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Samaya ULTRA35 Review: Minimalist Dyneema Pack Worth Maximalist Price

Samaya is a French brand that launched in 2018 wtih a Dyneema four-season mountaineering tent. Its motto is 'do more with less,' and the use of Dyneema fabrics for packs matched this ethos.

Samaya ULTRA35 alpine pack on Seiji Ishii skiing across frozen lake(Photo/Kris Roylance)
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The Samaya ULTRA35 is an ultralight minimalist alpine pack with the added bling of Dyneema. On paper, it checks all the boxes for a high-performance alpinist. But it comes at a price — an MSRP of $440 for a pack of this volume is a big ask.

I tested the pack over a week of backcountry, multipitch ice climbing in Alaska in February. Our team approached by skiing to the approach slope, and then cramponing or kick-stepping up to reach the route. Each mission was a day mission, so overnight gear was never necessary.

In short: The Samaya ULTRA35 is a high-end pack for alpine missions when every gram — and mobility — matters. It effectively shuttled loads across and up demanding terrain in highly challenging conditions, almost vanishing on my back. But a few nitpicks made some tasks difficult and could easily be remedied.

Samaya ULTRA35


  • Body material 150-denier Dyneema/polyester composite
  • Bottom panel material 300-denier woven Dyneema
  • Suspension Tubular aluminum perimeter frame and 5mm PE foam sheet
  • Shoulder straps 8mm EVA
  • Dimensions 55 x 34 x 20 cm
  • Capacity 30 + 5 L


  • Ultra low weight
  • Excellent mobility
  • Bomber fabric
  • All accessories removable


  • Expensive
  • Some buckles too small to operate well with gloves
  • Some buckles easily clogged with snow

Main Features of the Samaya ULTRA35

Samaya ULTRA35 alpine pack
The prominent feature of the Samaya ULTRA35 is the Dyneema fabric; (photo/Seiji Ishii)

The apparent jewel in the pack’s feature list is the Dyneema fabric. Samaya uses 150-denier Dyneema composite material (polyester and Dyneema) for the pack’s body and 300-denier woven Dyneema for the bottom panel. The brand claims a 20,000mm water column waterproofness rating, and seals all the seams. The ice-axe pick holsters employ 1,000-denier Cordura.

Samaya ULTRA35 perimeter frame and back panel
The removable tubular aluminum perimeter frame and 5mm foam back panel; (photo/Seiji Ishii)

Another standout feature is the pack’s suspension. Many ultralight alpine packs in the 30L range have simple foam or plastic sheet back panels. Samaya uses a tubular aluminum perimeter frame and a dense 5mm-thick polyethylene foam sheet, both removable. The shoulder straps are generously padded for a pack this light, with 8mm-thick EVA foam.

A substantial grab handle/haul loop sits at the top of the back panel, while the minimalist waist strap and four compression straps are all removable. The front of the pack holds a removable stretch helmet holder. A zip pocket lives on the simple flap top, which covers a roll-top closure skirt. A zipped flap pocket at the top of the pack’s interior houses an aluminum key clip.

Removable compression strap on the Samaya ULTRA35
Every accessory on the Samaya ULTRA35 can be removed; (photo/Seiji Ishii)

The Samaya ULTRA35 with all included attachments weighs 1 pound, 13 ounces. With all removable items off, the pack has a claimed minimum weight of 1 pound, 1 ounce.

The Samaya ULTRA35 in Alaska

Samaya UTRLA35 on Seiji Ishii on ice route
The ULTRA35 on route; (photo/Paul Guzenski)

I have to admit that donning an always-white pack made of Dyneema elicits mixed feelings. I have used Dyneema packs from more prominent brands, only to be hugely disappointed, and have shredded Dyneema tents in one trip. I’ve thought that the use of Dyneema, which is supposedly tough as steel, could be a marketing ploy to empty the wallets of objective-driven gram-counters like myself.

So, I took a backup pack that had proven itself before for my annual winter trip to Alaska. I didn’t know anything about Samaya until a fellow contributor sent me this pack, unable to test it himself.

The Good

Bottom panel of the Samaya ULTRA35
The woven Dyneema bottom panel withstood extreme punishment without suffering a scratch; (photo/Seiji Ishii)

First off, the tubular aluminum perimeter frame, which seemed too minimalist to do much, felt like an immediate benefit. The sub-25-pound load immediately felt stable and correctly distributed on my back, but the pack also moved with me while I was skiing, fourth-classing the ice route approach slopes, or climbing the route itself.

Like other Dyneema products, the fabric felt stiff and crinkly in the sometimes single-digit weather. But the contoured shoulder straps felt almost luxurious for a pack in the ultralight alpine category.

The minimalist waist strap wasn’t effective at transferring load to my hips, but it wasn’t an issue with the loads I was hauling in Alaska, as each trip was a day’s mission. But it did laterally and torsionally stabilize the pack during aggressive movements.

When the going got steep and treacherous, the Samaya ULTRA35 shined. Of course, the minimal weight contributed to efficient upward progress, but the pack’s relatively narrow dimensions and flexible suspension system never hindered my sometimes awkward movements. The pack twisted with me and kept the load close to my back to enhance my balance in precarious moves on unstable snow or scree.

The ice axe attachment system worked much like others of the same type, and I had no issues keeping my tools secure. The side compression straps work as ski attachment points, but I never had to use them on this trip.

The Dyneema fabric indeed proved to be bomber. I carelessly threw the pack down at the base of every route and punishingly jammed gear in and out of it while it hung at every belay station.

At these belays, it got scraped and poked by razor-sharp ice screws and axe picks. And it survived a fall on a steep snow slope that jettisoned me across sharp granite and alder branches. There is only a tiny puncture on the back panel to show for this harrowing fall.

The Not-So-Good

Sternum strap on the Samaya ULTRA35
The buckle on the sternum strap was too small to handle securely with gloves, and it got jammed with snow; (photo/Seiji Ishii)

The tiny dimensions of the sternum strap buckle proved frustrating. I understand the quest to save grams on a pack like this, but handling this buckle with gloves was difficult — and most of the time, the buckle was jammed with snow.

Although the waist strap buckle is large enough, its design made it more susceptible to becoming clogged with snow than others.

Finally, the Samaya ULTRA35 is among the most expensive packs I’ve ever used in the 30L range.

Conclusions on the Samaya ULTRA35

Samaya ULTRA35 with ice axes on Seiji Ishii
When light is right and mobility is crucial, the ULTRA35 is a great choice; (photo/Kris Roylance)

If weight and mobility are paramount for your alpine or backcountry missions and your loads stay within the 30-pound range, the Samaya ULTRA35 was a durable, comfortable, and capable pack. It is not quite a rucksack, and has enough structure to manage loads that are a tad beyond ultralight status for a 30-ish-liter pack.

The Dyneema fabric has the “unobtainium” chic, and if my fall down the approach slope is any indicator, it may outlast every other alpine pack in my collection.

There are a few minor quibbles that could be addressed with minimal work. But otherwise, the Samaya ULTRA35 is an excellent choice when light is right and the terrain demands a pack that disappears on your back — if you can afford the premium-level price tag.

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