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Gossamer Gear Mariposa Backpack Review (2016 Model)

manufactured by:
Philip Werner
Version:
2016
Price:
216.00

Reviewed by:
Rating:
5
On August 22, 2016
Last modified:August 14, 2016

Summary:

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 33 ounce Gossamer Gear Mariposa 60 Lightweight Backpack. Switching from a 4+ pound backpack to one that weights just over 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.

The 2016 Gossamer Gear Mariposa Backpack (60L) weighs 33 ounces, yet can comfortably haul 35 pounds of gear, food, and water

The 2016 Gossamer Gear Mariposa Backpack (60L) weighs 33 ounces, yet can comfortably haul 35 pounds of gear, food, and water.

The folks at Gossamer Gear are always innovating and optimizing the design of their ultralight backpacks and shelters to meet the demands of their customers. This past year, they significantly increased the load carrying capacity of the Mariposa 60 Lightweight Backpack, long considered one of the finest high volume 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 for long-term use.

New for 2016: Internal Frame Suspension

Gossamer Gear increased the load carrying capacity of the Mariposa by changing the way in which the packs’ aluminum frame connects to the hip belt. In the past, the hip belt was attached to the pack using a simple velcro patch, an indirect connection that would squeak and buckle when put under a heavy load of 30 pounds or more.

This was more common than not because many traditional backpackers use the Mariposa as a transitional backpack when converting from a heavier Osprey or Gregory backpack to an ultralight mindset, and tried to carry their old loads in the high volume Mariposa. While the Mariposa is large enough to fit a “traditional” load, heavier ones would overwhelm the pack’s carrying capacity.

Changes to 2016 Mariposa Hip Belt that make the Mariposa an Internal Frame Backpack

Changes to 2016 Mariposa Hip Belt that make the Mariposa an Internal Frame Backpack

Gossamer Gear experimented with a number of alternative suspension systems before they decided to modify the existing aluminum tube frame so that it slides directly into heavy fabric slots sewn on the back of the the hip belt (transforming the Mariposa into an internal frame pack). They also added plastic inserts to the hip belt to eliminate pressure points where the frame terminates and to distribute the load across a greater surface area.

2016 Mariposa Hip Belt showing how frame slots into hip belt and adjacent plastic stiffeners (hidden by hip belt fabric)

2016 Mariposa Hip Belt showing how frame slots into hip belt and adjacent plastic stiffeners (hidden by hip belt fabric)

The nice thing about this solution is that it preserves the use of the Mariposa sit pad, a multi-functional element that is one of the signature characteristics of the Gossamer Gear product line. The Mariposa hip belt also remains replaceable, so you can choose a size that fits you independent of the torso length that you buy, another huge benefit unavailable with most other manufacturer’s backpacks.

The updated 2016 hip belt (top) has softer more absorbant mesh padding that conforms better to your body

The updated 2016 hip belt (top) has softer mesh padding that conforms better to your body,

The Mariposa’s new internal frame system is a huge improvement over the 2015 model if you need to carry 30, 35, up to 40 pound loads. The hip belt is noticeably stiffer and there’s a better transfer of kinetic energy from your hips to the pack so you have to work less when scrambling or hiking on rough trails. The hip belt pockets are also noticeably larger in the 2016 model and the hip belt padding also has more give to it so it wraps around your hips better. Gossamer Gear has downplayed these changes, but I think it’s a vast improvement that preserves all of the old advantages of the Mariposa backpack!

If there is a downside to the new frame system, it’s that the 2016 Mariposa weighs 4 ounces more (size large torso/medium hip belt) than the 2015 model bringing the pack’s total weight up to 33 ounces. While that is a significant weight increase, it aligns the Mariposa’s capacity much better with the loads that most transitional hikers want to carry. If you want a lighter weight pack and can get by with less volume, I recommend you look at the Gossamer Gear Gorilla 40, which is also an exceptional lightweight backpack.

Mariposa Design Walk-Through

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.

Unisex hip belt and shoulder straps provide better comfort for women and men

Unisex hip belt and shoulder straps provide better comfort for women and men

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.

The long quiver pocket on the side of the Gossamer Gear Mariposa is perfect for packing a bulky tent and tent poles. It's also a good way to segregate wet gear from the internal contents of your pack.

The long quiver pocket on the side of the Gossamer Gear Mariposa is perfect for packing a bulky tent and tent poles. It’s also a good way to segregate wet gear from the internal contents of your pack.

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
The Mariposa includes a removable frame stay which stiffens the pack and helps transfer more of the load onto your hips.

The Gossamer Gear Mariposa includes a removable frame stay which stiffens the pack and helps transfer more of the load onto your hips.

The new 2016 Mariposa suspension uses the same internal aluminum tubing as the 2015 model to add stiffness to the pack and help transfer more pack weight to your hips. While it is optional and can be removed to save weight, 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 Mariposa are pre-curved for greater comfort to fit women and people with narrower shoulders and/or breasts. Softer padding has been added to the inside of the shoulder pads and hip belt providing a cushier feel than previously.

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 Camp Seat.

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.

The top lid pocket on Gossamer Gear Backpacks is a great place to store small essentials that you access frequently on the trail.

The top lid pocket on the Gossamer Gear Mariposa is a great place to store small essentials that you access frequently on the trail.

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 Mariposa sheds water well in rain, eliminating the need to carry a pack cover.

The Gossamer Gear sit light pads provides a clean place to sit when cooking dinner.

The Gossamer Gear sit light pad provides a clean place to sit when cooking dinner and is one of the distinguishing multi-use characteristics of Gossamer Gear overnight packs that make them unique.

Recommendation

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 33 ounce Gossamer Gear Mariposa 60 Lightweight Backpack. Switching from a 4+ pound backpack to one that weights just over 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 has a much more robust internal frame to handle heavier loads as you gradually reduce your gear weight. This change increases the appeal of the Mariposa for a wider range of backpackers, who will benefit from switching to such a well thought out and time-tested lightweight backpack design.

Likes

  • Unisex shoulder pads and hip belt
  • Solid, reinforced side bottle pockets instead of mesh
  • 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….

Dislikes

  • 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 sample Mariposa backpack from Gossamer Gear for product testing and review but has no business relationship with the company. 

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35 Responses to Gossamer Gear Mariposa Backpack Review (2016 Model)

  1. Thom August 22, 2016 at 5:45 am #

    Do u bend the aluminum stay to fit your back ?

    • Philip Werner August 22, 2016 at 7:47 am #

      You can. Unlike most other manufacturers, gossamer gear sends out pre-shaped frame stays. I’ve never had to bend mine.

  2. Bryan August 22, 2016 at 6:16 am #

    I know people really really like these packs. I never gave GG bags much consideration though, primarily because of their looks–sickly grey and lumpy.

    • Philip Werner August 22, 2016 at 7:50 am #

      Yeah, not fashionable at all. eBags has some better color combinations that should match your hiking wardrobe.

      • Adam August 22, 2016 at 6:44 pm #

        You’re quick to insult your readers for criticism of gear you get sent for free in exchange for reviews.

        I think their designs are interesting but agree the colors look like they’re straight out of a North Korean uniform shop. I think naming a backpack after a Barbie movie is terrible too.

        • Sazerac August 22, 2016 at 6:57 pm #

          I happen to like the subdued colors, though I recognize they might not please all users. Perhaps Bryan should have said that the GG colors are not his favorite rather than calling them sickly. And perhaps, just perhaps, you might consider that the pack might have been named after something other than a Barbie movie. But even if that were true, it’s a far cry from “terrible”.

          • Adam August 22, 2016 at 7:47 pm #

            Careful, expressing a taste for a particular style or color will get you told to go purse shopping here.

            As for the name, I wasn’t seriously suggesting it was named after a Barbie movie, though naming a unisex pack after a butterfly is an odd marketing choice.

            • Philip Werner August 22, 2016 at 8:35 pm #

              It’s named after Mariposa Grove in Yosemite.

              And it was a men’s pack nearly a decade before it became a unisex pack.

            • Sazerac August 22, 2016 at 8:39 pm #

              I think that unnecessarily insulting a choice might earn one a swift kick in the pants here much more quickly than politely expressing a taste for a particular style or color. And given the wide variety of names that GG gives to its packs, Mariposa doesn’t seem all that odd to me.

              • Philip Werner August 22, 2016 at 9:22 pm #

                Adam seems to have no sense of humor. I regret if I offended you and I apologize for it. It seemed like a witty comeback at the time, but obviously misfired. Stick around. I’ll raffle this pack off in a few weeks. Although vendors send me stuff for free to review, I only review things that I ask for and find interesting.I turn down almost all inbound review offers that come my way. The new Mariposa is interesting to me because I used this pack for many many years (from 2008 to 2015) as my main backpack. So I’m interested in its evolution, even though my needs have changed.

                • Warren Gaines August 22, 2016 at 9:29 pm #

                  Philip – You shouldn’t feel the need to apologize, although you’re a gentleman for doing so. I thought your eBags remark was hilarious and it gave me a great chuckle on a Monday morning!

  3. Steve M August 22, 2016 at 6:48 am #

    Do you think the new hipbelt can be adapted to work with earlier models of this pack? I have the 2012 version and not ready to replace it, but this belt sounds like a nice upgrade if it could be made to work.

    • Philip Werner August 22, 2016 at 7:46 am #

      I’d contact GG support and ask. I can’t remember what they used as their frame stay system back then and they don’t provide any documentation for older model upgrades.

    • dgray August 22, 2016 at 9:37 am #

      This was on the GG website page for the new belt.

      The belt can be used with any 2012 and newer Robic or Dyneema fabric packs without any modification.
      This belt will not fit 2011 and older silnylon Gorilla and Mariposa model packs.

      • Philip Werner August 22, 2016 at 10:02 am #

        Good find, but you will have to modify the inside of the pack to fit the stay into the new hip belt. Might want to check in with GG support about how to do that in a way that the inside of the pack doesn’t continue to tear open when you punch holes in the back panel. Just saying….that is, if you want the new hip belt so you can insert the stays into it.

    • Eric Fahlgren August 22, 2016 at 10:18 pm #

      Yes, I upgraded my 2014 with the 2016 belt, and the results are quite nice. I got the belt as a second, cosmetic blem or some such thing, for $30 about four(?) months ago, it slips right in. I have not done the surgery to pull the frame rods out to the belt (and might not do so, seems pretty good the way it is; if want to do it, just burn some 6mm holes an inch or so above the beltline with a soldering iron). Carrying that first day’s food and full water load is much more comfortable with just 2 minutes of work.

  4. Steve M August 22, 2016 at 10:56 am #

    Fact is, my 2012 Mariposa works just fine as is, but I also have never loaded it beyond 24 lbs for a 5 day trip (12.5lb base weight plus 4.4lbs of water and 7lbs of food). Day 5 down to 18lb – just when I am finally able to carry more.

  5. Ray August 22, 2016 at 12:06 pm #

    I have a 2016 Mariposa and love it. GG is one of the few manufactures that makes a pack that works for someone with a 23″ torso. It carries the weight very well. I do not have experience with previous versions however I carried 11 lbs. of water once to make it through a dry spot without problem. Two upgrades I’d like to see; compression straps and forward tightening hip belt straps.

  6. Don R August 22, 2016 at 12:30 pm #

    Excellent review. Capacity wise twith 2200 ci in the main body, it looks like the Mariposa spec’s out similar to the ULA Ohm.

    I like the idea of all the outside storage options. Really opens up the main compartment to carry a large trip’s worth of food in the Ursack, or bigger, bulkier insulation in the cooler months.

    How does the Mariposa handle a bear canister?

  7. scott August 22, 2016 at 12:35 pm #

    How do you like this pack compared the new Granite Gear AC 60 you saw at the show?

    • Philip Werner August 22, 2016 at 12:58 pm #

      You mean the Crown 2. I haven’t received one to try out yet and won’t comment until I do.

  8. Martin Rye August 22, 2016 at 4:13 pm #

    For me the Robic material is suspect durability wise and porous as heck after using the GG Gorilla. I hear the webbing strap issues have been fixed and hope the new design is reliable. If anyone needs to understand how to fix the hipbelt on the new Mariposa or Gorilla there is a handy video from BPL.CO.UK on its Outdoor Station: http://www.theoutdoorsstation.co.uk/2016/07/how-to-fit-a-gossamer-gear-2016-robic-belt-to-a-mariposa-or-gorilla/

    • Philip Werner August 22, 2016 at 4:21 pm #

      Nice video (Bob). Mine came pre-assembled in a box. Perhaps they don’t if you order them in the UK. I assume they did that in the US because its not a simple as it once was. Thanks Martin.

    • Philip Werner August 22, 2016 at 4:32 pm #

      I’ve pretty much given up on Gossamer Gear’s fabric and mesh pockets for off-trail hiking since it doesn’t stand up (no one’s does), but for trail based hikes it’s fine with due care, provided you line your pack with a trash bag to keep the contents dry. I still do that with the off-trail CF packs I use, since the seams DO leak.

  9. JT August 22, 2016 at 5:51 pm #

    I ordered one of these earlier this year after seeing my friends 2015 model. Love the pack, and GG provided great customer support with sizing questions and a fast exchange on a hipbelt because the sizing wasn’t right. My one note on belt sizing for the medium belt; if you’re a 36″ waist get the large not the medium. Also, I got one of the “cosmetic seconds” and for the life of me can’t find anything wrong with it.

  10. TrevorB August 22, 2016 at 7:09 pm #

    Love the shot of the “vintage” Mariposa. I have one of those myself. Weighs in at 17oz with the padding removed from the hip belts and shoulder straps. GREAT at carrying under 18lb ON TRAIL as the fabric’s pretty delicate. Horrible at carrying anything over 22lb or off trail. It still gets used, but there are quite a few more modern packs that I have that add only a hair over a pound more, are considerably more durable, carry much more comfortably and, if needed, can carry more weight…more comfortably. Think SMD and ULA.
    My poor old Mariposa’s been in the shop three times for repairs.

  11. Sazerac August 22, 2016 at 8:44 pm #

    I have a 2015 Mariposa and a 2015 Gorilla and have added the 2016 hip belt to each with DIY modifications. I’ve been pleased with the results on each. So far I’m a strictly on-trail hiker and love them both for the purposes I use them.

  12. Vince August 22, 2016 at 10:13 pm #

    Gotta ask if the water pocket is reachable? I have a normal range of motion and would love to find a pack that has this ability and what it now offers. With the improvements I am very interested in this pack.

    • Eric Fahlgren August 22, 2016 at 10:26 pm #

      I carry my water load in two vintage Fiji water bottles in the short pocket on the right side (the squarish shape makes them feel very secure). I pop them out and back in while moving all the time. My shoulders are probably average range of motion for a 60-year-old.

    • Philip Werner August 22, 2016 at 10:47 pm #

      Easily reachable.

  13. Steve August 22, 2016 at 11:20 pm #

    I started with an SMD and moved to GG and now have three. I don’t hike to show off my bags color same for my tent. I buy the best gear for hiking big miles in back country so I can get up the next day and look forward to more miles with less effort and pain. There are several reasons GG are turning up to be the best because they work and have wide ranging ability and are flexible. If I need 25 lbs use the full accessories if only 10 lbs strip it under a pound in 10 seconds. Based upon all the reviews ranking them the highest this is not the only place singing praises. Just think of the nightmare of carrying multiple colors for a small company. I can tell you firsthand it is a huge problem and cost.

  14. Jon August 23, 2016 at 9:22 am #

    Sweet looking pack. Thanks for another pack review. Love reading new articles here.

  15. Laurence August 23, 2016 at 9:46 am #

    The Mariposa is out of stock except in extra large. The Gorilla is completely out of stock, and the G4 is out except for small. Does anyone know why?

    • Philip Werner August 23, 2016 at 9:53 am #

      Assume they sold out of stock and are waiting for a shipment from Vietnam for more. Contact them and ask.

  16. Professor August 23, 2016 at 9:20 pm #

    I have a 2014 and have carried up to 33 pounds in mine. I love it and it is my main backpack (I own 4 multiday packs). I have tried it with and without the back stay and choose to use the stay for any loads over 25 pounds (it is easily bendable).

    Highly recommended here!

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