for true daily commuting, I know better packs.
Alternatives to Consider
Day-hike-sized top-loaders are probably the most crowded group of all daypacks, ever. Sure, not all of them are as complete of a pack system as the PDW WUULF. Below is a short list of some adequate top-loading packs that I consider to be good alternatives… but only if you agree to go for a tailored mountaineering pack instead of overall outdoor, bushcraft, and mountain performance.
– Overall solid pack
– Organization, pockets, easy access
– Tons of features and attachment points everywhere
– Timeless classic look
– Advanced frame and harness system
– Can be easily adapted to many scenarios/missions
– Big Velcro panel (that is crucial for patch junkies like me, lol)
The Not So Good
– Not the lightest pack for its volume
– No back length adjustments
– Load-lifter buckles can get loosened if snagged by the lid
– No vibrant color option to stay visible in the terrain
What is the most important for you in a pack? Build quality? Comfort? General toughness? Multi-mission design? Scalability? Or rather you’re looking for a specialized ultralight mountaineering solution with the most advanced materials (and money is no object)? If it’s the former, then the WUULF 24 could be your next adventure pack. It’s a versatile top-loader with optional full access. And it looks really good too. It’d be at home both in a forest in Scandinavia and on a via ferrata in the Dolomites. I’m a top-loader guy at heart. When I was, as a teenager, in the High Tatras with my father, the first daypack I had was a 28L top-loader. A rather simple frameless construction, homemade by one of my dad’s buddies. At that time (the late ’80s in Poland) handmade packs were not a fashion but rather a necessity – behind the Iron Curtain, we had no access to modern packs of that era. I remember that first pack well – a burgundy and denim blue top-loader, which I was so proud of!
These days things are so much easier, but a solid top-loader still is (and always will be) a classic solution for true mountaineers. The WUULF is a good example of that philosophy. It’s also full of practical features, some of them unique. It can be a day-hiker’s pack, technical mountaineering daypack, bushcrafter’s carry tool, or even a minimalistic summer weekender. When I look at the WUULF I can see Patrick’s fingerprints all over it – it’ll certainly become a PDW classic.