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Gossamer Gear Murmur 36 Hyperlight Backpack Review

Gossamer Gear Murmur Backpack Review

Gossamer Gear Murmur 36 Hyperlight Backpack

Comfort
Weight
Features
Adaptability
Sizing
Durability

Advanced Ultralight Backpack

The Murmur is a highly refined ultralight backpack intended for advanced ultralight backpackers with a maximum recommended load of 15 pounds. It cleverly designed and loaded with optional features making it easy to adjust to your personal needs and preferences.

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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

  • Weight:
    • 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
  • Capacity
    • 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.
  • Materials
    • 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 afterwards. If you prefer using a hydration system, the pack has three internal hang loops, with dual hydration ports above the shoulder straps.

The Murmur's side water bottle pockets are easy to reach and are perfectly sized for tall Smartwater bottles
The Murmur’s side water bottle pockets are easy to reach and are perfectly sized for tall Smartwater bottles.

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 ruck sack.

The hip belt is attached with clips but can be easily removed
The hip belt is attached with clips but can be easily removed

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 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.

The bottom of the Murmur is reinforced with 70 denier robic but this is still a delicate pack and much be handled with care if you want it to last
The bottom of the Murmur is reinforced with 70 denier Robic but this is still a delicate pack and must be handled with care if you want it to last.

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.

Gear loops positioned around the perimeter of the pack let you create your own compression and attachment points
Blue gear loops positioned around the perimeter of the pack let you create your own compression and attachment points.

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 sit pad is super handy for sitting on cold wet ground
The sit pad is super handy for sitting on cold wet ground

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.

To remove the sit pad grab it by the middle, and pull it out the sleeve.
To remove the sit pad grab it by the middle, and pull it out of the sleeve.

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.

Recommendation

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.

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14 comments

  1. I bought the short-lived GG Pilgrim a while back when they had them on closeout. It’s similar to the Murmur, though I guess all of their 36-ish liter packs are similar. I have yet to use it, but I have mock-packed it with long weekend equipment. It seems pretty nice and I will get a chance to use it on a Boy Scout backpacking trip in April on the Bartram Trail here in Georgia.

    • Why do you carabiner your knife to your pack? Why not just put it in the hip belt pocket?

      • I have a couple of backpacks that I switch between and putting it on a carabiner helps me remember to switch it from one to the next. It also reinforces the habit of putting it back exactly where I took it from because it’s so easy to lose. I’d probably lose it if I put it in a hip belt pocket.

  2. This is one of the best UL packs out there. It has everything needed for a week long trip. Unfortunatly, it still has “too much and too many.”

    The newest version opens the pack up a bit from ~5″ to ~6″. This makes it far better for holding my dry gear. (Dry gear is sleeping bag, socks, long johns and down jacket.) I have a 6″ diameter dry bag I use for that. It also opens the side pockets up a bit. I was always stressed putting two half liter bottles and my SVEA in them. The reinforced shoulder harness (ribbon down the center of the straps) makes them strong enough for rock hopping. I wish they would drop the plastic clips and simply attach the waist belt to save around a 1/4oz or so. Too many attachment points on this pack. While I agree with one pole keeper (works well with my fishing rod,) there are loops all over the place on this pack. It is small enough that rolling down the top works well enough. I overloaded it several times (to about 25 pounds) and it can take it.

    I use a 5 layer NightLight pad in the pad holders. It does NOT push the pivot point so far back to be uncomfortable. And the hip belt is easily capable of carrying 10 or more pounds. While not a heavily padded belt, it works well to take about half the weight or more down to your hips when coupled with the thick pad. Indeed, I often loosen the shoulder straps and let it flop back for down hills/flat stretches…it gives me more ventilation on a hot day. The larger portion of the weight is on my hips, not on my shoulders. I often wear a belt on my pants anyway, so the narrow belt doesn’t bother me, rather it locks in to my pants belt.

    The lack of shoulder padding/hip padding is a big plus, too. I have used a dozen or more packs with heavy padding (greater than 3/8″.) While they work great in the store, on long distance hikes they get annoying because of the padding…they bounce more. In most cases they can cause belt slippage putting all the weight back on your shoulders (2014/15 Gorilla, Atmos 50) unless you really, really, pull the belt tight-tight.

    While it is a true UL pack, it is really too heavy for use as a SUL one. These need to be <8oz and fairly full featured. The Murmur is full featured at around 13oz. Anyway I love this pack and it is my first choice for week long outings in the ADK's.

    • How old is that 5 fold nightlight? All of the ones I have are three folds only and that’s already going way back. Did you augment it somehow?

      • Philip, Yeah, it is pretty old. I picked up a few from GG way back when they were still selling the full length pads. I just made the one I am currently using about two years ago, but I have been using them for close to 15 years. Several different manufacturers offer pad keepers but none of these offer two pockets spaced about 1/3 of the way on the pads. The spacing keeps the pads together and less flexible. I like the NightLights because they have dimples that interlock. Again, adding to rigidity in the up and down direction without interfering with diagonal twisting (as in walking.)

        I partially unfolded one (into a ‘V’ shape) and placed a piece of cardboard on top. Then I placed a 20lb dumbbell on it…it stayed up. In the old style Murmur (with the over the top closure) I do about 7 miles per day with about 32 pounds in it, soo 25pounds is very conservative. I can *just* fit three dry bags in it…two for food and one for quilt/clothing. Just enough for two weeks. If I take any thing else (like my camera) I really want a about 300ci more, though. Anyway, the pad pretty much supports the pack so pivoting back simply becomes more of a chest pressure/balanced hip carry than carrying weight on my shoulders. (I have a couple bad disks in my upper neck/shoulders.)

  3. Two quick observation. The hip belt doesn’t transfer any load to my hips either, so I just remove it. Must be a body shape thing.

    Like your characterization of how thicker fabrics change how the load “packs” in UL packs. I load the Murmur like you do…but it took me a while to get rid of my stuff sacks andvdesire for organization. Getting rid of stuff you can do without cures lack of organization. Hah!

  4. could anyone clarify please: does the rating of 15 lb include the weight of the pack itself, or is it the content weight excluding the pack?

  5. Any thoughts on the Murmur doubling up as a day hiker pack for the fall season? too much space still?

  6. Hi Phillip, not sure if you check older posts, but would this be a good choice for hiking the camino de santiago where we plan to carry a max pack weight of 9 KG (20 lb)?
    I was looking at the Gorilla 40L for my wife and myself, and then noticed your excellent Gossamer Gear pack comparison.
    BTW, your newsletter is my absolute favourite! Love you down to earth, honest advice.

    • I read every comment on every post and reply to most of them!

      First paragraph: 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.”

      You don’t want to carry 20 pounds in this. I’d suggest something like the Granite Gear Crown 2 – 38L – which has a little bit more body to it. I use it frequently with that kind of load.
      https://www.rei.com/product/127239/granite-gear-crown2-38-pack

      40 liters with a lightweight frame is what you should be looking for

      • Thanks Philip, I appreciate you taking the time to reply. I must improve my comprehension, the answer was in your review. Thanks for the recommendation.

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