|The Kumo Superlight backpack!|
My pals at Gossamer Gear sent me one of their brand new Kumo Superlight backpacks the other day to take for a test drive. It’s not like I need a new backpack, nor can I afford new backpacking gear at the moment, but it’s pretty awesome that the guys at GG are willing to humor my curiosity this way. There’s been a heck of a lot of talk on the interwebs about Gossamer Gear’s new lineup of packs, and with good reason. Some of the packs have picked up some weight, added features, and added a bit to the price tag. Some folks in the ultralight community don’t like this, since ultralight is all about simplicity and cutting every possible gram from your pack weight. But the new packs are mighty spiffy-looking. Here’s what I’ve found so far, before taking the pack on the trail.
First, I’ll say that the only pack I have to compare this to is my Mountain Laurel Designs Exodus from 2008. I love my Exodus, but I’ve shaved my gear down pretty small, so carrying the Exodus often means leaving a little empty space in it, even when I start a trip. So I’m happy to try the Kumo, which is probably better suited to my needs for trips of up to four or five days since it has a lower volume than the Exodus.
The listed weight of the Kumo is 14.3 ounces, which is almost exactly the same weight as my Exodus. The Kumo I received was exactly 14.3 ounces, which is always a nice surprise. Small companies like Gossamer Gear seem to have a nice hold on their manufacturing process, which isn’t always the case for bigger companies, whose stated weights are often slightly off. Since I don’t use compression cords or sternum straps, I was able to drop 1.1 ounces off the weight by removing those. I often use my Exodus without a hip belt, and I’ll probably do the same with this pack, which has a removable belt. That drops another 1.6 ounces, putting the weight of the stripped down pack at 11.6 ounces.
|First conundrum: do I tuck the flap on the side of the lid under (left) or leave it hanging (right)? Probably tuck it.|
The Kumo is made of a lighter grade of Dyneema fabric than the Exodus, making the fabric feel a bit softer, but no less durable. My Exodus has several thousand miles of use so far, and the pack fabric is still as tough as ever, so I have no doubt that the Kumo’s fabric will be just as tough. If you want almost the same pack as the Kumo, but almost six ounces lighter, you could go with the Murmur, since they are essentially the same pack, but the Murmur uses silnylon for much of the outer fabric.
|The Over The Top closure system, basically an ultralight lid. And some pretty snazzy buckles, too.|
A few of the new features that I think are perfectly useful come in the new “Over the Top” closure system. I haven’t used a pack with a lid since I first started going light, and I’ve been used to packs with a simple drawstring and roll-top, but the Kumo has a top opening that folds over and snaps in like a classic backpack lid. I was skeptical of this at first, but it seems to be well-executed and doesn’t come off as gimmicky or unwieldy. Rather than a drawcord before folding the top over, there’s a pair of small, strong magnets sewn into the fabric, which snap shut very nicely. Then, there’s also a zippered pocket on the top of the lid, giving it a little more resemblance to a traditional backpack lid. I’ve never missed the storage capacity of a pack lid, but I’m sure I’ll be able to find some use for this one.
|This pocket on the lid is much bigger than it looked in the pictures. Snacks, GPS, headlamp… plenty of room.|
|Magnets??? What the heck?|
The harness of the pack consists of a pair of very wide and nicely padded shoulder straps, each with a daisy chain and four attachment points for the sternum strap. The hip belt, which is removable, is attached to the bottom of the pack with a sturdy tri-glide buckle, and the frame is provided by a sleeping pad, in the time-honored ultralight fashion. There’s been a lot of talk online recently about angling shoulder strap attachments so they match the way human shoulders slant, but the Kumo shoulder straps aren’t angled like this. I’m interested to see how this feels if I’m using those straps without the hip belt. Otherwise, there’s not much to complain about with the harness. If I owned the pack, I’d probably remove the little plastic clips where the sternum strap attaches to the shoulder straps, since I know I’ll never use it, but that will probably only save a half an ounce or so.
|I never use sternum straps, but you can attach it at any of those little plastic pieces. They’re hidden pretty well.|
|The hip belt attaches here. If you never use the belt, I bet you could do some surgery and lose an ounce or so by taking off the attachment point, but I’m not too worried about it right now.|
The only other piece of the pack I’d chop off would be the internal hydration bladder pouch, but that would probably only save another few grams, since it is made of a very lightweight material. Which is great, because why would you want a heavy fabric just to hold your water bladder in place on the inside of your pack?
That’s it for my first impressions of the pack. I’ll be taking it on a test drive on the Monadnock-Sunapee Greenway this weekend if everything works out right. A two-night, 50-mile trip ought to be a good measure of how well the pack works as a weekend backpacking pack. I probably won’t get a chance to test it out on longer trips until the end of the summer. Too bad, because I’m really looking forward to some long, light backpacking trips.