The Gossamer Gear Murmur is one of oldest continuously made frameless ultralight backpacks available today. While the materials it’s made with have evolved over the years (this is the third time I’ve reviewed the Murmur since 2009), the basic ultralight design remains unchanged. This is a backpack designed for people with a base gear weight (minus food, fuel, and water) of 10 pounds or less, with a max recommended load of 15 pounds. It’s a specialized pack and one that Gossamer Gear warns many potential customers off when they say “if you’re not sure if it’s the right pack for you, it probably isn’t.”
Specs at a Glance
- 8.5 oz / 240 g Pack only (8.2 oz actual, tested)
- Removable waist belt with pockets = 2.5 oz / 70 g (2.4 oz actual, tested)
- Sitlight Pad = 1.5 – 2.0 oz. ( 43 – 56 g ) (2.0 oz actual, tested)
- 13.2 oz / 374 g fully featured
- 2200 c.i. (36 l.) total
- 1,700 c.i. (28 l.) in main pack body to extension collar seam
- 500 c.i. (8 l.) in main pocket
- 20 lb maximum carry capacity, 15 lbs for comfort.
- 30 and 70 denier Robic nylon
Backpack Organization and Storage
The Murmur is set up like a typical UL pack with a roll top closure, a front mesh pocket, and side water bottle pockets. The roll top has a plastic stiffener on the edge to make it easier to close, and provides great top down compression for stabilizing the load. The roll top straps that hold it closed terminate at the top of the side water bottle pockets, so they don’t interfere with their use. This is just one of the details that makes this such a refined backpack.
The side water bottles are tall and narrow, ideally sized for carrying 1L Smartwater bottles, although regular 1L size plastic bottles work just as well. It’s also easy to reach back and pull a bottle out or replace it afterward. If you prefer using a hydration system, the pack has three internal hang loops, with dual hydration ports above the shoulder straps.
The Murmur also comes with a minimal and non-load-bearing hip belt that has two mesh-faced zippered pockets. These are tiny and can barely fit a iPhone 6. The hip belt is attached to the pack with plastic clips that make it completely removable if you don’t want it. It can be useful, however, to help stabilize the pack and keep it from bouncing if you’re fastpacking or trail running. I’d prefer having a hip belt option that didn’t have the hip belt pockets and was just a piece of webbing with a center buckle. But if you really have a light load, chances are you’ll remove the hip belt anyway and carry the Murmur like a rucksack.
The front mesh pocket is designed to hold layers and snacks that you want fast access to during the day, so you don’t have to open the main pack up. This reduces your transition times and breaks, thereby increasing the number of miles you can hike in a day. The mesh pocket can also be used to hold or dry wet items like a water filter or wet tarp that you don’t want mixing with dry gear inside the pack.
The main pack bag is made with a very lightweight 30 denier Robic nylon, which is nearly transparent. The high abrasion points at the base of the pack and on the bottom of the water bottle pockets are made with tougher 70 denier Robic, but this is a pack you need to treat gently because it will get ripped to shreds if you take it into dense vegetation.
When packing a pack like the Murmur, which doesn’t have a rigid frame, you want to avoid overstuffing the main pack bag to avoid having it barrel into your back. At the same time, you want to pack so that your load “becomes a frame” and provides its own structure. One way to achieve this is to pack your gear loose, without stuff sacks, so you avoid corners and voids inside the main pack bag. Loose gear compresses rather well, congealing into a rectangular-shaped mass that works well with this pack. If you find yourself packing the Murmur high into the extension collar, you probably have too much gear, and should consider using a higher volume backpack.
One technique for adding structure to a frameless pack is to roll up a foam sleeping pad, stick it in the main compartment, and that fill the middle with your gear. I’ve tried this with the Murmur and it doesn’t work that well, because the main compartment “wants” to maintain a rectangular shape and not a roundish one.
External Attachment and Compression System
The Murmur doesn’t come with any side compression straps. It’s easy to add them though with some cord and cordlocks, using the gear loops found along the seams of the pack. Gossamer Gear sells accessory compression cord sets for just this purpose and I use them to customize the attachment points on many of my other packs as well.
The pack has an ice axe loop, and trekking poles holders which are good when you need to put your poles away and scramble up rock ledges. Shaft holders are included, a convenience which some backpack makers inexplicably omit.
Backpack Frame and Suspension System
While the Murmur is a frameless backpack, it has an external pad pocket that can be used to give the pack a little structure and back-padding. This a signature feature on all of Gossamer Gear’s overnight backpacks and you’ll be surprised by how useful it is. It’s great to whip out to sit on wet ground or as a warm seat while sitting around a fire at night. I use mine as a mini-porch if I’m under a tarp and as extra “oh-shit” insulation if I experience cold butt syndrome in a hammock. The sit pad is so useful that I carry it with other non-Gossamer Gear backpacks, as well.
The pad has a sculpted surface that won’t stick to your back when you sweat and is covered at the top and the bottom with breathable mesh sleeve to wick away perspiration. When you want to pull the pad out of the sleeves, you grab it by the middle and pull. The breathable mesh is stretchy, making it easy to re-insert the pad into the pad sleeves when you want to get moving again.
There’s nothing forcing you to use the sit pad that Gossamer Gear supplies with the pack and some people roll up thinner but longer pieces of foam and stick them back there instead. However, accordion pads like a Therm-a-rest Z-Lite or the Gossamer Gear Nightlight don’t work well because they’re too thick and move the back of the pack to far away from your shoulders and core.
The shoulder straps are not padded at all. They’re covered with a breathable mesh and very minimal, without any daisy chains to hang gear from. They are only available in a J-shape however and may be uncomfortable if you have a well-developed chest or big breasts. The sternum strap can be adjusted by moving it up or down or you can just remove it altogether, which is fairly common when using a pack this light.
Is the Gossamer Gear Murmur 36L right for you? The question is worth repeating because this isn’t a suitable overnight or multi-day backpack unless you have a dialed-in ultralight gear list with highly compressible gear that doesn’t take up much space. The Murmur is a great backpack, but far less forgiving than other frameless backpacks that are made with thicker, more structured fabrics that rely less on load structure to maintain their shape: packs like the Zpacks Nero 38, the SWD Superior 30, the Mountain Laurel Designs Burn 38, or even the Gossamer Gear Kumo 36. That doesn’t mean that the Murmur is less suitable for its intended purpose, but it’s not a backpack that I’d recommend for someone who hasn’t fully embraced a sub-10 pound gear list.
Disclosure: Gossamer Gear provided the author with a sample backpack for this review.