Gossamer Gear Mariposa Plus Backpack – Long Term Gear Review

Mariposa Plus at the Vermont-Canada Border - The Long Trail

The Gossamer Gear Mariposa Plus Backpack has been in production since 2007 and is still considered by many as the best ultralight backpack on the market for loads in the 20-30 lb range.

I’ve owned a Mariposa Plus Backpack since 2008 (I also bought the 2009 version with the updated aluminum stay) and estimate that I’ve backpacked at least 1000 miles between them on The Long Trail, the Appalachian Trail, throughout the White Mountains of New Hampshire and in the Catskills of New York State. It is by far my favorite backpack of the six packs I own, combining both comfort and external gear storage, with it’s abundant external mesh pocket system.

Other Mariposa Plus Reviews

There are already some excellent reviews of the Mariposa Plus that have been published, so I’m not going to repeat everything that’s already been written about it. If you have a subscription to Backpackinglight.com, I recommend that you read Will Rietveld’s excellent review. If you are not a subscriber, you might want to still read through the comment section, which is free for non-subscribers.

What Makes the Mariposa Plus So Great

I think that the Gossamer Gear shoulder harness is the secret sauce that makes the Mariposa Plus such a winner. It’s common across all of Gossamer Gears pack’s including the hyperlite Murmur (8 oz) and the new heavy duty Gorilla (24.2 oz).

Mariposa Plus Shoulder Straps

First off, it’s amazingly simple – just two very wide, adjustable shoulder pads, affixed to the top of the pack’s back panel, above the sleeping pad pocket. The pads are mesh backed and have elastic loops that run width wise around them, but are otherwise unadorned, except for an adjustable sternum strap connecting the two shoulder pads.

Each shoulder pad is nearly 3 and 1/2 inches wide, providing a unprecedented level of load distribution across your shoulders. This makes an incredible difference on long multi-day treks where you’re carrying a lot of food, water, or fuel.

I own other packs with narrower shoulder pads and after a few long days I develop very sore shoulders where the strap touches my collarbone. But with Mariposa+, long days are not an issue. I’ve never had sore shoulders with it.

A second benefit of the Mariposa harness system is its robustness. I own other packs that have an adjustable shoulder harness that can adapt to different torso lengths. This is a popular feature on a lot of commercial packs these days.

I’ve experienced problems with these systems where the harness tears away from the back of the pack, in the course of normal wear and tear (normal for me, I guess!) This failure occurs because there is a single point of connection, and hence failure, between the harness and the back of the pack. There is no such issue with the Mariposa Plus harness system, where each pad is connected to the top of the pack independently along a 3 and 1/2 inch seam.

One Request for Change

The Mariposa’s external mesh pockets and their unique configuration are a wonderful convenience because they let you access frequently used gear without having to unpack your pack. They really make this pack. Their only weakness is that the mesh tears when it catches on a tree branch or bush abutting the trail – or if I have to do an unexpected bushwhack.

I repair the tears by suturing them close with tent guy line, but this is an unsatisfying mend. If there’s one change, I’d like to see to the Mariposa Plus, it would be to provide an option for side pockets (where all the tears occur) that are not made of mesh, but some other porous, elastic material. (the new Gossamer Gear Gorilla Backpack uses a more robust mesh fabric that prevents such mesh tears.) That’s really the only mod that I need to the base Mariposa Plus pack, which remains a stalwart companion in the backcountry.

Disclosure: The author owns this product and purchased it using their own funds. The Author is also a Trail Ambassador for Gossamer Gear.

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13 Responses to Gossamer Gear Mariposa Plus Backpack – Long Term Gear Review

  1. Maz October 11, 2010 at 10:38 pm #

    I don't own the Mariposa – I was concerned about durability so Robin Evans suggested the Gorilla. I did some research, including the extremely thorough review by BPL and ordered one. I've only had my Gorilla since June this year, but I've been extremely impressed with it – I used it on the 11 day TMB in the Alps. It was fantastic. I can imagine, if you are content with the lighter, less durable nylon of the Mariposa, that it is a great pack. The simplicity of both packs is one of the major features and, for me, the Gorilla's outer pocket system is wonderful. I also use an in-line filter, which I can see in your picture – I do not strap it to the shoulder strap the way you do however – mine is tucked away inside the pack – is there a reason you put it there?

  2. Earlylite October 12, 2010 at 4:42 am #

    I just got a Gorilla myself and look forward to using it. I expect that the hardier fabric and stronger external mesh will make it an excellent pack for shorter, more mountainous hikes that require a lot of scrambling. It's only shortcoming is capacity, since it has significantly less volume than the Mariposa Plus, which I can carry 5-7 days of food in comfortably.

    Regarding durablity – I can understand your concerns, but I've only had issues with the external mesh. The fabric itself, including the base of the pack, has withstood the rigors of my butt-sliding ways remarkably well.

    When I use an in-line system with any pack, I like to keep the filter and the bladder outside the main compartment, if only to prevent any leaks and to make it easier to access for refills.

  3. Jolly Green Giant October 12, 2010 at 7:36 am #

    How beneficial do you think the stays are?

  4. Earlylite October 12, 2010 at 8:56 am #

    I'll assume you're referring to the new aluminum stay that was updated in 2009. I like it, which is one reason why I upgraded from the 2008 to 2009 model. It's a little more comfortable than the old carbon fiber stays and it brings the back of the pack closer to your back. I carry pretty heavy loads with this pack (25 lbs) and get great hip/load transfer with it. (I use either a 1 sheet or 3 sheet GG nightlight pad in the sleeping bag pocket, or a Therm-a-rest zlite, depending on pack weight and ground temps, using a thicker pad for a heavier pack/colder weather. I can't remember if I've used the MP+ without stays. Probably – but it's been a long time.

    By the way – I talked to Grant about tall people. I think we're wearing him down. :-)

  5. Maz October 12, 2010 at 9:45 am #

    I can certainly understand easy access for refills but the Gorilla’s hydration bladder pouch is just about accessible enough, even when the pack is full, for a refill. Still a pain to have to remove it I guess, but it’s so light that it’s quite easy to do. I love the shoulder straps too – they’re fantastic. It’s a great pack – I think you’ll love it. I find that the capacity is perfect for me, but that tends to be without a major amount of food or, if necessary, with dehydrated food. I can see, therefore, why you need the Mariposa. Thanks for the review.

  6. Jolly Green Giant October 12, 2010 at 10:02 am #

    Grant promised me I'd see a tall line of packs in 2010 after a lot of conversations in 2009. I'm sure it's tough for small manufacturers to switch out their templates for a part of the market that is even smaller than the lightweight industry they are already in. Course, as soon as he puts out a tall pack, I'll start working on him about a longer shelter. I have the GG SpinnTwinn which I like plenty enough, but I get a lot of rain splatter in my face. So, I had it modified with beaks which makes it unique. Course, it sits more often than not now that I have my Hexamid Twin. It's tough to leave that one at home.

  7. Maz October 12, 2010 at 10:18 am #

    If the stay is anything like that on the Gorilla (which I think it is), then it is a really amazingly effective piece of metal, given the simplicity of the design. They really do hug the curvature of your back and support the pack – I have used it without the stay and with it – there is a massive difference at the 5-8kg sort of weight level.

  8. Pat Rabun June 16, 2011 at 7:24 am #

    You need not worry about durability with the Mariposa Plus. I have been using them for Boy Scout Philmont treks since 2008. Scouts are VERY tough on gear , and we have yet to have a failure on these packs. 11 out of 12 of our boys used them at Philmont in 2010. This pack is the lightest and toughest pack for its volume out there, period.

  9. John Kays August 8, 2011 at 11:35 am #

    I've been using a Mariposa Plus for about 1.5 years hiking mainly in the Sierras but usage does include a fairly brushy hike in the Arizona Superstitions last January. No wear on the pack that I have noticed. I bought this pack because my Golite Pinnacle would collapse onto my upper back under the load of a bear canister. Many different styles of packing failed to remedy the problem so I bought the Mariposa. No problems with a canister except for its extremely heavy weight.

    This is the only pack I have owned that stays on my hips and doesn't slide down my buttocks all day long. Prior to purchasing the Mariposa I ran into a GG trail ambassador using a Gorilla. I picked it up empty in camp and realized it is way too heavy and slightly smaller volume wise. Mariposa, overall, has lived up to its reputation and the best pack, overall, that I have used.

  10. Scott Ressler June 5, 2012 at 1:12 pm #

    I really enjoy our gear reviews. Are you working on one for the new 2012 Mariposa Plus. I have been waiting for GG to release it. Now i have to wait for a large. In the meantime I was wondering if you have had a chance to review the updates to the pack.

    • Earlylite June 5, 2012 at 1:25 pm #

      Thanks Scott – I don’t have the new Mariposa yet and you probably won’t see a review from me for one until the autumn, earliest. I did however see a new one last saturday that a friend purchased and he was loving it. It has the same side pockets as the older version but the entire pack is now made out of Dyneema. It looked awesome.

  11. Scott Ressler June 6, 2012 at 9:17 am #

    Thanks for the response. I really like that the new materials GG has chosen to use on the packs – they Dyeema and the new mesh appear to be nice updates. Can you tell me did your friends pack have the same magnetic closure with the OTT as the 2012 gorilla or does the mariposa still have the draw cord closure with the new OTT.

    • Earlylite June 6, 2012 at 9:46 am #

      Can’t remember. I’ve heard they’ve backed away from the magnet because its a customer support nightmare. Why not just call and ask them.

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