A Global Rucksack Revolution: Thru-Hiking, Bikepacking, and Traveling 15 Countries with One Rucksack

A Global Rucksack Revolution: Thru-Hiking, Bikepacking, and Traveling 15 Countries with One Rucksack

This is the tale of a global rucksack revolution through 20 months, 15 countries, and 5 continents — all with one Kumo 36 pack and no plans.
12 months, 12 Ultramarathons with the Kumo Backpack

12 months, 12 Ultramarathons with the Kumo Backpack

This story all started with a dog named Cupcake in Alaska's Denali National Park.

My wife and partner in crime, Christine, and I were working in the National Park in a particularly rainy month of August last year. We decided that the most appropriate thing to do with our free time was to volunteer by running with sled dogs (we didn't have many consecutive days in a row to backpack or see the rest of Alaska). During the summer, these natural athletes turn into pudgy pups due to their lack of work, which is primarily in the winter. Because I'm 6' 4" and wanted a challenge, I wound up with the biggest and most energetic dog of the pack, Cupcake.

I was told five volunteers had already given up on Cupcake this season, and they desperately needed to get him exercise. We were happy to volunteer, taking them out on runs to keep these adorable endurance athletes in shape.

After a few weeks of running the dogs, we got really comfortable with running, giving these dogs as much exercise as possible. Slowly, we built up our mileage–to about 10 miles.

I was feeling really proud with that distance, having never really run much before in my life. Then, while browsing the internet, I noticed that the Mount Mitchell Challenge lottery opened up, and I decided this was my shot to participate in a race that had caught my eye ever since moving to Asheville, North Carolina.

Wikipedia describes the race as such: "The Mount Mitchell Challenge is a 40-mile Ultramarathon run in February of each year from the town of Black Mountain, NC to the top of Mt Mitchell, the highest point in the Eastern US, and back down again. This race, intentionally run in Winter to ensure harsh conditions… the course has seen every type of weather imaginable… rain, ice, snow, sun… " unner. Having heard rumors about the lottery selection process from other runners, I knew there was no way I was going to get into run the race by just entering once. Many athletes enter year after year without getting in. So, without too much thought, I filled out the application. Under "best marathon time," having never run anything resembling the distance, I wrote, " hiked the PCT in 4 months."

A few days later, I woke up to an email saying, "Congratulations! Your entry into the 2019 Mount Mitchell Challenge has been confirmed!" I was dumbfounded, and immediately felt doomed. I had run a half marathon once many years ago, but that was about it. Now, I had to train for a 40-mile race up and down the tallest mountain in the eastern United States?

Enter the Gossamer Gear Kumo backpack.

In order to even start training, I needed a high capacity running pack. Looking at the packs I had, it looked like the Kumo could do the job. I could fit water, a purification method, an emergency blanket, a trowel for bathroom breaks, Lightheart Gear Rain Mitts, a Wind Shirt, Microspikes, and many layers, including an entire bag of clothes to be kept dry no matter what. In addition, I could stash plenty of Gu's and snacks (my favorite being microwaved red potatoes).

For me to train in the tallest mountains on the East Coast during winter, it would be absolutely necessary for me to be able to carry all of these items. The Kumo was the perfect choice because it could collapse to be comfortable with an empty load and also could carry way more than I could possibly need for a day-long run.

In training, I ran ultramarathon distances in the dead of winter. With highs around 20 degrees and windy, I wouldn't have had the courage to run in those conditions without the Kumo with a Nightlight Sleeping Pad and hip belt. It was a no-brainer to upgrade the pad for more support and potentially more insulation in case I got injured and had to wait for help in incredibly cold conditions.

On race day, the weather was 35 degrees and raining at the starting elevation. The Kumo allowed me to "comfortably" run in the harsh weather conditions, since we were not allowed to stash additional gear or layers at any aid stations. I was probably over-prepared, but still needed 80% of what I was carrying in my pack to keep warm on the rainy and freezing day. At one point, my fingers were so cold that I needed help zipping up my fleece at an aid station. The volunteers kept checking runners for hypothermia, but I was even more impressed that these volunteers were spending hours, some even spending the night at these remote aid stations just to help us complete this course.

The day after the race, I thought to myself: "I should run an ultramarathon in each month of the year in order to 'stay in running shape.'" I went from never running a marathon to committing myself to 12 more. Maybe not the smartest idea, but it made sense to me at the time.

In the following months, I continued to run on some of the toughest trails I had seen in the southeast, as I was not interested in running on streets or setting personal records, but rather my main intent was to enjoy the mountains. I mapped out routes each month that would take me over the marathon distance on-trail, and each time I took my Kumo with me. Some notable runs included running from my front door to the top of Mount Mitchell, an out-and-back on the Shut-in Trail, and a day run of the Art Loeb Trail.

Months down the road, a friend was interested in backpacking an approximately 28-mile section of the Mountains-to-Sea Trail. The trip he planned involved meeting him late at night and driving another car to where we were supposed to start. I wasn't interested in staying up late and thought that this is a great opportunity to attempt a run with a full pack. I was going to run the shuttle on foot leaving my car at our finish point and setting up camp at our meeting location (which was their starting point). Problem solved! I got to sleep and get a nice run in.

I packed the Kumo with three days of food, a quilt, Gossamer Gear's "The Two" tent, and some rain gear, and then took it out on the 28-mile run. The pack weighed 26 lbs, but I definitely over-packed on food. Feeling hungry that morning, I bought a pizza and packed out half of it on top of the food I had already decided on bringing. Running that distance with a heavy pack definitely resulted in chafing, so it would have been smart to bringing tape to cover up those areas. In the end, I was able to run the distance one way in an afternoon and then walk back with my friends over the next two days. The perfect trip, really.

I would definitely recommend this versatile pack for trips similar to the ones I've described and for those expecting loads of less than 25 lbs (with small periods around 30 lbs probably being okay) on backpacking trips. For running, the hip belt can be raised to accommodate a more running appropriate ribcage hugging style along with tightening the shoulder straps. At this point, I have logged over 1,500 miles of running using the Kumo since starting my training for my first ultramarathon last year. The only way I can imagine improving the design for running purposes would be to make the shoulder strap and hip belt pockets slightly more durable. With all the bouncing, the items stored in those pockets wore holes in the pockets, which are my most accessible and favorite pockets.

It is now November, and I have ticked off 11 out of the 12 ultramarathons I told myself I would run this year. Meanwhile, in Denali, Cupcake the sled dog undoubtedly went on to run just as many miles as I did all last year during just the winter months, while he dragged a sled. Without a blog or social media, but with treats and praise from his fellow Denali rangers, he will have just started his working year dragging sleds full of gear and rangers into the backcountry and dragging debris and garbage out.

All that is left for me is December's ultramarathon, and I will have accomplished my goal. Any suggestions for my final run are welcome!

Your Pack Just Got Better with Custom, Exclusive N100D Robic Camo Jacquard Fabric

Your Pack Just Got Better with Custom, Exclusive N100D Robic Camo Jacquard Fabric

By now, you've probably seen the hype over our two new releases, the brand new Drifter Daypack and the Limited Edition Camo Kumo 36. What you might not know quite as much about is just how impressive the robic camo jacquard fabric is that we've used to design them. Read on to learn more about our custom N100D Robic Camo Jacquard Fabric–exclusive to Gossamer Gear.

Robic Camo Jacquard Fabric

Why You Should be Stoked about Our N100D Robic Camo Jacquard Fabric

The fabric we've used on both the new Drifter Daypack and the Limited Edition Camo Kumo 36 is a N100D Robic Camo Jacquard fabric. But, that's not all. This fabric is then coated with 1500mm of durable ultra tearing strength (UTS) polyurethane.

Through their testing experience, our fabric suppliers have found that Robic high tenacity yarn can decrease tearing 10-15% and abrasion 30%. A UTS coating can decrease tearing 50%. Therefore, when you combine these two–as we have–into a Robic+UTS fabric, strength against tearing and abrasion is increased 30% when compared to regular pack fabrics.

Robic Camo Jacquard Fabric

But, what's the Jacquard piece all about, you ask? Well, Jacquard is a type of fabric that has an intricately woven pattern. While many fabric patterns you see may be embroidered or printed on, a Jacquard fabric actually weaves the pattern directly into the fabric. This is what we've done with the classy new camo print you'll see on both the Drifter and the Limited Edition Camo Kumo.

Combine all of this info, and what do you get? Two incredibly stylish packs that are super strong, while maintaining the lightweight nature we treasure here at Gossamer Gear. This N100D Robic Camo Jacquard Fabric was custom made for Gossamer Gear, and is an exclusive with the company. You won't find packs looking this sexy and this tough anywhere else.

Camo Jacquard Fabric in Action on the Drifter

If you haven't met the Drifter yet, it's time. This stylish daypack is designed for daily life and travel. At just 24.04 ounces in weight, this pack will keep your digital goods protected, your out-and-about gear organized, and your entire office jealous.

The Drifter has a 22-liter capacity in the main pack body with a secure zippered top. It also has two front zippered pockets, ergonomic straps and back panel, dual on-strap pockets for your phone, sunglasses, or snacks, and micro daisy chain and lash points. To top this all off, the pack has two padded sleeves for both your laptop and tablet.

Robic Camo Jacquard Fabric

Camo Jacquard Fabric in Action on the Limited Edition Camo Kumo

We all know and love the Kumo. The medium size weighs in at just 18.7 ounces and the pack has an overall capacity of 36 liters. It comes with a detachable fast belt, rear mesh packet, several compression options, and more. It's a superlight backpack that is perfect for minimalist thru-hikers, ultralight weekend warriors, or even frontcountry travelers. It's a tough, frameless, timeless pack.

And, now, it's even tougher with our new fabric. It's also a limited edition, so if you're looking to truly solidify your deep love of the Kumo, do it by snagging one of these Camo Kumo limited edition packs!

Robic Camo Jacquard Fabric

Get Your Hands on this Camo Jacquard Fabric

As you for sure know by now, our brand new Drifter Daypack and Limited Edition Camo Kumo are made of some pretty badass fabric. They're also some of our sexiest packs yet. And, now until December 3–drumroll, please–they're also 20% off! So, hop on over to our shop to pick yours up today.

Make sure to share photos of your Drifter or Camo Kumo adventures with us by tagging @gossamergear and using the hashtag #takelessdomore. Happy trails!

What's in a Name? The Stories Behind Gossamer Gear's Pack Names.

Gossamer Gear backpacks didn't start off with snazzy names. They started off with the founder, Glen Van Peski, fiddling around with some homegrown models, searching for the perfect balance of light and functional.

"I would hike along with my buddy, Read Miller, talking about packs and how to make them lighter and more functional," Glen explains. "I named the first one I made the 'G1.' It was kind of a joke. We had no idea anything would come of my homemade contraptions. The 'G' was just the initial of my first name."

As Glen continued his attempts, the names followed–G2, G3, and so on.

"Finally by the fourth version, word was getting out on the early internet," Glen continues. The G4 was the model that launched the company he called "GVP Gear" at the time. "As my personal pack weight continued to decrease, I created the G5. And, when Ryan Jordan of Backpacking Light thought that was too heavy, I created the G6."

The G6 was so light that Glen said it "seemed like a mere whisper of a pack." Thus, the G6 was quickly renamed the Whisper. But, how did we get to the names of today's fleet of packs? And, what happened to the Whisper? Read on for all of this goodness–and more!

Murmur 36 Hyperlight Backpack

The Murmur backpack is 8.2 ounces of barely-there badassness. But, why is it called the Murmur? Well, the Murmur was Glen's Whisper model, but with side pockets added. The side pockets made the Whisper just a little "louder," so, reasonably, the Whisper became the Murmur.

Mariposa 60 Backpack

When Glen undertook a re-design of the venerable G4, the working model name was NextGen, as it was supposed to be the next generation of pack. As Glen began looking for a production name, he turned to good ole Google to search for light-related names. "Mariposa" popped up in his searches, Spanish for "butterfly." With the Mariposa backpack feeling light enough to take flight while you're on the trail, the name fit.

Photo credit: @cody.mathison

Gorilla 40 Ultralight Backpack

Grant Sible joined Gossamer Gear as its President in 2005 when Glen decided to bring in an equity partner so he could move out of having such an active role in the company. In 2002, Grant had thru-hiked the Appalachian Trail with a 40-liter backpack. Grant's trail name? You guessed it–Gorilla! Lightweight, but surprisingly durable, the Gorilla backpack is suitable for shorter trips, or hikers who know how to crush it in the minimalism department.

Silverback 50 Backpack

When rough terrain calls, the Silverback backpack answers. Crafted from resilient Extreema fabric and free of exposed mesh, the burly Silverback lets you slip through dense brush snag-free. It's essentially a beefier, load-hauling version of the Gorilla, a more mature, distinguished member of its tribe.

*Teaser! The Silverback is moving even further up in its ranks with a radical set of updates coming to you in mid-November. Keep your eyes out for this wild one.

Kumo 36 Superlight Backpack

Gossamer Gear is honored to have positive business partnerships in Asia and a strong fan base for our gear in Japan. "Kumo" is Japanese for "cloud" and also shares a kanji with "spider." The word "gossamer" is often used to refer to spider-web-like materials, those that are both light and strong. The name "Kumo" captures the essence of the Kumo backpack, while giving a nod to our great friendships across the Pacific Ocean.

Vagabond Daypack

Brand Ambassador, Ryan Sylva, has a knack for wandering his own paths. One of these paths connected the Arizona Trail, Hayduke Trail, Grand Enchantment Trail, and Moab-ABQ connection. He called this the Vagabond Loop, and to him, hiking this loop was about more than getting additional trails under his belt–it was about a way of life. The Vagabond daypack can hack it on the trail, but the secure zippered top closure, inner stash pockets, and tote handles make it urban/office ready, too. It can travel with you anywhere your soul decides to move you. It's an everyday bag with a nod to the dirtbag lifestyle.

More to come!

Read this far and are still wondering what ever happened to the Whisper? Well, we'll let you in on a little secret–it's coming back later this year! We're also getting excited about our upcoming Texas collection, a nod to our Austin home that will launch with the Lonestar and the Ranger. Oh, and there might be a camo Kumo and maybe even a "murse" (what?) coming down the line, so make sure to follow us on Instagram and Facebook to be in the know as all of this goodness becomes available!