Klymit Motion 35

The Klymit Motion 35 Backpack.
The Klymit Motion 35 Backpack.
(stock photo)


In late 2013 I started hearing rumors that Klymit, a company I have bought a fair amount of gear from and wrote some great reviews about (ref 1, ref 2, ref 3), were in the process of bringing a backpack to the market. I did not put a lot of trust in these rumors because it did not seem like Klymit would be the kind of company to bring a backpack to the market. They have partnered with a number of companies that make backpacks to supply their airframe support technology for makers of backpacks. This rumor changed when I was handed a Klymit Motion 35 in January of 2014 at the PCT Kickoff in Southern California.

I was briefly told about its features and to give it a go “if it looked like something that would work for me“, no strings attached. Having been involved in building a backpack for the last two years I did not really expect to get much, and to be honest, probably not any, use out of it. All of that changed when I found myself without a backpack for a three day hike I was invited to. My primary backpack was off getting some repair work, my prototype was off getting another few modifications done to it, another backpack I own was being used by a friend hiking the pct, and the last backpack I had sitting around was just too small. This left me wondering “hmm” but I recalled that Klymit backpack sitting in my gear room and went and grabbed it to see if I could get my gear into it, and more importantly, if it was even going to be a viable backpack for me.

So I pulled off the tag and opened it up and thought “hmm, not sure its big enough”, even though it is stated to be a 38-liter backpack. Looks were mighty deceiving with this backpack. I should start off by saying that the Klymit Motion 35 is a front panel loading backpack. I looove front panel loaders and it was the only reason I agreed to take it, because my love from front panel loaders just makes it so I cannot turn them down. After laying out all my gear I started loading it up in the traditional front panel loader method (which is similar, but still different enough, from a top loading backpack) and after dumping it all out a couple of times I finally figured out how to make it happy – my fellow front panel loading hikers will know each front panel loading backpack has its own unique characteristics of how to make them happy.

After surprising myself that I not only got it all into the pack, but had a crazy amount of room left over, I only needed about 22 liters of volume for the hike, I jumped up off the floor and put it on.

First thought were: wow.

I had both a good wow and a not so good wow coursing through my brain at the same time.

The not so good wow was it was pretty dang stiff vertically.

The good wow was just  how comfortable it felt, with the exception of being too stiff.

I took the backpack off, deflated the Airbeam pack frame that was inside of it, and put it back on, and it was a “ahhh, that’s better!

Then it was like “OMG that feels awesome!

As my long time readers know, I have tried and used a whole lot of different backpacks that are on the market. The list of backpacks in the sub-40 liter range is not all that big and most of them have been on my back at some point. Almost every American cottage made backpack I have put on. A number of non-cottage backpacks in the 20-40 range I have not only put on but given a serious workout.

So when something makes me go “OMG” in a good way, it really just makes me go, well, “wow“.

Now let us just be clear here… as a hiker that typically hits the trail with a sub-5 pound bpw backpack, there is one really big reason why I am not usually going “wow” when I put on a UL/SUL/XUL backpack… and that is: super light weight, and extreme light weight, backpacks usually have little to zero cushioning, in order to reduce weight.

The S/J style straps are very nice! Not the normal "s" style nor the "j" style, somewhere in between and something I *really* like!
The S/J style straps are very nice! They are not the normal “s” style nor the “j” style, somewhere in between and something I *really* like!

The one thing that I cannot do here is call the Klymit Motion 35 a “lightweight” backpack. It specs out at 1.29 lbs / 583 grams. That is almost 500 grams heavier than my normal summer backpack – of which I have a few thousand miles on. My largest backpack that I own, the ZPacks Arc Blast is 52 liters / 3,200 ci  and is 16.5 ounces (468 grams) which is almost double the volume and still lighter than the Klymit Motion 35. That makes the Motion 35 a pretty heavy backpack in my book.

But, does that weight payoff, is there justification in those extra ounces? The answer to that is yes.

Allow me to talk backpack theory for a moment. For many years the goal of backpacks has been to get lighter and lighter and eventually reach a point where they are nothing but a ‘bag with straps1 and as somebody with one of the worlds lightest backpacks, I can say that I have done my part to help push that movement forward, for better or worse. A lot of this changed a few years ago when the master backpack designer Brian Frankle was approached by Ron Moak, the owner of Six Moons Design, and together2 they set out to blow away all the trends and present-theories on designing backpacks – and instead to work on building backpacks that were first and foremost, properly designed. The issue of weight… become inconsequential. The issue of having all the latest trends and features of a backpack… thrown out the door. Instead, lets build a backpack that focuses on proper load distribution, proper harnesses, proper center of gravity (CoG), and so forth. Now, the importance of all of this really has started to drive home the point for a lot of hikers, myself included, that a properly designed backpack that makes a 10 pound load feel like 5 or 6 pounds, or a 20 pound load feel like an 8 or 10 pound load, is, perhaps, just perhaps, something worth giving serious consideration too.

Now this is not an article/review on SMD or their backpacks, but I am hoping that all of you reading this are seeing the point I am trying to make. That being, if a backpack is twice as heavy as what I am using now, yet is designed in such a manner that the load feels lighter by wearing it, it is something I recommend you stop and consider, and try for yourself. I have spent all year putting this theory to a test. I have to say, I am becoming a convert.

(sidenote: for those not use to reading my articles and reviews, I don’t just talk specs… I talk theory, I talk philosophy of use… I try to educate… I try to get folks to think about new things and new ideas. If all you are after is just some review that is throwing numbers and facts at you, you should just stop reading at this point – but a lot of my other articles will likely interest you)

Alrighty, back to the weight of the Klymit Motion 35. I will be the first to stand up and say “yeah, its a heavy backpack, especially for only being 35 liters“.

Allow me to share this statement that was shared with me, regarding this issue, by somebody that was involved in the design of the Motion 35:

This pack {the klymit motion 35} is a return to the roots of a backpacking pack… there is nothing pretentious here… it is a pack to be a forgettable part of your outdoor experience because it is so comfy and intuitive to use.

You know, I really do like that.

I have shared my thoughts with Klymit regarding the weight, and I do not want it to  sound like the weight is a negative… I just spent the last five or six paragraphs trying to make that point… the thing is, though, that a lot of the weight is rather unnecessary. To term myself in the whitepaper I wrote about this pack, “the hardware is overkill, all of the straps could be narrower and thus lighter, the haul loop and axe loop are comically huge, and the hip belt adjustment system is taking things too far for a 35 liter backpack”.

The Klymit Motion 35. A really nice looking backpack and crazy comfortable. Here it is without side pockets, compression straps and bungee cords.
The Klymit Motion 35. A really nice looking backpack and crazy comfortable. Here it is without side pockets, compression straps and bungee cords.

This past weekend I was at a friends house, showing him the pack, and as somebody who makes a lot of his own gear, he was kind enough to break out some of his ‘modification tools’ and for a good hour we slowly started whacking off parts of the backpack that I felt were just overkill. A lot of strapping went bye-bye. All of the compression straps went bye-bye (I have yet to understand why backpack makers put compression straps on backpacks this size… if you got so much crap in there that you need compression straps, you should probably just stop carrying so much crap, or use a bigger backpack, but preferably, dump some of your gear out and learn that you actually can hike without so much crap). Opps, mini-rant there, sorry ;)  We also cut off the silly bungie cords and the loops they go through.

All said we cut off, I am guessing, around 5-6 ounces of straps and hardware. It did not stop there though. As a front panel loader lover, and a purist one at that, the idea of side pockets just annoyed me, so off they went too. I never used them, so, why not. I carry my water in specially designed hip pockets and when needed a bladder, which btw fits really well inside of the pocket where the Airframe normally fits, which I took out after my first hike and it has never gone back in – I found it to be totally unnecessary at loads under 10 pounds.

What we ended up with was one very sweet and clean looking front panel loading backpack!

Let me just say it and get it out of the way…

The Klymit Motion 35 is the most comfortable sub-40 liter backpack I have ever used!

You have no idea how much I just needed to say that. It just brings a smile to my face every time I put on this backpack.

Granted, I do not think I have ever hiked with more than 10 pounds of weight inside of it – and it is rated at 35 pounds by Klymit, though I have no idea how you could shove 35 pounds of gear inside of it. If I had much over 15 pounds of gear inside of it, I am guessing that I would want to put the Airbeam frame back inside of it. Like any backpack, once you get much over that 12 or 15 pound limit you just want a bit of a structural support. I did load it up once with 11 pounds of gear, just to see, and it felt like it needed the frame. Thankfully all of my gear plus food for a half-week does not tip the scale over 10 pounds, so, good enough for me.

I will also share this: a lot of you who follow me know I am a stickler when it comes to CoG (center of gravity) and if a backpack, properly loaded, causes me to have CoG problems, it either goes up for sale or goes in the trash. CoG on SUL backpacks is key because most SUL backpacks are not able to handle load strain on the neck, shoulders, lower back muscles, and eventually on your hips. Probably 8 out of 10 times that I hear SUL hikers saying they are hurting it is because of CoG issues. The other ~2% are typically because the backpack does not have enough padding/support/comfort built into them and its just straight-up painful to be wearing – yes, it is possible to have a SUL backpack that hurts. When it comes to a front panel loader, as previously stated, it takes a bit of a different approach to loading. What I have found is that the Klymit Motion 35 has a rather good CoG, without the airbeam support, up until about 8 pounds of gear/food/water. Much beyond that and no matter what I try I start getting collapse/compression issues which results in the load pulling backwards, and thus there are CoG issues. I am positive this would be resolved by using the airframe, even if it is only 20 or 30% inflated. My pack loading setup does not involve any heavy items in the outer pocket, only a 3 ounces wind jacket, a 5 ounce rain jacket, a 0.53 ounce trowel + TP, and a couple of PROBARs. So, all of that to say that if you are thinking of having 10+ pounds of gear you should probably leave the airframe in there and inflate it just enough to give it some rigidity, but not so much that it causes the pack to be stiff as a 2×4, because that will make it so that the backpack does not conform/shape to your body, which it does really well without the airframe, and a SUL backpack that hugs your body is a backpack that just feels better.

My hat goes off to Matthew Lagas-Rivera2 who Klymit worked with to build these backpacks. He did an amazing job of making a front panel loader that can potentially appeal to the masses, be it for a weekend hike, use around town, something to throw into the truck or car loaded up with gear, or for the SUL/XUL hiker looking for an absolutely amazingly comfortable backpack!

Where To Buy:

Klymit, Direct


Thank you,
+John Abela

In accordance of USA Federal Trade Commission 16 CFR, Part 255: I hereby declare that as of the day of publication of this article I am a sponsored hiker of Montbell America, Black Rock Gear, Suluk46. The Klymit Motion 35 I have used and herein reviewed was given to me by a private individual.

1) ‘bag with straps’ is a term Henry Shires, the owner of TarpTent, has made infamous when asked why he does not make backpacks.
2) Brian Frankle joins SMD
3) Matthew Lagas-Rivera is the owner of Elemental Horizons.

16 thoughts on “Klymit Motion 35

    1. Oh, that’s right… the hybrid S/J design… yeah, I will update the article with that. Thanks. I was so focused on “comfort” I stayed away from specifics, but that is worth mentioning for sure.

  1. John – Informative as always and on numerous levels. My eyes must be only used to things in the distance as I cannot pick up the final weight after removal of superfluous materials. Thanks, JD

    1. Looks like 538 grams. But I have no idea what it was before we removed the straps and sidepockets as I did not weigh it. It was more than the version they are selling, as the one I was given was a pre-release version.

      1. So, since the currentlty available model (from Kylymit) weighs less than what you were provided, and since you were able to remove 5-6 ounces (140-168 grams), and the current model’s stated weight is 583-grams, one might hope that the current model after the ‘Abela-Alterations’ would be at 443-grams or lower (under a pound). Is this a reasonable expectation? Thanks

        1. Hey JD, I don’t want to say “yes”… all I can say is “I just don’t know.” The pockets are different on the version on the market and I have no idea how much they weigh. We took off four or five buckles, probably a couple feet of 1″ webbing, bungee cord, haul loop, yadda-yadda-yadda… some of which others might want to keep. I just cannot sit here and say “you’ll save ‘x-ounces'”. In the end, at a pack that is at this weight already, the difference between 1 oz and 4oz of stuff, is just not going to matter all that much… its still a “heavy” pack for all accounts and purposes, given its only 38 liters of volume. We’re sitting here talking about a pack that is only 9 ounces less than a ULA OHM 2.0 yet half the volume.

  2. Great review, thanks for letting us know about this! Been following you for a while, have much respect. Have a couple questions: would you ever be able to use a folded thermarest prolite instead of the air beam thingy? (Or any mat for that matter). And I know this is a big one- since the packing on a front loading pack is very specific, would you ever do a video on packing this up? Thanks again John!

    1. Hey Lucia.

      (1) probably not… the sleeve is pretty narrow, as it is a fairly narrow backpack (something I really like). The Klymit Airbeam is fit to go into it really well. I know what you are thinking/getting at, but probably not going to happen due to the narrowness of this pack.

      (2) Perhaps. Do you care more about how to load it, or how big it is and what all can fit inside of it?

      1. Thanks John, had a feeling that was the case.
        I’m interested in both, but mostly how to load. If you’re not into shooting something, perhaps a written description? Many thanks again!

  3. Remember the cost comparison issue as well, the ULA OHM 2.0 cost $210 and I do not know whether you can get discounts on this bag. I was able to get the Klymit Motion 35 in M/L size for a paltry $69.95 from STP (the last price, which was right before they got rid of them, was $50 on clearance).

    ULA OHM, 32.5 ounces for a M/M size, 3,600 total cu in or 59L, $210
    Klymit 35, 24.5 ounces for a M/L size, 2,318 cu in or 38L (35+3), $70

    The ULA vs the Klymit, is: 33% heavier but carries 55% more capacity, but its real world cost is 200% more. Ok, so real U/L backpackers won’t carry a heavy pack like the Klymit, but they also don’t need 59 Liters, unless you are carrying someone else’s load as well. Then again, you can do the modifications John did (about 16 ounces for all 35 L) or if you really want to go lighter, you may purchase a Z-Packs zero ultralight in medium 36 L size, fully configured with side bottle holders, mesh, hip belt and roll top closure for $185 and 7.3 ounces.

    1. One more thing: “The one thing that I cannot do here is call the Klymit Motion 35 a “lightweight” backpack. It specs out at 1.29 lbs / 583 grams. ” I guess you are not thinking that your backpacks are ultralights or superlights? I mean, look at the ‘common’ market and let me know, outside the ’boutique/couture’ manufacturers like gossamer, zpacks, etc, a comfortable 35 L pack that weighs in at less than 1.29 lbs, it being a rather uncommon occurrence which brings me to the pack I just purchased, a Granite Gear Virga 2, size Long, which at 58 Liters and 3540 cu in capacity (58L) weighs in at 1.256 pounds (20 oz) and it is comfortable up to 20 lbs (or up to 28, depending who is reviewing it). Yes, it is best if used with a closed cell foam pad rolled up inside to give it shape, old-school style.

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