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Gossamer Gear Mariposa Backpack Review (2015 Model)

made by:
Philip Werner

Reviewed by:
On May 11, 2015
Last modified:August 17, 2015


Backpack maker Gossamer Gear overhauled their entire backpack product line this year (2015), including an update of the Mariposa Lightweight Backpack introducing a new unisex shoulder and hip harness, more durable fabric and mesh pockets, trekking pole holders, and color accents that make this the best Mariposa yet!

Backpack maker Gossamer Gear overhauled their entire backpack product line this year (2015), including an update of the Mariposa Lightweight Backpack, long considered one of the finest high volume (57 liters) ultralight backpacks made. All of Gossamer Gear’s backpacks are very popular with long distance hikers who demand lightweight gear that’s highly functional and durable.

New Improvements

This latest set of Mariposa design improvements include:

  • New unisex shoulder straps and a padded hip belt that provide women (as well as men) with better fit and comfort
  • Switch to more a durable fabric called Robic, a fourth generation high tenacity nylon, that’s more abrasion resistant than the thin Dyneema Grid that the company used previously
  • Even tougher rear mesh fabric that’s more tear and puncture resistant
  • Addition of color accents and webbing straps to the top pocket
  • Trekking pole holders
  • Heavier duty stitching in the interior of the pack that substantially improves durability
  • New XS size for women and young adults with shorter torso sizes (already very popular!)

The net result of these changes makes the Mariposa (29 ounces) a far more comfortable, durable, finished, and functional backpack, especially for hikers who are upgrading to a lightweight backpack for the first time.

The Gossamer Gear Mariposa

If this the first time you’ve considered buying a Mariposa Backpack, here’s a walk-through of the things that set the Mariposa apart from other lightweight backpacks.

Hip belt is available in multiple sizes

The Mariposa’s hip belt is available in multiple sizes so you can get a near custom fit, regardless if you’re skinny or have a few extra pounds around the middle. The hip belt also has two large sewn-on pockets which are invaluable for storing small essentials that you access frequently during the day. When you order a Mariposa, just select the hip belt size you need.

Lots of External Backpack Pockets

The Gossamer Gear Mariposa Backpack has 7 external pockets:

  • a zippered pocket in the top lid sized for maps and small items like a headlamp or your wallet/keys
  • two medium-sized pockets on the right side, large enough for storing 2 x 1 liter water bottles or a small cook pot
  • a large/long pocket on the left side, that I call a “quiver” pocket, suitable for storing a tent, tarp or hammock
  • a large front mesh pocket that’s good for storing damp gear or extra layers
  • two zippered hip belt pockets for storing DEET, sun tan lotion, or snack bars

On top of that, there are gear loops running up and down the sides, front, and top of the pack so you can rig up custom shock cord or webbing to secure even more gear to the outside of the pack, from solar panels to bulky sleeping pads.

When I pack the external pockets of a Mariposa, I put my wet water filter in the big front mesh pocket so it can drain (drain holes included) along with an extra empty water reservoir, rain jacket and pants, and a few snacks. If I’m carrying a tent, tarp, or hammock, I pack it in the long “quiver” pocket on the left side of the backpack so I can set up my shelter in the rain without ever opening the main compartment of my pack.

To counterbalance a shelter, I pack 1 or 2 liters of water in the bottom pocket on the right hand side of the pack and put my cook pot/stove/gas canister in the upper pocket on the right side. My maps and compass go into the top pocket on the backpack lid, along with extra hats and gloves, while my camera, SPOT, headlamp, sun tan lotion and other sundries go into the hip belt pockets. Having all this stuff on hand and accessible means that I can maintain a fast pace all day, which is the key for walking big miles on backpacking trips.

Gossamer Gear Mariposa - Mariposa Backpack, Circa 2009

Mariposa Backpack, Circa 2009 – You’ve come a long way baby!

Backpack Frame and Suspension System

The most important element of a backpack is the suspension system because more than anything else, it determines whether the loads you carry will be comfortable or not. The suspension system on the Mariposa consists of six components including:

  • Shoulder Straps
  • Hip Belt
  • Inner Aluminum Stay
  • Sternum Strap
  • Load Lifters
  • Removable egg-shell sit pad which serves as a multi-purpose, back pad

Revamped since the last version, the new Mariposa suspension uses the same internal aluminum stay to add stiffness to the pack and help transfer more pack weight to your hips. The frame stay is optional and can be removed to save weight, but it only weighs a few ounces and most hikers keep it in the pack. If necessary, it can be easily bent to fit your back better and adapt to your posture.

The shoulder pads on the 2015 Mariposa are now pre-curved for greater comfort to fit women and people with narrower shoulders and/or breasts. Extra padding has been added to the inside of the shoulder pads and hip belt providing a cushier feel than previously, but it’s non-absorbent and won’t retain any noticeable moisture in rain.

You can achieve an even cushier fit by replacing the closed cell foam pad that slides into the sit pad pocket on the back of the Mariposa with an Air Beam Pack Frame, also sold by Gossamer Gear, or replace it with a third party pad. However, the closed cell foam sit pad that comes with Mariposa has many uses – see the Gossamer Gear SitLight Sit Pad. for examples.

The Mariposa also includes load lifters which I consider a must-have on higher volume backpacks. Without load lifters, a heavily loaded backpack has the tendency to pull you backwards and off-balance. Load lifters help counter the backwards tilt of a heavy pack, bringing it closer to your back, and shifting more of the weight onto your hips.

How to Pack a Mariposa

If you use a regular internal frame pack today, but have been considering a switch to a lighter weight or frameless backpack, here are some tips on how to pack them. Most ultralight and lightweight backpackers put all of the gear, food, water, and water filter/purification supplies that they need for the day in the outside pockets of their backpack for easy access to it without having to take a long break.

Items that are not needed or items that need to stay dry are carried inside the backpack’s main compartment, customarily wrapped in a plastic compactor garbage bag and additional waterproof stuff sacks as needed. Despite using waterproof fabric, most backpacks (including ones made of cuben fiber) are not totally waterproof because they leak at the seams where a needle has passed thread through the fabric. With an extra waterproof coating, the Robic fabric on the new Mariposa sheds water well in rain, eliminating the need to carry a pack cover.


If you prefer a big backpack or if you are transitioning from a fairly beefy internal frame backpack to a lightweight one, I’d recommend getting yourself a 29 ounce Gossamer Gear Mariposa Lightweight Backpack. Switching from a 4+ pound backpack to one that weights under 2 pounds is a revelation if you haven’t tried it, but it doesn’t mean you have to downsize or replace all of your gear at the same time. The Mariposa is large enough in that respect to accommodate all of your existing gear today.

As someone who has gone through that process, I like the updated Mariposa because it is far more durable than the previous model and much more female-friendly with the new unisex designed shoulder pads and hip belt. These changes will increase the appeal of the Mariposa for more backpackers, who would benefit from switching to such a well thought out and time-tested backpack design.

Link to Mariposa Backpack Specifications at Gossamer Gear (click on Additional Info section of product page.) Please note, the internal capacity of earlier version of the Mariposa is the same as the 2015 model, which is 57 liters. Gossamer Gear changed the way they compute backpack volume in 2015, which is why it looks smaller, leaving out the volume of the extension collar which was included previously. 


  • Female friendly unisex shoulder pads and hip belt
  • Solid, reinforced side bottle pockets instead of mesh (which tears easily)
  • Side bottle pocket is reachable when wearing the backpack
  • Internal hydration sleeve and drinking tube keeper loops on both shoulder straps
  • Hip belt is available in multiple sizes so you can get a near custom fit
  • Top lid pocket includes large pocket and provides top compression
  • Great body hugging fit
  • Too many to list….


  • Be nice if the hip belt and top lid pockets had waterproof zippers
  • Not as much ventilation as mesh-backed packs in hot and humid weather

Disclosure: Philip Werner received a complementary Mariposa backpack from Gossamer Gear for product testing and review. He recently hiked 250 miles with it on an Appalachian Trail section hike. 

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31 Responses to Gossamer Gear Mariposa Backpack Review (2015 Model)

  1. Marco May 11, 2015 at 6:02 am #

    Philip, you know I like that pack, it is one of the best high volume packs out there. For a moderate weight pack, it is just plain good.

  2. Steve M May 11, 2015 at 9:18 am #

    Great review. Not sure the changes add up to enough reason to replace my previous generation Mariposa. I am glad to see the volume and layout is unchanged. My only issue is, as a lefty. I do not have the anility to carry a water bottle on the left side as i could with my Gorilla. But the Gorilla just was not big enough for me.

    • Philip Werner May 11, 2015 at 9:22 am #

      I wouldn’t upgrade unless you have fit issues with the old model’s shoulder pads or hip belt.

      Maybe you can convince Gossamer Gear to make a left handed Mariposa. They do made a extra tall and extra small version already, so it’s not a far-fetched request. I bet they would do a custom alternation for you and switch the sides on which the pocket are sewn. :-)

  3. Dan May 11, 2015 at 10:51 am #

    Great review of a great pack!

    Used my older version for 400 miles on the AT last year and will use it again this year. I kept the weight under 35 lbs during the hike and it always carried the gear well. I do like hearing that the mesh has been upgraded. I have a few small tears in mine.

    Thanks again for the review!!!

  4. Vince Varriale May 11, 2015 at 12:30 pm #

    I have been thinking about looking into this pack for a long time.

    I currently have an Atmos 65. The only time I use all of that space is during the winter. During the summer I have plenty of room. My summer base weight is around 15 but I’m awful about food. Trying to get a handle on that as well. I would love to reduce weight.

    my question is how does it do with 35lbs?

    I have been hemming and hawing between that or ULA.

    Any thoughts?

    • Philip Werner May 11, 2015 at 12:36 pm #

      35 pounds is the upper limit of most lightweight cottage backpacks, including Gossamer Gear and ULA. My advice would be to cut your weight by another 5-10 pounds or try a non-cottage pack that has a more robust frame. Exped makes women’s specific versions of the Lightnings in a 45L and 60L, and I’d recommend that you try them or an Osprey Exos if you can’t slash your food weight more. The Exped’s make better winter packs for 3 & 4 season use if you can only have one pack.

  5. Slow Gin Lizz May 11, 2015 at 12:37 pm #

    Hooray! Finally an ultralight pack with a women’s fit! I’m so excited, I might have to splurge and get this for myself.

  6. Grandpa May 11, 2015 at 3:32 pm #

    I’m getting REALLY tempted!

  7. Pau May 11, 2015 at 8:03 pm #

    Hey Phil
    Looks like you approve of every piece of gear that you get for free……….hummmmmm

    • Philip Werner May 11, 2015 at 9:38 pm #

      No. I actually write a lot of negative reviews of gear I get for free too. I think I’m one of the few outdoor bloggers who puts their readers before the companies that give them gear to review. I have no sponsors (in order to stay as impartial as possible) and I don’t accept paid placements by companies who want me to run positive advertorials for them…

  8. Vince Varriale May 12, 2015 at 10:30 am #


    Thanks for the reply and your observations. I do appreciate someone who puts many miles on a piece of equipment before giving a review. BTW, I’m trying to get my food weight down by keeping an eye on your past post and by looking at Skura’s book as well. I just have a fear of bonking out. This trip will tell me a lot.

    Thank you again.

    • Philip Werner May 12, 2015 at 10:40 am #

      I’ve put over 2000 miles on the Mariposa product line since 2008. I am really familiar with this backpack and its earlier versions.

  9. scott May 12, 2015 at 10:33 am #

    One of the best things about the Mariposa (previous model) is the hip belt pockets. This past winter I used my Deuter pack for a 6 night winter trip in the smokies, I really missed functional hip belt pockets for phone pics and snacks. The only reason I went with the Deuter is because my initial weight was approaching 35#s and that is just not comfortable with the Mariposa. For 3 season trips with 15-25#s, the pack is perfect.

  10. Robert N May 12, 2015 at 12:06 pm #

    I have the previous generation Gorilla. It’s a good pack made better by the 2015 improvements. I particularly like that they replaced the flimsy top and side tie down cords with straps. And it sounds as if the shoulder straps were improved, something which I felt needed attention.

    One improvement I would like to see is a roomier top flap. I find the flat top compartment too tight even for a map when the top is tied down. An inch or so of room would allow much easier access.

    Overall, though, my current pack is a very comfortable carry for loads around 25 lbs or so. Thank you for your reviews and your excellent site.

  11. Professor May 12, 2015 at 8:42 pm #

    What a coincidence. My Mariposa came in the mail yesterday (5/11; my 4th pack since 1988-my first ULW pack). I am excited to see you like it. I will be in the mountains at the end of the month to field test it and some other gear before my 100 miler this summer. If you don’t mind, I will post my thoughts after my trip.

    On a side note, I did a full pack and noticed pressure from the aluminum stay on my left side around floating rib height. What are your recommendations for bending it? Any “don’t do this” advice?

    • Philip Werner May 13, 2015 at 2:28 pm #

      I’ve never had to bend the stay in any appreciable way. You might want to call GG and get their advice. I suggest you go slow, although they’re fully replaceable if you mess up.

      Feel free to continue posting to the thread. Reader feedback is always welcome.

    • Marco May 13, 2015 at 4:11 pm #

      Yes, you can bend the stay. There is no big trick to it. I just put it on a scrap of plywood to keep it from getting scratched up. Measure about where you want it to bend. For example, a reduction of the arc is easy. Measure how high the arc is off the plywood. Or, measure the ends for bending more. A slight increase means it is bent. (I understand that it is a complex curve.)

      For straightening it a bit, you can bend it with your feet, shoes on, of course. Go easy, a little goes a long way.

      For bending it more, I just flip it over and position my feet where I want it to bend. Then pull up a bit. Again, a little goes a long way. If it is still stubborn, a length of 1/2″ black pipe will help. (I just borrow one from my wood clamps.)

      Sometimes you might not even know it is being bent. Check often. Again, check with a ruler, first, then after each bend. I never do more than 1/4″ at a time.

      Insure both bends, on either side are about even, by laying it flat and looking sideways, ie, along the plane of the top of the inverted “U”. Unless you have some injury or growth deformity, “even” usually works. But if one leg is a little longer, or, you have a minor spine curvature, a slight difference can be noticed. Example: If it is ONLY on your left side, then unbend that one a bit, likely no more than 1/2″.

      Most of the bend is about average for a male or female. So, it is usually a matter of a minor adjustments.

      DO NOT HEAT THE ALUMINUM. It will get real soft and stay that way. Bend/unbend it cold. And do not hit it with a hammer. This will usually cause sharp bends, not flowing bends. Drop Gossamer Gear a line at if you need more.

  12. Professor May 13, 2015 at 7:27 pm #

    Thank u for the great advice.

  13. Professor May 18, 2015 at 11:09 am #

    Minimal gear reaction. I did a light 10 mile hike on Sunday (83 degrees) to see if I want to bend the stay and how it carried weight. I packed 20.2 pounds of gear, snacks, and water. I did not take trekking poles as I wasn’t ascending/descending very much. I do feel the stay if I twist left, and it is much worse if I also lean forward (e.g., to pick something up)-but I don’t feel it when walking or twisting right. Based upon this first run, all I can say is that I love this pack. I was surprised at how well it rode my hips and how light it is. I am transitioning from a 42 pound pack (pack alone was 8 pounds Arcteryx Bora 95-needed space for my kids stuff plus mine) to UL. I am sold. My hike mate is impressed and is now trying to figure out what he can leave at home.

    I will try to bend the stay about 1/2 inch or less to see if that makes it perfect, but I give this a 9 out of 10.

    The 9 is because the back pad gets one’s back very sweaty (but reduction in weight is worth it). Also, compared to a large pack, top loading only is more awkward (narrow opening, top extender wants to flop)-but I think this is more an irritant because I have been with my other pack for 10 years and know exactly where everything goes. I am having to relearn and use outside pockets much more.

    I do a quick 3 dayer next week to try out my emberlight titanium wood stove, and my new bivy sack (titanium goat) and tarp (Borah Gear) set up. You guys helped me take the plunge into UL and so far I am loving it.

    Thank you

    • katereneebrown May 28, 2015 at 9:54 pm #

      Great review and comments! I’ve been a distance runner most of my life and have been going on short weekend to 4 day backpacking trips with my husband and dogs for several years now but I have a dream to start section hiking the appalachian trail and I am finding the more I lighten my pack the better I feel doing more miles (duh!) so I’ve convinced my hubby that we should start upgrading our gear. This is my first lightweight pack and while I’ve only had it out on one short weekend trip so far so good! There is plenty of room and it was so light!

      I agree with the professor on his comments. The top loading was slightly more difficult than my old deuter pack- with the top compartment it does want to flop over. But I am sure a lot of that is me needing to learn how to pack a new pack. I had my system down on my old pack. My back did also get very sweaty. Perhaps bending the stay a little more would help. Or not living and hiking in Texas ;)

  14. Judith Connaughton June 25, 2015 at 9:08 pm #

    For those with sweaty backs, I’ve found that replacing the sit pad with a piece cut from an old Ridgerest allows a little more air.

  15. Peter Hutchinson July 20, 2015 at 3:43 am #

    Thanks for another great review!
    I’m very interested in this pack for some long trails, but I think my load will exceed 35lbs when resupply is a bit limited or on dry stretches where I have to carry extra water. How does this pack cope with being pushed beyond the recommended 35lbs, say to around 40lbs?
    The other pack that I like the look of is the ULA Catalyst – are you able to make a comparison? Thanks!

    • Philip Werner July 20, 2015 at 6:15 am #

      Both of those packs suffer badly at the top end of their weight range. Try a pack from Paradox Packs, the Uniweep, it’s what I carry when I go heavy. Unbelievable carry and it has an external frame.

      • Professor July 22, 2015 at 4:56 pm #

        On 100 mile trip right now. Was under 25 pounds until philmont made us take a lot of gear, can give 35 pound feedback in few days……but so far pack works best under 30.

  16. Jeff Creamer July 25, 2015 at 3:41 pm #

    Peter, I carried a ULA Circuit to Philmont last summer and walked off the bus with 38.5 lbs. A much heavier load than I am used to carrying. I was very concerned about the coming two weeks with a load so heavy in a pack made for 35 lbs max. However, I was very pleasantly surprised at how well the pack handled. I think it is important how you pack when you carry a load that big in one of these lighter packs. I won’t get into the specifics of packing but keeping the heavy stuff near the middle really helps. I’m about to purchase the GG because I want to lighten up even more (41 oz for a ULA Circuit vs 20 oz for the mariposa).

  17. Professor July 30, 2015 at 9:00 am #

    Back from Philmont. Officially a 84 mile trek, but they suggest adding 20-30% for day hikes, food runs, etc., so my group thinks we did over 100 miles (GPS will confirm this week). Left base camp at 32 pounds, but we rotated gear day by day, so I got above 35 pounds without the lightweight frame. Pack does ride heavier on the shoulders above 30 pounds. Also, my foam back kept sliding towards the middle with a weird flop in the middle. Since I got home, I put the frame back in and the flop is gone. Will do a small 4-day hike next week with frame in (will also be below 25 pounds total…darn you Philmont and your extra gear!). But trying it back on at home, I think I am going to keep the 4 oz frame in it…..I am still transitioning from my older packs with a full internal frame and just like the feel better.

  18. bigglyguy September 3, 2015 at 12:50 pm #

    I’d be tempted but their shipping fees outside the USA are OBSCENE! Especially for ultralite products…

    • Philip Werner September 4, 2015 at 6:57 am #

      Backpackinglight UK resells them so you can avoid the duties.

      • JohnH October 11, 2015 at 9:05 am #

        Not entirely, charges 12.5% more.

        • JohnH October 11, 2015 at 11:47 am #

          Just noticed the Mariposa comes without the waist belt as standard. Add a belt and it becomes 28% more expensive = $68.

          • Professor October 11, 2015 at 12:05 pm #

            The belt is always extra. Good news is that one gets to pick the size ensuring a better fit.

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