Since my “first impressions” review of the Gossamer Gear Kumo Superlight backpack in April, I’ve used the backpack for all of my backpacking in New England, plus most day hikes. That amounts to about twenty-five nights of backpacking, and a dozen or so day-hikes. I’ll still continue to test the pack for months to come, but for now I think I’ve used it enough to give a little more info on how well it works.
|Six days’ worth of food and gear stuffed into the Kumo, and it doesn’t look particularly overloaded.|
If you have any experience with ultralight backpacking, you’ll probably remember your first time trying to pack all your stuff into a small, frameless pack and wondering if you’d made the right choice. I did the same with my MLD Exodus several years ago, and in downsizing to the Kumo I was a little nervous about how much stuff I could pack in. Not to worry! I was able to carry six days’ worth of food and a full array of equipment with room to spare.
Room to spare? That seems remarkable to me. Certainly some of this has to do with my experience packing for ultralight trips, and knowing how to jam the right amount of stuff into the pack, but still. That such a small pack can be used for full-length expeditions is great. I used it for day-hikes and week-long hikes with equal comfort. That’s versatility.
The heaviest load I carried in the Kumo was about twenty-five pounds, including food and water. That was on the day I started from the northern end of the Long Trail, with a six-day food ration and two liters of water. Was the pack comfortable with all that? Heck yeah. I think the wide and cushioned shoulder straps help with keeping the pack comfortable with relatively heavy loads (compared to what UL hikers are used to), and I never had any problems with the weight of the pack resting on my shoulders.
I say the pack weight rested on my shoulders because I never used the hip belt on the trail. True, I tested the hip belt out at home and found it to be pretty good– it transferred weight to my hips just fine, with the help of a SitLight Pad and Ridgerest pack frame. I tried a few times to test the hip belt on trail, but always found myself more comfortable without it than with. Not because of the weight of the pack, but just because I prefer the free feeling of not having a belt. Possibly the discomfort came from the un-padded belt, since I find heavier padded belts to be less uncomfortable, but I prefer not wearing the belts regardless of pack. In a nutshell, using the Kumo without the hip belt feels just fine.
For the most part, the Kumo shares standard features for most ultralight backpacks– single pocket internal storage, large outer pocket on the back of the pack, and two side pockets for water bottles or similar sized items. The “Over The Top” storage system of Gossamer Gear’s packs is a new feature that adds a sort of lid with zippered pocket, and changes things around a bit.
Because the lid clips down with two alligator clips, it slows down the opening of the main pocket by a second compared to a simple stuff-sack type closure, and makes me prefer to leave the main pocket alone during the day (which is kind of the point for UL packs). The zippered pocket on the lid is a little small and tight, but great for things like Micropur tablets, maps, and other things you don’t need to grab frequently.
The large back pocket is made of a very stretchy mesh, which makes storing large amounts of stuff pretty easy. This is the perfect antidote to frequently opening the main pocket. During the hiking day I stored the following in the mesh storage pocket (either for quick access or because I didn’t want to keep certain things in the main pocket of the pack): wind shirt, tent stakes, potty trowel, denatured alcohol bottle, spoon, two days’ worth of snacks, umbrella, toilet paper, hand sanitizer. I could have fit more if I wanted, too. Not bad, eh?
The side pockets of the pack were also well-executed. Rather than a stretch mesh, Gossamer Gear built them out of bellowed Dyneema, with a stretchy top opening, so that the pockets could withstand abrasion from hikers squeezing through tight spaces or getting whipped by branches. The bellowing of the pocket makes them the perfect size for a 1-liter soda bottle or Gatorade bottle, although I found that the soda bottles were a little easier to access without taking the pack off (they’re a tiny bit narrower than Gatorade bottles). I also kept a map stuffed into the pocket between the bottle and the main pack for quick access. I am able to reach the bottles just fine without taking off the pack, but I’ve heard from others who can’t quite reach the bottles. I guess it depends on your particular body and how the pack sits.
|There was plenty of room left in the pack at the end of the trip for more stuff if I’d wanted to carry it.|
With over 500 miles of use on this pack since I received it in April, I see no signs of wear so far. The pack fabric is certainly as tough as you could want– as I said before, it’s a similar fabric to my MLD Exodus, which has withstood thousands of miles and rough use without any damage, and I see no reason why the Kumo’s fabric will fare any differently. The area I watch most for damage is the seam where the shoulder straps attach to the top of the pack, since without a hip belt I am putting all of the stress from the pack’s weight on those seams, but they seem to be holding just fine without any of the stitches stretching out.
The other area that is probably less durable than the rest of the pack is the stretchy mesh of the rear pocket, but so far it hasn’t encountered anything that might tear it. The stretchiness and tight weave of the fabric keep it pretty safe.
So far, I’ve only used the Kumo in pretty warm weather, but considering how well it has held up with large loads of food, I see no reason why the pack shouldn’t work just fine for 4 or 5 day trips in the colder temperatures this fall. I hate to let my trusty Exodus fall into disuse, but it seems the Kumo has replaced that pack for me this season.