For avid backpackers, the search for a lightweight pack that is both comfortable and able to carry a hefty load seems to be never-ending. Gear maker and retailer Kuiu believes it's come up with a solution, with its redesigned Ultra and Icon lightweight backpacking systems that can handle up to 150 lb (68 kg).
The carbon fiber frame on these two backpacks is the key, weighing in at a tidy 10.5 oz (298 g), or about the weight of a can of soda. But this isn't just any carbon fiber material; it's what is called spread tow carbon fiber, that doesn't warp and according to Kuiu is "literally stronger than steel."
The pack frame works as the base of a customizable system that allows you to swap out different-sized packs and easily transition from a daypack to a multi-day backpack. Regardless of the size, every pack is made of 500D Cordura rip-stop fabric, making it virtually waterproof and extremely durable.
Kuiu has also focused on making these two new models more comfortable by incorporating a suspension system that distributes weight more thoroughly through the hip belt. It's eliminated the middle of the back contact point, so with the pack contacting only the shoulders, lower back and hips, airflow is improved and the pack doesn't slide down your back.
Every pack also has a built in T-lock track system that lets you make adjustments based on the length of your torso.
The Ultra line starts with a volume of 1,800 cubic inches (29.5 liters) and a weight of 4 lb 1 oz (1.8 kg) and goes up to 6,000 cubic inches (98 liters), which weighs in at 3 lb 12.7 oz (1.7 kg). The Icon line starts at 1,850 cubic inches (30 liters) and goes up to 7,200 cubic inches (118 liters) and tops out at a svelte 5 lb 12 oz (2.7 kg). The latter would make it one of the largest capacity multi-day backpacks on the market.
There are other rugged ultralight backpacks out there that weigh less and have similar features, like the Granite Gear VC series, the Ultralight Adventure Equipment Circuit pack, and the Gossamer Gear Mariposa 60. But none of these have the weight carrying capacity or ability to swap out different sized packs like the Kuiu Ultra and Icon packs.
Kuiu reportedly spent two years working on the design of the new packs and enlisted the help of Rocket Composites, which creates carbon fiber products for the aerospace and automobile industries.
Prices start at US$349.98 for the full Ultra 1800 kit. Take a look at the following video to see the Kuiu packs in the wild.