Our 2024 Kakwa 55 packs have been updated with a substantially larger front mesh pocket, new Ultra 200X fabric, drain holes on the side pockets, tougher attachment points, and even more double stitching. Our first run of 2024 packs in August are sold out but we have more arriving late September (M and L sizes) and November (S size) which are on preorder now.
The Kakwa 55 is our premium ultralight, multi-day pack designed from the first principles of load carrying and ergonomics to provide the greatest function, comfort and usability for an ultralight pack. Developed from Dan Durston’s attention to detail and thousands of miles of backpacking experience, the Kakwa 55 has class leading load carrying, materials, and pocket design while weighing just 31 oz (890 g).
The Kakwa 55 brings genuine load carrying capability into the sub 2 lbs weight class.
Other packs this light generally sacrifice load carrying ability by omitting load lifters, lacking horizontal structure, and relying on less ergonomic shoulder strap and hipbelt shapes.
The Kakwa 55 solves this tradeoff through more efficient design and advanced materials including UHMWPE fabric and hollow aluminum tubing. Hollow aluminum tubing is a more efficient use of structural weight than the solid metal bars found in competing packs. We use this material to create a rigid frame with both vertical and horizontal structure at the same or less weight than competing packs that only have vertical structure.
This frame connects directly to the hipbelt for maximum load transfer and directly to the load lifters, which are rare on packs this light yet highly functional for shifting more of the weight off your shoulders and onto the hips. A capable structure is nothing without an ergonomic connection to your body, which is why the shoulder straps have a carefully developed S shape to contour around your upper body, while the hipbelt uses a dual strap design which cups your hips and has reverse pull 2:1 leverage for easy tightening. The result is a pack that comfortably and effectively manages loads up to 45 lbs.
Efficient access to your gear is a hallmark of ultralight pack design as it allows you to spend more time covering miles instead of digging through your pack.
What is needed is not a high quantity of pockets but rather a pocket layout that has been carefully considered to compliment and allow for a diverse range of storage possibilities while remaining simple enough to be easily organized.
For this, the Kakwa 55 has four types of pockets to optimize on-the-go access to your gear. First are the hipbelt pockets, which are designed to reliably operate one handed and easily accommodate medium sized items such as snacks, sunscreen, phones, and headlamps. That storage is augmented by dual top opening shoulder strap pockets which provide an ideal place for your phone for quick photos and navigation. These pockets also work well for small water bottles, sunglasses, and bear spray.
Additionally there is the innovative QuickPocket which consists of an easily reached compartment in the sidewall of the left side pocket. This allows you to stow and quickly access even larger items than normally possible, such as hats, mitts, maps and bulky snacks. Finally, a mesh style front pocket has been substantially increased in size for 2024 and quickly swallows the largest items like rain gear, tents, and cook sets.
Collectively, the Kakwa’s pockets are carefully considered so you can hike with maximum efficiency.
"The Kakwa is one of the most versatile and comfortable packs I've ever used for loads exceeding 35 lbs....this pack has my favorite carry feel".
"The low weight is impressive for a framed pack....and it provides excellent weight transfer to the hips. The pocketing is fantastic for accessing what you need during the day without stopping."
I Could Not Be Happier
"I’ve become a huge fan. It has smart places to put all the stuff, and carries all that stuff comfortably. I could not be happier to have it for the remaining 2,000 miles of the Eastern Continental Trail this winter."
Incredibly Well Designed
"The Kakwa has a famously excellent load carry. The whole setup is just so dang comfortable and user-friendly. It is in contention for best ultralight backpack on the market."
MATERIALS & QUALITY
In our backyard in the Canadian Rockies we often spend more time off trail than on, so durability in materials and construction is a top priority. With the Kakwa 55 we are using the innovative Ultra 200X fabric from Challenge Outdoor, where the face fabric is dominantly woven UHMWPE fibers (more commonly known by the brand name Dyneema®) which is several times stronger and more abrasion resistant than traditional nylon pack fabrics. This material laminated with an eco-friendly adhesive to a backing film to build a material that is incredibly durable, lightweight, and waterproof. For 2024 we are using the even tougher 200X version that adds additional reinforcement and a thicker internal film.
Simply using a tough fabric is not enough if the pack has weak points in the stitching or supporting materials. That's why the Kakwa 55 is fully double stitched with heavyweight thread by the same factory that builds packs for Arcteryx, and uses stronger folded seams. We’ve also used the same tough Ultra 200X material for the hipbelt pockets and side pockets so these exposed areas also have maximum durability. The front pocket is generally less exposed to the brush, but still we’ve sourced a durable knit mesh for this pocket that is much tougher than typical lycra mesh.
Ultra 200X Fabric
This fabric is dominantly woven UHMWPE fibers (more commonly known by the brand name Dyneema®) which is several times stronger and more abrasion resistant than traditional nylon pack fabrics. This material is laminated to a film backing to make the material waterproof.
Hollow Aluminum U Frame
The hollow aluminum inverted U frame provides vertical and horizontal structure at less weight than frame stay systems for more effective load transfer and comfort at loads up to 45 lbs / 20 kg.
Dual Strap Reverse Pull Hipbelt
This hipbelt design cups your hips, and makes tightening the belt much easier with 2:1 tightening leverage and an ergonomic direction of pull.
Shoulder Strap Pockets
These pockets provide an ideal place for your phone, bear spray, sunglasses, small water bottles and more. We attach them permanently for a more solid and user friendly connection.
The Kakwa's unique Quick Pocket is easily opened while on the move and provides quick access to larger items like hats, mitts, oversized phones, maps, and snacks.
This product is rated 5.0 of 5.0 stars.
It has received 47 reviews.
This fabric is dominantly woven UHMWPE fibers (known by the brand name Dyneema®) which is several times stronger and more abrasion resistant than traditional nylon pack fabrics. This material is laminated to a film backing to make the material waterproof. This pack uses the new 'X' version which adds a tougher inner film.
The inverted U frame provides both vertical and horizontal structure while the hollow aluminum tubing makes it lighter than flat frame stays.
Load lifters are often omitted on lightweight packs but are a key component of the Kakwa's exceptional load carrying ability.
The shoulder straps use an ergonomic S shape that fits almost everyone better than straight straps.
The dual strap hipbelt cups your hips while the 2:1 leverage and reverse pull make it easy to tighten.
Y shaped top strap allows items like bear canisters and tents to be strapped on top.
Eight attachment points around the pack make it easy to attach a wide range of items.
Dual hipbelt pockets are standard and have a refined design that operates easily with one hand.
Shoulder straps pockets are standard and provide handy storage for phones, bear spray, sunglasses, and small water bottles.
Unique QuickPocket on the left side provides on-the-go access to larger items than previously possible, such as hats, mitts, and maps.
A hydration port enables compatibility with bladders.
The front pocket uses a durable knit mesh that creates volume with pleats (folds) instead of using a less durable stretch mesh.
Pack is assembled with the highest quality including double stitching and bound seams at the same factory that builds Arcteryx packs.
The Kakwa 55 provides best-in-class load carrying, usability, and durability for a sub 2 lbs pack. To illustrate, the table below compares the Kakwa 55 to what is typically seen in this niche (50-60L packs under the 2 lbs mark with premium fabrics).
Inverted U frame provides vertical and horizontal support
Flat bars provide only vertical support (prone to rounding into a cylinder)
30 - 35 lbs
Ultra 200X (dominantly UHMWPE fibers)
Usually Hybrid DCF or UltraGrid (dominantly polyester or nylon fibers).
$350 - $500 (with similar spec)
31 oz / 890 g
30 - 35 oz / 850 - 1000 g
Complete pack (ounces)
30.5 oz (S), 31.3 oz (M), 32.2 oz (L)
Complete pack (grams)
865g (S), 890g (M), 915g (L)
Frame (3oz / 90 g) and backpad (0.5oz / 15 g) are included but removable.
Front pocket mesh
Heavy duty polyester knit mesh
Small: 15 - 18 " (37 - 46 cm)
Medium: 17 - 20 " (42 - 51 cm)
Large: 19 - 22 " (47 - 56 cm)
Hipbelt min & max circumference:
Small: 27 - 46" (69 - 117 cm)
Medium: 28 - 47" (71 - 119 cm)
Large: 29 - 48" (74 - 122 cm)
Hipbelt recommend waist size:
Small: 28 - 38" (71 - 97 cm)
Medium: 29 - 39" (74 - 99 cm)
Large: 30" - 40" (76 - 102 cm)
42" (107 cm)
33" (84 cm)
Unrolled Height (S / M / L)
31.5" / 33.5" / 35.5" (80 / 85 / 90 cm)
Internal Volume (S / M / L)
50L / 53L / 56L
External Volume (S / M / L)
1 year against defects
Browse the FAQ to learn more or get in touch if you have further questions.Contact Support
Q) What are the 2024 updates?
We are continually updating our gear with new ideas and in response to customer feedback to be as good as possible. For the 2024 Kakwa 55 we have substantially enlarged the front mesh pocket, added drain holes to the side pockets, changed to Ultra 200X fabric with a more durable internal film, added more attachment points, enlarged the attachment points with tougher webbing, added even more double stitching to the pack, and changed the side tensioners to LineLoc3's for smoother operation.
Q) What bear canisters can fit horizontally?
It is hard to fit canisters horizontally inside a 55L pack, but the Kakwa 55 uses a tapered shape that is wider at the top to enable many to fit. It tapers from a 33″ circumference at the bottom to 42″ at the top. A canister needs to insert about a foot into a pack to close it. At this position the pack has a circumference of about 40″, thus bear canisters with a horizontal circumference under 40″ should fit.
For the BearVault line, the BV425, BV450, BV475 and BV500 will fit. For the Bearikade line, the Scout and Weekender will fit while their Blazer and Expedition canisters are too large. Other canisters that fit are the Bear Boxer, Garcia Backpackers Cache and UDAP No-Fed-Bear. The Counter Assault Bear Keg is too large. Canisters that are too large to fit horizontally can be stored vertically inside, or horizontally on the top of the pack under the Y strap.
Q) What does the “Kakwa” name mean?
The word "Kakwa" has it's origins in the Cree language where it means porcupine. This word is used to name the Kakwa region in the Canadian Rockies where you'll find Kakwa Park, Kakwa River, Kakwa Falls and more. It's usage to name this pack is primarily a nod to the northern terminus of the Great Divide Trail (the most scenic and wild thru hike in North America) which ends at Kakwa Lake.
Q) How much can this pack hold?
Ultralight hikers (e.g. <10 lbs of gear) with kits that are compact (e.g. down sleeping quilt) will find they can fit a week of food reasonably and can stretch that to 10 days or beyond. Conversely, hikers with light but not ultralight baseweights (e.g. 10-15 lbs) will find it is a good 3-7 day pack. Traditional hikers with ~20 lbs baseweights will find this to be a good pack for 1-4 day trips.
Q) What is not to like?
The Kakwa 55 is one of the most popular ultralight packs and really is the complete package with excellent load carrying, features and materials a great price. However, it is not the right pack for everyone. If you are more of a traditional hiker with loads often near the 45 lbs load limit, you may prefer a heavier pack with more generous padding. Conversely, hikers with super light baseweights and preferring shorter hikes will find the Kakwa 55 excessive for their needs and will be better served by a smaller pack.
Lastly, the Kakwa 55 has a more substantial frame than other packs in this weight class which does complicate the construction such that are are unable to seam tape it. As such, you may wish to seam seal the pack or use a pack liner for wet conditions even though the fabric itself is waterproof and the pack will shed ~95% of water.
Q) Is this pack waterproof?
The Ultra 200 material is 100% waterproof with an impenetrable plastic backing on the Ultra 200 fabric that is much more durable than traditional PU coatings. However some water can seep in via the seams which are not taped. We do not tape the seams partly because we use seam binding which makes them stronger but too bulky to tape, but also because our more capable frame requires seams that are too complex to be seam taped (e.g. many layers of material sewn into the seams). As a result, the pack ends up being water resistant but not fully waterproof. If it rains for hours, a bit of water will seep into the pack.
We suggest to keep your sensitive gear like clothes and sleeping bag in waterproof sacks and then everything else will be fine, but for greater protection you can use a pack liner or seam seal the pack yourself.
This product is rated 5.0 of 5.0 stars.
It has received 47 reviews.
Just received the 2nd Gen. Kakwa 55 this week. Just in time for a 7 day trip in the Canadian Rockies.
Initial thoughts: Fit and finish are very good. My other pack is a medium Osprey Exos 48 which I really liked but found to fit a little big. It carried loads well although I was constantly having to cinch up the hip belt and adjust the shoulder straps to prevent it from sliding down. Felt like I was wearing an ill fitting corset(not that I would know what that felt like). I loaded up the Kakwa 55(medium) with 30lbs of gear and put it on. The hip belt appears to hug the hips well. Fiddling with the shoulder straps, sternum strap and load lifters the pack feels comfortable. Initial thoughts on the shoulder strap pockets are that they feel smaller than I expected. I tried putting my 600ml Katadyn B-Free into one of them and it sticks out the top more than expected. I placed a 600ml Hydrapak Speed flask in the shoulder pocket and it fits much the same. It is however at the perfect spot to sip from without removing it which is nice. Time will tell as to how well they will work for my intended purpose. The hip belt pockets are a nice touch and I am looking forward to using them for snacks, sunglasses and other little ditties I may want accessible while on the trail. The tapered side pocket fits a 1L Smart water bottle and my 600ml Katadyn B-Free nicely. I am able to access it without too much effort. The other side pocket fits my Helinox chair zero , Tenkara rod and trekking poles nicely. I likely wont have my trekking poles in that pocket while hiking though since I will be using them. I like the zippered side pocket as well for added storage. currently my tent stakes, buff, and long handle spoon are in that pocket with room to spare. The Large front pocket seems large enough for what I need at the moment. Currently I have my rain jacket, toiletries bag, and camp slides. If my tent fly is wet I will likely stuff it in here as well. The main compartment is roomy and holds the rest of my gear well with room to spare. Still working on a place to hang my bear spray. I tried removing the shoulder strap from the adjustment toggle but it's too tight with the stitching in the end of the strap. My intent was hang the bear spray holster on that strap. It would then sit down at the bottom of the strap still being accessible. I have ordered a different holster that will clip over the strap. I tried sliding the holster onto the hip belt between the hip belt pocket and pack. It fit snuggly but the shoulder strap inhibited access to the spray. We shall see how the new holster works once it arrives. Looking forward to the first trip shakedown. I'm sure there will be some slight changes with how I have things setup but overall I am happy with it.
Post trip review: I can officially say this is the best and most comfortable pack I have ever owned. After 7 days, 130KM, 2200M climbing/descending this pack delivered. I was able to carry all of my gear, 7 days worth of food(10.5lbs), water. 30.5lbs total pack weight to start and finished with 21lbs pack weight. longest day on the trail was 22.5km 5ish hours with the pack on and it was comfortable the whole time. A few very minor things that I found that bothered me.
The shoulder strap pockets which I used for water bottle carrying were a touch high but that is likely due to my shoulder/body size. I found it was a bit awkward to sip from my soft flasks.
The zippered pocket on the left side pouch intrudes into the side pouch when there is stuff in it and can make it difficult to stuff larger items like my chair-zero into the pocket.
These are very minor complaints and as far as I am concerned this pack is a winner!!
Pack even fits in a bear box(see photos).
My bear spray holster worked very well on the lower portion of the shoulder strap(see photos).
Glad you're liking the pack. In case it's helpful, I like to use a shoulder strap pocket for my bear spray. I carry the smaller size (8 oz?) and then it fits pretty much perfectly in there. I snug up the opening so I can yank it out if needed but otherwise the cinch cord is around the neck of the bear spray.
The shoulder strap pocket position will vary depending on the fit. If someone has larger shoulders and/or is tall for their size then they'll be high whereas if if the opposite is true they'll be low.
I find the best uses of the shoulder strap pockets are my phone, bear spray, and sunglasses but some water bottles do work.
Great pack. Very well made. Carries weight very good.
The Kakwa 55 has features I want (spacious hipbelt pockets, light but supportive frame, waterproof) without useless “features” (random pockets and straps everywhere, raincover, “brain” section). Highly recommended.
What everyone else says. Its amazing
Love it. Roomy, tough, comfortable, and dry. Just got to take it on a 20 mile overnight in torential rain, snow, and mud. Well designed zipped and unzipped pockets. Great piece of kit. I’m fortunate to have one.
Sorry, no pics of the pack. But here's some of the dog. She thought the pack was nifty, too.