Ultralight Packs: How Robust are the Materials?

Many people that I speak to are getting interested in the next generation of ultralight packs that are on the market. Mind you, everyone seems to have the same question: just how robust are they?

Well, we shouldn’t kid ourselves that this kind of gear is as sturdy as say a huge Karrimor behemoth, but ultralightweight gear can be quite durable. One important point here – that should be obvious. These packs are designed to carry low weights. Most can cope with a good weight range and will allow you to carry 5 days or so of food, but they assume reasonably lightweight kit.


This is the heaviest material that I will fit into my category. Dyneema is pretty strong. Dyneema material (whatever the colour) has a white thread through it that makes a kind of square pattern. This white thread is the Dyneema material proper,a ballistic nylon that is used in the manufacture of bullet proof vests! You may develop a hole in your pack, or some wear, but the ‘run’ in the material simply will come to a halt at the Dyneema fabric. Apparently, this stuff is so strong that it won’t take dye, hence the tell-tale white grid on every piece of fabric.

All of my packs are made from Dyneema. Some have been used for three years in some pretty demanding situations and they’re standing up to the strain well. My ULA Conduit pack weighs a little over 600 grams and can carry a solo backpacking kit quite happily, whether including a tarp or tent (up to 2 kilograms or so) and food for four days or so.

I could go lighter but I’ve stuck with Dyneema (for the moment) because I trust this with airline baggage handlers. Remember, if you use walking poles these have to fit inside the pack and be stashed in the hold.

Most people – despite how rough he terrain is they are walking through – should be completely happy with Dyneema.

But you can go lighter.

The Ultralight producers regularly make packs out of lightweight sinylon and some even use Spinnaker fabric. These packs are a magnitude lighter – up to 50% lighter than the Conduit for a similar capacity.

I’d be more nervous about these going through baggage handling and I’d be more careful with them when scrambling or walking through areas of tall undegrowth. That being said I’ll probably get hold of one of these later in the year.

Often manufacturers re-enforce hard wear areas on these packs with a little Dyneema, to give extra strength.

Here are some links to look at:

Golite (Dyneema)

ULA (Dyneema)
Mountain Laurel (ultralight)
Gossamer Gear (Ultralight)
Granite Gear


  1. I got a Gossamer Gear Miniposa recently. It’s made of silnylon and whilst you wouldn’t want to go rolling through gorse bushes with it, it appears to be really well made and I’ve no worries about it wearing out any time soon. I think I’d wrap it in plastic or something if I was putting it through airline handlers.

    The really interesting thing is what buying this rucksack told me about my evolution to lightweight travel. I started out in the early 90s with what you so rightly describe as a Karrimor Behemoth (I’ve still got it in the attic) packed with heavy stuff. This year I bought the Miniposa, which is one of Gossamer Gear’s smallest packs, and I just can’t fill it! I carry so little these days that I can’t even fill a small rucksack. If I could go back to 1998 and find myself on the Pennine Way, where I often couldn’t get up again after sitting down in the afternoons, I’d never believe it. What a difference a decade makes…

  2. Miguel Marcos says:

    I have a golite breeze which is dyneema and I’m still happy with it.

    Regarding baggage handling with lighter material bags, you could always stuff the backpack into a regular duffel bag and leave the duffel bag at a hotel or whatever to pickup on return.

  3. Ian,

    How true is that! I think I’m filling my Conduit even with a tent – and then I realise that most of the space is taken up with an uncompressed sleeping bag.

    Look at the current Trail for a funny picture on how much gear their lightweight gear guru carries.

  4. Miguel,

    Yep you could do that. Seems a bit extreme though!

    If it wasn’t for the walking poles I could take my Conduit on as hand luggage!

  5. I’ve also used a Conduit for a few years and it has stood up to some rough treatment well. I also use a part dyneema MLD Zip. I try to always lay it down on its base, and it too is still in one piece.

  6. Miguel Marcos says:

    > Yep you could do that. Seems a
    > bit extreme though!

    Yes it does but if one is really desperate…

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