ultralight

All posts tagged ultralight

The Murmur's rear and side pockets are tighter than the Kumo's, but are still enough to hold the essentials. Note the translucent material of the pack fabric.

The Murmur’s rear and side pockets are tighter than the Kumo’s, but are still enough to hold the essentials. Note the translucent material of the pack fabric.

After three years of using Gossamer Gear’s Kumo, I decided to try their even lighter pack, the Murmur. All of GG’s packs have been redesigned this year for comfort, style, and functionality, so I was curious about making the switch. The current Murmur is a little smaller than the previous version, and a bit lighter than the Kumo. I’ve used it on several day hikes and overnights this season already, and I’m pretty happy with what I’ve seen.

The previous version of the Murmur was essentially identical to the Kumo, but with lighter materials. The new Murmur is a completely different design, starting with a lighter material. The main pack body is made of Cordura Nylon, which is much lighter than the previous Dyneema material, and translucent enough to see almost all of what you’re packing. The material feels very fragile, but I’ve gotten it caught on lots of poking tree limbs already and can’t find any signs of tearing, so it’s clearly stronger than it looks. It is also water resistant, although I haven’t tested that in any more than a light rain.

The Murmur, half full and being used as a day pack in the White Mountains.

The Murmur, half full and being used as a day pack in the White Mountains.

Features that are new in the Murmur (or similar to older versions) include a roll-top closure system, shoulder straps that have no padding, trekking pole carrying loops, and a removable hip belt with very nice integrated pockets. The hip belt, though well designed, is something I removed right away, since I never use hip belts on ultralight packs. The clips to attach the belt took some futzing to undo, so this is probably something you wouldn’t want to detach and reattach frequently, but on the plus side they leave almost nothing on the pack when detached, so the weight savings is almost 100%. The trekking pole carry loops are very useful, and there’s not much more to say about those.

The sit-light pad included with the Murmur is a lighter version than that of other GG packs. Also, note the thin mesh shoulder straps. In this picture, I've taken off the hip belt, and instead use a Gossamer Gear shoulder pocket for my camera.

The sit-light pad included with the Murmur is a lighter version than that of other GG packs. Also, note the thin mesh shoulder straps. In this picture, I’ve taken off the hip belt, and instead use a Gossamer Gear shoulder pocket for my camera.

The unpadded shoulder straps are unusual compared to GG’s other new packs, which have very plush padding. Since the Kumo is the first pack I’ve owned where I completely did away with hip belts, I was a little worried that the lack of padding in the new Murmur would be uncomfortable. While they are somewhat less comfortable than the padded straps when carrying a full pack, the point of the Murmur is to be the pack for experienced ultralight hikers. I’ve carried the Kumo with about 27 pounds of load before without too much discomfort. I probably wouldn’t try the Murmur with much more than 20, which is plenty for a four-day summer backpacking trip. The up-side to the unpadded straps is also that they are fully mesh, which allows the shoulders to breathe more. I’ve had much less shoulder sweat with the Murmur than with my Kumo.

The Murmur at home for the night under my tarp.

The Murmur at home for the night under my tarp.

A few changes in the design to the Murmur will take some getting used to for me– they’re not necessarily bad, but worth noting. First, the side pockets don’t billow as much as other GG packs, and they seem to have Smart Water bottles in mind. I use wider water bottles, and have to squeeze a little harder to get them into the pockets. Similarly, the stretch mesh for the large rear pocket is less stretchy than the previous version, so I can’t cram as much stuff into it unless the main pack compartment is less full.

The roll-top closure for the pack is nice, but so far I haven’t been able to fill the pack to the point where it’s full enough to warrant extending the roll-top’s side compression straps at all. This shouldn’t be an issue most of the time, but considering the load I had in the pack for a four-day backpacking trip still barely filled the main pack body while pushing the limits of the 20-pound load limit, I wonder what I would have to pack in order to really fill out the main compartment. Maybe lots of puffy insulation.

All in all, it’s a very nice pack with a stylish remodeling that doesn’t add significant weight. I’ll probably continue using it for at least three more years.

You can purchase the pack at Gossamer Gear’s website, using this link:

Weight:
Pack without sit-pad, hip belt, or sternum strap: 8.0 oz
Sit-pad frame: 1.4 oz
Hip Belt: 2.5 oz
Sternum Strap: 0.4 oz
Total: 12.3 oz

Disclosure: Gossamer Gear provided me with a pack through their Trail Ambassadors program at my request.

I’ve been using Mountain Laurel Designs’ bug bivy for a little over a year now, and finding it to be an essential piece of my sleeping and shelter kit in spring and summer. I’ve used tarps for shelter for years, but it seems every year that the Maine black flies and mosquitoes have gotten worse and worse, making for several sleepless nights in the backcountry a few years ago. While the 7.3 oz (including cords) bivy offsets a lot of the weight savings from using an open tarp for shelter rather than an enclosed tent, I’ve found it well worth the extra weight.

The bug bivy in action in a Baxter State Park lean-to.

The bug bivy in action in a Baxter State Park lean-to.

The design is simple– a silnylon floor is connected to a no-see-um netting top, with a half-length zipper at the peak for entry. Grosgrain loops at the four corners allow for staking the bivy out, and two more loops at either end of the zipper can be used to hang the bivy from my tarp, or from lean-tos and shelters on the Appalachian Trail. There’s not much space in the bivy, but there’s enough that I can lay on my stomach, propped up on my elbows in order to read before going to sleep.

Setting up the bivy took some getting used to as well, but the learning curve is low. I stake out all the corners so the bivy is taut, then put my sleeping pad and sleeping bag in. I keep my little things (journal, headlamp, maps, and bag of extra things) next to my head inside the bivy. Once I’m ready to climb in for the night, I attach the hanging loops from the top of the bivy to hang loops on my tarp with a pair of stretch cords with plastic hooks (included with the bivy). I’ve placed cord locks at the bivy end of the stretch cord so that I can quickly adjust the tension of the hang before calling it a night. I still have to be careful when getting into the bivy, since it seems to attract dirt and leaves that I accidentally kick onto it, but you can avoid that with a little mindfulness.

The floor of the bivy is waterproof, but in cases where I expect very wet conditions, I’ll add 1.7 ounces with a Gossamer Gear polycryo ground cloth underneath the bivy.

In AT shelters, where staking the bivy to the ground would be a bad idea, I keep my heaviest items at the corners of the bivy in order to keep it weighted to the ground (not as sturdy as stakes, but it works well enough), and attach the hang cords to either hanging nails in the shelter, or I might gently wedge a stake between the logs of the shelter to make a hanging hook.

So far, the bivy has been worth its weight in gold, allowing me to sleep like a baby under my tarp or in shelters next to swampy ponds in Maine. Take that, mosquitoes and black flies!

MLD builds these to order, with wait times in the order of several weeks, so it might be too late to order yours for this year, but put it on your list for the next holiday season.

Disclosure: This bug bivy was a Christmas gift from a family member, purchased at full price from Mountain Laurel Designs.