Gossamer Gear introduced an entirely new backpack this year called the Kumo 36 Superlight backpack, which I’ve fallen head over heals in love with and use as a day hiking backpack. Weighing just 14.6 ounces (or 16.6 ounces including a SitLight foam pad), it’s a fully featured ultralight backpack that can be used for overnight trips, but is on the small side in terms of capacity at 36 L / 2200 cubic inches total, with 28 L / 1700 cubic inches of covered capacity and the 500 cubic inches in pockets.
While I prefer the extra capacity of the new Gossamer Gear Gorilla backpack for overnights and multi-day trips, the Kumo is large enough for me to pack all of the Oh Shit! gear (see Day Hikers’ 10 Essentials Guide) I bring for my more adventuresome day hikes and trail maintenance work trips in the White Mountains. I also use it around town and for air travel because it’s perfectly sized for riding the subway and airplane travel. It also sails through TSA machines because it doesn’t have an internal aluminum stay.
A Dyneema Murmur
If you’re familiar with Gossamer Gear packs, the Kumo, which is Japanese for “cloud,” is basically a more durable Dyneema Murmur, with the same dimensions (22″ x 11″ x 4.5″) and several notable enhancements including a wider replaceable/removable hip belt, a zippered top pocket, a beefier sternum strap system and a rakishly cut front mesh pocket like the one on the Gossamer Gear Minimalist pack. The latter provides no extra functionality whatsoever, but it’s cool.
While all of these “upgrades” add weight to the basic 2012 Murmur, they also add a lot of functionality and comfort to the more basic Murmur pack, at a negligible price difference ($140 for the Murmur vs. $165 for the Kumo.)
Granted the Murmur is half the weight, but having inflicted substantial abrasion damage to my old (pre-2012) silnylon Murmur, upgrading to a Dyneema version is worth the extra 8 ounces to me because it will last longer. Silnylon is far too fragile for New England and doesn’t respond well to being dragged on rocks above treeline or bushwhacks through spruce!
Further, I’m quite impressed by water repellancy of the Dyneema fabric. I think it’s a real coup that Gossamer Gear has developed a 140d version of the fabric that is lighter than the Dyneema grid used by other UL manufacturers, and is much more abrasion and UV resistant than cuben fiber.
The Kumo Hip Belt
One of the biggest differences between the Murmur and the Kumo is a new, extra wide canvas hip belt. In addition to being completely removable for very light loads, the Kumo’s hip belt comes in two interchangeable sizes, a medium which fits up to a 36″ waist size and a large that fits up to 50″, that can easily be cut down to the size you need with a pair of scissors. Both sizes are bundled with the pack, making it possible to share the Kumo between two people with different waistlines, even!
The lack of hip belt padding is not an issue: I can carry about 15 pounds all day with this hip belt, without any discomfort or bruising. No more having to wrap the old micro-sized Murmur hip belt with pipe-insulation to make it more comfortable!
The rest of the Kumo is built much like Gossamer Gear’s other new ultralight packs, including two all Dyneema side bottle pockets with drain holes, a front mesh pocket and the pocket in the new OTT (Over the Top) lid system that the company introduced this year. I use this pocket to carry my compass, map, and camera and think it’s a great addition to the functionality of the Murmur dimensions.
For a complete run down of the new shoulder harness, lashing, and lid on 2012 Gossamer Gear models, please see my Gossamer Gear Gorilla review from last month. The same design elements in that pack are repeated in the Kumo and the Mariposa, which started shipping a few weeks ago.
If you’re not already a Gossamer Gear pack aficionado, there are a few things about the Kumo that you should know about. First off, this is a frameless backpack. If you carry 15 pounds or less of water, food, and gear, having an internal frame doesn’t really buy you anything in terms of comfort and just adds more weight to a backpack.
Despite being frameless, the Kumo still has plenty of “structure” and won’t flop over like a soft rucksack. This is provided in part by the foam pad on the back of the pack, which slides into a mesh covered pocket that is found on all of Gossamer Gear’s overnight packs. The pad is easy to pull out of the pack during rest breaks to sit on and some ultralight hikers even go so far as to sleep on it instead of bringing a separate sleeping pad! ‘
The other source of rigidity is your gear itself which is sandwiched in by the fabric of the pack. With packs like this, it’s customary to pack all of the stuff you hope you won’t need during the day inside the pack’s main compartment, and all of the stuff you do need, including extra shell layers, a water filter, snacks, and your water bottles, on the outside of the pack so you can get at it quickly without having to dig around in your pack.
Organization is an under rated aspect of ultralight backpacking and day hiking, but the resultant efficiency of packing like this is a key reason UL backpackers and day hikers can do big daily miles: they don’t need to take breaks to unpack and repack when they stop for breaks.
The Revised Over-the-Top Lid System
When the original Kumo packs came back from the factory in April, Gossamer Gear used a magnet to close the top of the extension collar that folds under the new OTT lid you see on the 2012 backpacks (see my GG Gorilla Review for detailed photos). The magnet caused some concern within the customer community because of its potential effect on compasses and electronics. Perhaps worse, the design allowed the sides of the extension collar to flare out from underneath the lid when closed, which was awkward, and added a potential source of leaks in heavy rain.
Gossamer Gear has since modified the way the extension collar cinches shut, replacing the magnet with a piece of shock cord and gear loops. I haven’t tried this new closure system yet – I just got these pictures from Gossamer Gear on Tuesday, but this is what the Kumo and all of the other 2012 Gossamer Gears packs will use from here on out.
With 3 points of contact in the extension collar, the new system looks like it will provide a better way to pull in the sides of the extension collar so they stay under the OTT lid. Still, this new system introduces 3 potential points of failure where the loops are tacked to the extension collar seams and might pose durability problems in overstuffed packs. That’s the first thing I’d test, though I’m sure Glen Van Peski and Grant Sible have already put it through the ringer.
While the Kumo is technically an ultralight backpack intended for overnight trips, I like using mine for day hiking because it’s just the right size for carrying the extra layers and just-in-case supplies I like to carry on long hikes and bushwhacks, in case I need to spend an unexpected night out. I’m also so used to the organizational style of a Gossamer Gear pack, that it’s nice to have a day pack that shares the same overall configuration as my preferred overnight pack, the Gossamer Gear Gorilla. If you’re thinking about getting yourself a 2012 Murmur, but an extra 8 ounces doesn’t matter to you, consider upgrading to the Kumo. It’s really a nice pack!
- OTT Zippered Pocket adds nice at-hand storage for a camera, wallet, keys etc.
- Small pack carries exceptionally well with excellent lateral stability
- Wide canvas strap hip belt comes in multiple sizes and is removable
- A great day pack that can be used for ultralight overnights or cabin trips
- Hip belt side connectors can slip lose if the pack is wet (in heavy rain and high tension)
- Side panels flare out awkwardly under the OTT lid (fixed with new extension collar cord loop)
- Center ice axe loop is awkward – be better if there were two loops on left and right
- Taller horizontal front mesh pocket would be functionally better than the diagonal cut
- Medium: 14.30 oz. (405 g.) (Section Hiker weight 14.6 ounces)
- Large: TBD
Sitlight Pad : 1.7 – 2.2 oz ( 53g. – 65g. ) these pads vary slightly (Section Hiker weight 2.0 ounces)
- 2,200 c.i. (36 l.) total
- 1,700 c.i. (28 l.) in main pack body/extension collar
- 500 c.i. (8 l.) in main pocket
- 25 lb. maximum carry capacity, but 20 lbs. is better.
- Medium (16″ – 20″ torso) (41 – 51 cm.)
- Large (20″ – 24″ torso) (51 – 61 cm.)
- Custom 140 denier Dyneema GGridstop nylon.
- Selected use of 210 denier double rip nylon
- Grey & Black & Orange
Hip Belt Size
- Medium hip belt fits up to a 36″ (89 cm.)
- Large hip belt fits up to a 50″ (127 cm.) waist)
Dimensions – Size Medium
- Height 22”
- Width 11”
- Depth 4.5”
Disclosure: Philip Werner received a complementary Kumo from manufacturer for testing and review.
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