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Gossamer Gear Silverback 50 Backpack Review

manufactured by :
Philip Werner
Version:
1
Price:
260.00

Reviewed by:
Rating:
4
On March 13, 2017
Last modified:March 13, 2017

Summary:

The Gossamer Gear Silverback 50 Backpack ($260) is an ultralight style backpack made with heavy duty fabrics for off-trail and wilderness trips that rip up packs made with lighter weight fabrics and external mesh pockets. Weighing 37 ounces, the Silverback 50 may be the heaviest backpack Gossamer Gear has ever made, but if you need backpack that can carry up to 35 pounds comfortably and endure harsh treatment, the Silverback 50 is definitely a strong contender. I think the Silverback is nearly perfect for off-trail use except for the top lid

Gossamer Gear Silverback 50 Backpack loaded to the gills, with a Bear Boxer Bear canister snugged under the top lid.
Gossamer Gear Silverback 50 Backpack.

The Gossamer Gear Silverback 50 Backpack ($260) is an ultralight style backpack made with heavy duty fabrics for off-trail and wilderness trips that rip up packs made with lighter weight fabrics and external mesh pockets. Weighing 37.4 ounces, the Silverback 50 may be the heaviest backpack Gossamer Gear has ever made, but if you need backpack that can carry up to 35 pounds comfortably and endure harsh treatment, the Silverback 50 is definitely a strong contender. I think the Silverback is nearly perfect for off-trail use except for the top lid, something I hope Gossamer Gear fixes in the pack’s next design iteration, and I discuss further below.

Specifications

  • Weight: 37.4 ounces (size medium)
  • Torso length (multiple sizes): 11.5″-23.5″
  • Hip belt lengths (multiple sizes): 24″-50″
  • Volume
    • 3051 c.i. (50 l.) total
    • 2245 c.i. (37 l.) in main pack body to extension collar seam
  • Max load: 35 pounds

For a complete list of Silverback 50 specifications and sizes, visit Gossamer Gear. 

Internal Organization and Storage

The Gossamer Gear Gorilla is laid out like a standard ultralight backpack with a large main compartment, stretch rear pocket, internal hydration pocket, and large hip belt pockets. It also has a top lid pocket, something you don’t find on many UL packs, which generally favor roll top closure systems.

Top Lid

The Silverback 50 has a top lid (sometimes called a brain) that covers the main compartment. The top lid has one external zippered pocket which is sized to hold maps, gloves, and items you want close to hand. The top lid pocket is floating and attached to the top using plastic clips, so you can compress gear between the top lid and the top of the main compartment if it’s awkwardly sized and won’t fit inside your pack. The floating lid has about 1 foot of extra webbing, so you can raise it to cover the top of the main compartment opening when it’s over-stuffed or compress a large item against the top of the pack underneath the floating lid.

The Bear Boxer Bear Canister fit perfectly under the Silverback top lid
The Bear Boxer Bear Canister fits perfectly under the Silverback top lid.

For example, the top lid is perfectly sized to hold a Bear Boxer Bear Canister in place on top of the Silverback 50’s main compartment. However, it’s not large enough however to hold a larger and longer Garcia Bear Canister in place. You’ll have to put it inside the main compartment, where it does fit.

Top lids can be annoying because they flop around and pull you backward when the main compartment is not full
Top lids can be annoying because they flop around and pull you backward when the main compartment is not full.

But there are times when you don’t want to use a top lid, because top lids, including the Silverback’s, have a tendency to flop around when the main compartment underneath them is not full. This is a well known annoyance with top lids.

The main compartment closes with a draw string, so you HAVE to use the top lid to keep rain and dust out of the pack.
The main compartment closes with a draw string, so you HAVE to use the top lid to keep rain and dust out of the pack if you fill the extension collar fully (or go totally retro and use a rain cover all the time.)

The problem with the top lid is that you HAVE to use it with the Silverback if you want to keep rain or dust out of the pack’s main compartment, which closes with a draw string. I really wish it closed with a roll top instead, or the flap top used on the Gossamer Gear Mariposa. I asked Gossamer Gear if they planned to offer a top flap that could replace the top lid pocket with a cover, but that’s not in the works. Too bad. If you like top lids, then this won’t matter.

One workaround, is to take off the top lid, roll up the drawstring on top of the extension collar, and crisscross the orange straps to keep rain and dust out of the hole. It’s not perfect, because it uses most of the extra space in the extension collar, limiting the packs capacity to 37 liters instead of 50 liters. Still it’s an option.

Crisscross the orange straps to keep the top of the pack closed
Crisscross the orange straps to keep the top of the pack closed

In the future, I’d recommend that they offer the pack with a top lid and use a roll top instead of a draw string to close the main compartment like the Granite Gear Crown 2 Backpack. That would give you the option of removing the top lid when not needed and provide better top down compression of the main compartment. Why not give customers both options?

This is really my only serious complaint with the Silverback, which is otherwise a fabulous pack. Let’s continue looking at the other features and benefits of this pack.

Main Compartment

The main compartment closes at the top with a draw string that has a cord lock to keep it cinched. It contains a large hydration pocket that has three hang loops so you can suspend a reservoir inside. There are two hydration ports located behind the pack’s center haul loop, so you can thread a hydration hose to the left or right shoulder strap.

The main compartment has a large extension collar, approximately 10 liters in size. It’s difficult to know exactly how much extra capacity it provides because Gossamer Gear doesn’t conform to industry standards when computing pack volume. Most mainstream manufacturers only measure closed storage when computing backpack volume and do not include extension collars in those calculations. This is worth knowing or asking about when comparing backpack size across manufacturers.

The main compartment also includes a removable U-shaped aluminum stay that slots into the back of the hip belt, through holes in the bottom of the pack sack. While it’s doubtful that water will seep up through the holes unless you wade across a deep river, you’ll still want to line the inside with a plastic contractor’s bag to prevent rain or moisture from making your gear wet. Gossamer Gear packs aren’t waterproof because they have needle holes, although the fabric they’re made with absorbs very little water when wet.

There's a rear stretch pocket on the back of the pack but made with hard-faced fabric (210d Robic) instead of mesh for durability. The bottom of the pockets uses the same fabric as the bottom for the pack which is a 210d Robic/Dyneema Grid.
There’s a rear stretch pocket on the back of the pack, made with hard-faced fabric (210d Robic) instead of mesh for durability. The bottom of the pocket uses the same fabric as the bottom for the pack which is a 210d Robic/Dyneema Grid.

Rear Stuff Pocket

There is a large open pocket on the back of the Silverback 50, good for stuffing with loose layers, wet, or smelly gear. Once you get a pack that has this kind of external storage, it’s difficult to use a one without it. The pocket is hard-faced using 210d Robic and not made out of the mesh used on many of Gossamer Gear’s other packs. The bottom of the pocket is reinforced for durability, using the same denier fabric (210d Robic/Dyneema Grid) as on the bottom of the backpack. There’s also a drain hole at the bottom of the pocket.

Side Water Bottle Pockets

The Silverback has two large side water bottle pockets, both easily reachable while wearing the backpack. They have a drainage hole at the bottom and are large enough to hold two x 1L water bottles. Both of the pockets are hard-faced for durability, using the same denier fabric as on the bottom of the backpack. Bomber!

Hip Belt Pockets

The Silverback’s hip belt has two large solid-faced pockets that are large enough to be useful. They are covered with the 210d Robic fabric, instead of the 210d Robic/Dyneema Grid used on other high wear areas of the pack. These should really be covered with the heavier duty fabric since most of the damage that occurs on bushwhacks occurs on the front of your body as you push through vegetation and brush.

Custom external attachment for snowshoes using elastic cords and gear loops on the back of the Gossamer Gear Silverback 50
Custom external attachment for snowshoes using elastic cords and gear loops on the back of the Gossamer Gear Silverback 50 – two elastic red cords and a blue cord on the backpack of the pack let me attach snowshoes to the outside of the pack.

Compression and External Attachment System

The Silverback has an excellent compression system that serves two purposes: to compress and stabilize the load, as well as attach gear to the outside of the backpack.

Side Compression Straps

The Silverback 50 has two tiers of side compression straps made with webbing straps. These are not removable. While they are long enough to strap snowshoes to the side of the backpack, they don’t unclip, which would make them easier to use for this purpose There is single ice axe loop at the bottom right of the back, but no shaft holder, and two trekking pole tip holders on the left side. There are also two webbing loops positioned just outside the pockets, where the hip belt enters the back of the pack, that are large enough for carabiners and make a good spot to hang an insulated water bottle cover for winter hiking.

Gold colored gear loops are distributed around the perimeter of the pack
Gold colored gear loops are distributed around the perimeter of the pack. These are useful for rigging up custom attachment systems.

Gear Loops

Gossamer Gear has also covered the pack with gear loops so you can rig up your custom attachment points around the pack. There are 8 gear loops along the perimeter seams on the back of the pack, 2 gear loops above the shoulder straps, and 4 gear loops on top of the top lid pocket. Gossamer Gear also sells a nice compression cord set, that’s handy for customizing your own attachment points.

Shoulder Strap Attachment Points

The Silverback also has attachment points on the front of the shoulder straps to hang accessory pockets. These include horizontal hydration tube keeper straps, plastic rings, and vertical straps that you can add a quick-attach a tri-glide buckle to to hang gear.

The Silverback has a foam pad to cushion the back of the pack against your back.
The Silverback has a foam pad to cushion the back of the pack against your back.

Frame and suspension

The Silverback 50 uses Gossamer Gear’s standard aluminum stay which slides into the back of the main compartment and into the hip belt, providing excellent load transfer to your hips. The stay is pre-bent and will fit most people out of the box. The frame stay is padded using a foam sit pad, which can be easily removed for use as bum insulation and then replaced. While the foam pad is held in place using mesh, it’s protected from being ripped up by your body.

This foam pad is a signature feature of Gossamer Gear’s overnight packs, but it doesn’t permit much ventilation behind your back and you’ll probably sweat a lot in warm weather. On the flip side, the back of the pack will conform closely to the shape our your back and give you a body hugging fit that transfers your load onto your hips very efficiently. I love the close way that a Gossamer Gear pack fits, but if you prefer a better ventilated backpack panel, the Silverback is not for you.

No Load Lifters

One notable omission on the Silverback is the lack of any load lifters, which is in interesting twist because they are included on the Gossamer Gear Mariposa, which is only 10L larger than the Silverback. Now load lifters are really only effective if a backpack’s frame extends higher than the top of your shoulders. If you look closely at the Silverback, the tops of the shoulder pads are at the same height as the top of the frame, unlike the Mariposa where the frame extend above the tops of the shoulder pads. In other words, putting load lifters on the Silverback would have little impact.

In testing this pack, I didn’t detect any backward pull or slant in the pack that would require a slant correction using load lifters, but that’s mainly because this pack fits me perfectly, in torso length and hip belt size. Your experience may be very different from mine, particularly if the torso is too long for you.

The Hip Belt

The Silverback’s hip belt is removable, so you can choose a hip belt that fits you, independent of the torso size of the pack. Stiffeners have been added to the back of the hip belt so that it won’t collapse under heavy loads. It’s quite wide and well padded with ventilated foam mesh, which is also used on the back of the shoulder pads.

The hip belt closes in front with a medium sized plastic buckle, but is linked to the hip belt wings using a very soft and pliable webbing that has a tendency to fold over on itself and jam in the buckle. The use of stiffer webbing would prevent this.

The Silverback has large side water bottle pockets capable of carrying 2 x 1L bottles
The Silverback has large side water bottle pockets capable of carrying 2 x 1L bottles

Assessment

The Silverback 50 ($260) is the most durable backpack that Gossamer Gear has ever made. Weighing 37.4 ounces, it’s also the heaviest. While the Silverback has a lot going for it and addresses a lot of the durability issues that Gossamer Gear packs suffer from when taken off trail and into rugged terrain (such as abrasion, ripped fabric, and ripped mesh pockets), I think the Silverback would be a much better pack if it was a roll top or a roll top with an optional add-on top lid pocket. While being able to carry a small bear canister under a floating lid is useful, it’s often not an essential for off-trail use. Top lids mean more straps and straps catch on brush when you’re bashing through it. If you need an off-trail backpack, there are other tough backpacks you can buy that are more durable than the Silverback and more streamlined.

If off-trail use is not a priority, but you’re looking for a more durable, ultralight-style pack with a top lid (the two are a rare combination), then the Silverback 50 is a much more viable option. It also makes a pretty decent winter backpack, since you’ll fill the main compartment with gear, water, and food and the top lid will stay perched on top where it belongs.

If you want a more durable ultralight-style pack that’s not made with cuben fiber (or X-Pac) and doesn’t have have a top lid,  you’re out of luck because the top lid is required to keep rain and dust out of the main compartment when using the Gossamer Gear Silverback 50 at full capacity. Some people like top lids pockets on three-season packs, but most don’t (See our recent survey on Most Important Features on a Backpack.)

Likes

  • Beefy durable fabric (210d Robic and a 210d Robic/Dyneema Grid)
  • No mesh pockets for better durability
  • Frame stay slots into hip belt for excellent load transfer
  • Multiple hip belt lengths available independent of torso length
  • Bear Boxer Canister can be stored under top lid
  • Huge range of torso lengths available

Dislikes

  • Top lid flops when main compartment is not stuffed
  • Pack can’t be used without top lid
  • Pliable webbing gets folded and caught in hip belt buckle
  • Pack is heavy (37.4 ounces – size medium) and relatively expensive ($260)

Visit Gossamer Gear for complete specs. 

Disclosure: Gossamer Gear provided the author with a sample pack for this review. The author has no business relationship with Gossamer Gear. 

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9 comments

  1. My Golite Jam pack has a drawstring top closure, and I find it handier than a roll top because it’s so much faster to access the stuff I put in the top of the pack. When it rains, I roll the closed opening over onto itself a few times and hold it down with the rope strap that goes acrosss the center of the top of the pack. But you need 8-10″ of unused extension collar for this to work.

    • But no center strap on the Silverback.

      • Does the Silverback have the same style of removable top lid as the their redesigned Gorilla? If so, can you not cross the straps over the rolled up collar and snap them into the connectors used for the lid?

      • Damn, that’s a good idea. I never got around the seeing the revised Gorilla last year. It’s not perfect, but perfectly workable if you have an inner plastic bag. Very similar to how the Mariposa (circa 2008) used to work. Thanks for pointing this out.

      • Just chatted with GG about the crisscross workaround. They’re really not to keen on it. It does reduce the pack capacity afterall.

      • Yeah, I purchased the updated Gorilla last year and I’m not a fan of the new top lid, which like you said is awkward when the pack isn’t fully loaded. I wish they had kept the old style which seems to be a better design.

        I am surprised from the comment from GG as they have pictures of the criss-cross straps over the cinched up collar on the page describing the new Gorilla. I don’t see any other way to secure the pack when the top lid is removed, so I am wondering what they were thinking.

      • Much as I love their packs, Gossamer Gear tweaks the design every time they order a new batch of packs based on customer feedback. I wish they’d just get it right the first time. That might be what you experienced. It’s like buying automobiles. Buy the second or third year a new car comes out. Not the first.

  2. How would you rate this pack to the Exped Lightening for 4 – 7 day trips off trail with loads sometimes exceeding 30 pounds with water? Your insights and information on backpacking gear is always well tempered and of the highest standards. Thank you.

    • Here’s a link to my exped 60 review.
      http://sectionhiker.com/exped-lightning-60-backpack-review/

      The Exped 60 has mesh side pockets and hip belt pockets. They’ll get destroyed if you hike off trail with them anyplace where the vegetation come up over your knees. They’d be fine in grasslands though. It has no larger protected pockets in back, so you’ll have to stop frequently if you want to get stuff or put it away. However it does have an adjustable length torso, which is worth its weight in gold if you need that.

      Given my kind of off-trail travel which is bashing through spruce trees, I’d pick the Silverback. No contest. It’s a much tougher and more durable pack.

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