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Which Gossamer Gear Ultralight Backpack Is Right For You?

manufactured by:
Philip Werner

Reviewed by:
On December 23, 2014
Last modified:September 25, 2016


If you've never purchased an ultralight backpack before, it can be challenging to figure out which Gossamer Gear backpack is right for you. Here are some tips to help you with the selection process so you choose the right Gossamer Gear backpack for your needs.

If you’ve never purchased an ultralight backpack before, it can be challenging to figure out which Gossamer Gear backpack is right for you. Here are some tips to help you with the selection process so you choose the right Gossamer Gear backpack for your needs.

Gossamer Gear Mariposa Ultralight Backpack
Gossamer Gear Mariposa Ultralight Backpack (Photos courtesy of Gossamer Gear)

 Gossamer Gear Mariposa 60 L – unisex

The Mariposa Ultralight Backpack is the highest volume backpack that Gossamer Gear makes. A size medium weighs 29.1 ounces.

The Mariposa is the backpack that I recommend to most people who’ve never owned an ultralight backpack before because it has enough volume to carry most backpackers’ existing gear. If you use a tent, it also has a long external pocket, which I call a “tent quiver” on the left side of the pack. This pocket is great if it’s raining because it means you can get your tent out and set it up without opening your backpack and getting its contents wet. This long pocket can also be used to store a wet tent separate from the rest of your gear. No other backpack made has a pocket like this!

The Mariposa has seven pockets, an internal hydration sleeve, load lifters, adjustable hip belt with pockets, an internal frame stay, and can carry a maximum of 35 pounds. It has a cushy unisex suspension system comfortable for both men and women and is available in five different sizes (XS,S,M,L,XL) for torso lengths from 10″ to 25″, making it an excellent option for women with short torsos as well as young adults. The extra small size is new this year, based on overwhelming customer demand.

The Mariposa is a great pack for overnight and multi-day use on hiking trails, in wet or dry climates, and can haul a week’s worth of food without difficulty. This is the pack I take for section hiking on the Appalachian Trail and on longer multi-day overnights. I’ve also carry it in early spring or autumn when I need to carry a warmer sleeping bag and warmer clothing that takes up more space in my pack.

Gossamer Gear Gorilla Ultralight Backpack
Gossamer Gear Gorilla Ultralight Backpack (Photos courtesy of Gossamer Gear)

Gossamer Gear Gorilla 40 L – unisex

The Gorilla Ultralight Backpack is similar to the Mariposa but is smaller in volume. A size medium weighs 26 ounces.

The Gorilla is a good backpack to get if you’ve already gone through the transition from a heavier gear list to lighter weight gear and your gear takes up much less space than it did before. The Gorilla a great pack for ultralight backpackers with base weights under 15 pounds (not including food, fuel, and water), for shorter overnight backpacking trips, peakbagging, and even day hikes, when you need to carry extra layers.

Like the Mariposa, the Gorilla has a unisex shoulder harness and hip belt that is comfortable for both men and women, and includes an internal frame stay. The outside of the pack is much more streamlined than the Mariposa, as befits a lighter and smaller volume load. The Gorilla doesn’t have a tent quiver pocket like the Mariposa because the assumption is that you’re using an ultralight shelter instead of a larger tent. There also aren’t any load lifters because they’re really not necessary for lighter loads. The Gorilla also has a better side compression system than the Mariposa with webbing straps on both sides because the tent quiver pocket is not in the way.

The Gorilla is available in three sizes (S, M, and L) for torso sizes ranging from 13″ to 22″, but not in the extra small (XS) or extra-large (XL) sizes offered for the Mariposa. The maximum recommended load for the Gorilla is 30 pounds.

Gossamer Gear G4 Ultralight Backpack
Gossamer Gear G4 Ultralight Backpack (Photos courtesy of Gossamer Gear)

Gossamer Gear G4 Ultralight Backpack (54 L)

The G4 Ultralight Backpack is Gossamer Gear’s “old school” frameless backpack. At $125 (including hip belt) it’s half the price of the Mariposa, and one of the least expensive ultralight backpacks available today. The 16 ounce (size medium) G4 is very popular with more budget oriented backpackers who want a high-capacity ultralight backpack  but don’t need the bells and whistles on the Mariposa. It’s also very popular with boy scout troops because of its price point.

Capable of hauling up to 30 pounds, the G4 has a huge main compartment and three very large external mesh pockets, two on the sides and one on the back. The side mesh pockets are big enough to slip a tent into like the long tent quiver pocket on the Mariposa, but can also be used to carry very large water bottles up to 2 quarts in size!

Being an old school frameless backpack, the G4 doesn’t have an internal frame stay or a top lid pocket like the Mariposa and Gorilla. To add structure to the pack, Gossamer Gear recommends using the thicker tri-fold Nightight sleeping pad (sold separately) in the G4 external pad pocket instead of the thinner SitLight Sit Pad which comes included with the Mariposa and Gorilla. If you sleep with a closed cell foam pad like the Therm-a-Rest Ridgerest, you can also roll it up and put it into the main compartment like a tube, filling the middle with gear and food. This also helps give the backpack more structure in the absence of an internal frame.

While the G4 can be used by men and women, the shoulder straps on the G4 are wider than those on the Mariposa and Gorilla and not as comfortable for people with narrower shoulders. The G4 hip belt is also has less padding than the Mariposa or Gorilla hip belts.

The G4 Ultralight Backpack is available in three sizes (S, M, and L) for torso lengths of 13″ – 24″ and hip belt sizes of 25″ to 42″. The maximum recommended load for the G4 is 30 pounds.

Gossamer Gear Kumo Superlight Backpack
Gossamer Gear Kumo Superlight Backpack

Gossamer Gear Kumo Superlight Backpack (36L)

The Gossamer Gear Kumo Superlight Backpack is the favorite backpack of Gossamer Gear’s sponsored Trail Ambassadors. It’s perfect for experienced ultralight backpackers with compact loads, who still need a backpack carrying up to 20 pounds and superior durability. The Kumo is also an excellent backpack for more challenging day hikes where you want to carry extra layers and for adventure travel, because it doesn’t have an internal frame or aluminum stay, and is easy to take on airplanes.

The Kumo is similar to Gossamer Gear’s other like the Mariposa and the Gorilla with the same water bottle pockets, large rear mesh pocket, and over the top pocket, which is ideal for storing maps or travel documents. It also comes with a removable hip belt, which can be ordered with or without pockets.

Weighing just under 16 ounces, the Kumo is available in two sizes for torso lengths ranging from 16″-24″ inches and in hip belt lengths up to 50″. The maximum recommended load for the Kumo is 25 pounds.

Gossamer Gear Murmur Hyperlight Backpack
Gossamer Gear Murmur Hyperlight Backpack

Gossamer Gear Murmur Hyperlight Backpack (36L)

The Murmur Hyperlight Backpack is Gossamer Gear’s lightest weight backpack, ranging in weight from 8.35 ounces to 12.3 ounces, depending on whether you use it with or without the hip belt and a SitLight Sit Pad. This pack is intended for hardcore ultralight backpackers who carry less than five pounds of gear (minus, food, water, and fuel) for overnight trips, although it can make a very nice day pack as well. However, because it’s so lightweight, it is less durable than Gossamer Gear’s other packs and it should only be used on developed trails to avoid snagging and tearing the fabric.

The Murmur is similar to the Gossamer Gear Mariposa and Gorilla because it has side water bottle pockets, a large mesh back pocket, and uses a SitLight Sit pad as a framesheet to give the pack a little extra structure. The big difference is that the Murmur has a roll top closure instead of a top lid pocket and it doesn’t have an internal frame stay, since one isn’t needed to carry an ultralight load.

The Murmur is available in one size for torso lengths for torso lengths of 16″ – 24″ and a hip belt size up to 42″. The maximum recommended load for the Murmur is 15-20 pounds.

See also: Murmur Hyperlight Backpack Product Specs

Gossamer Gear Type II Utility Pack, The Ruckus, The QuickSak and the Minimalist

Gossamer Gear’s other backpacks, the Type II, The Ruckus, The QuickSak and The Minimalist are primarily daypacks good for day hikes, summit ascents, and urban use. If you’re looking for an overnight backpack, the Mariposa, the Gorilla, the G4, and the Murmur are your best bets.

More Information for First Time Buyers

Backpack Volume

Many ultralight backpacking companies, including Gossamer Gear, measure the volume of their backpacks differently than mainstream backpack manufacturers, which is important to know if you are trying to compare the weight-to-volume ration of a conventional backpack to an ultralight backpack. When measuring backpack volume, companies like Granite Gear, Gregory, and Osprey only measure the volume of the closed storage and don’t include the volume of external mesh pockets, pockets without lids, or the added volume of an extension collar in their volume specifications.

Gossamer Gear Mariposa Ultralight Backpack-will-001
When using an ultralight backpack, the assumption is that you will be storing most of your day time gear, water, and food in the open, external pockets of your pack so you don’t have to stop and dig around in your pack to find them. (Photo coutresty of Gossamer Gear)

While Gossamer Gear does break out the volume of open and closed storage in their specifications for each pack, the total volume in their specs is computed by adding up the volumes of all open pockets and closed storage. The different volume calculation is justified because most ultralight backpacks have much more open storage than conventional ones, but it can be confusing.

When using an ultralight backpack, the assumption is that you will be storing most of your day time gear, water, and food in the open, external pockets of your pack so you don’t have to stop and dig around in your pack to find them. This packing technique lets you hike farther and faster each day.

Separate Hip Belt

When ordering a Mariposa, Gorilla, or Murmur from Gossamer Gear, you can choose to get a hip belt (S, M, L) which is a different size than the torso length (XS, S, M, L, XL) without having to pay for a second hip belt, after you purchase your pack. If you’ve every purchased a pack that only comes with one hip belt size (that doesn’t fit you), you’re in for a treat, because you can get a highly personalized fit with a Gossamer Gear backpack. if you’re unsure how to size your pack, call Gossamer gear support. They’re very experienced and helpful and will help you get a good fit.

Maximum Weight Recommendations

Gossamer Gear’s maximum recommended weight recommendations for all of their packs are quite accurate. While you can exceed the maximum recommended load on a Gossamer Gear backpack if you enough space to do so, the comfort of the hip belt and its ability to support the extra weight does degrade, putting more of the load on your shoulders.

Mesh Pocket Durability

The external mesh used on the Gossamer Gear Mariposa, Gorilla, G4, and Murmur Backpacks is quite tough as long as you hike on developed trails and avoid bushwhacking off-trail through dense brush. The side pockets on the Mariposa and the Gorilla backpacks are made out of solid fabric which significantly increases their resistance to tearing and the bottom of the pockets on the Mariposa, Gorilla, G4, and Murmur is reinforced with extra fabric to resist abrasion. As someone who had a history of tearing the mesh on older model Gossamer Gear packs, I can attest that the durability of the mesh pockets is vastly improved over previous versions of Gossamer Gear’s backpacks and quite robust.

Disclaimer: Philip Werner is a former Gossamer Gear Trail Ambassador who has been using Gossamer Gear packs since 2008. While he has received free products from Gossamer Gear, he was under no obligation to write this article and the views it contains are entirely his own. 

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  1. Gossamer Gear packs are great. I have older version of the Murmur (about 15oz) and a somewhat smaller MiniPosa (about 16oz.) I was disappointed with a few packs…mostly due to weight creep. I was very happy to see the new Murmur going lighter than the previous version and used it for several trips into the ADK’s last year.

    Well done packs with a nice carry capacity. The Murmur fits three stuff sacks laid sideways: one for sleeping bag/cloths, two for food. This gives me a range of about two weeks (13-15 nights.) With a longer three layer NightLite pad, this usually brings my total pack weight to around 22-24 pounds. It comfortably handles the 10-20% overload.

  2. How well does the Gorilla hold up as a winter day hiking pack? Does it have enough structure to have a set of crampons and/or snowshoes lashed on without beginning to pull away from the back and double over?

    • The Gorialla will be fine. The internal frame stay prevents it from buckling like a rucksack. If I were you’d I’d attach the snowshoes to the sides under the webbing to maintain free access to the back mesh pocket. It is very handy for stashing layers into when you want fast transition times.

      • Thanks! Does replacing the SitLight with a Nightlight beef up the suspension any appreciable amount?

      • No, it just moves the back of the pack farther away from your back which makes the hip belt load transfer less effective. You want it as close to your back as possible – the same for any pack. The internal stay doesn’t buckle or fold. I assure you. It’s very stiff aluminum and has two struts to lock it in place.

  3. Very informative! This helped to confirm that the Gorilla is what I should be considering. Any thoughts on Gorilla vs. Ohm?

    • In my experience, the Gorilla and Mariposa hip belts are far far better than the hip belt that ULA uses on their packs because it doesn’t loosen as you walk and slide down one’s hips. Everybody is different though. If you have any doubts, I’d order both, try them out and return the one you don’t want. They both have return policies that let you return unused backpacks.

  4. I just recently sold a Blaze AC60 to fund the purchase of a lighter pack. Initially I ordered the Mariposa but found that it was simply too big. I put all my gear in, 2L of water, food for a week and still had room for a second sleeping bag before I even put anything in the outside pockets. I’ve been gradually getting my base weight and volume down but its still outside the 15lb range at a bit over 17lb. I thought the Gorilla would be too small but I found it to be a perfect size and carry for me. I can fit all my gear and consumables for 5-6days inside and it will carry this (24-26lb) comfortably.
    I love the fact that it will compress and become viable for day hikes or shorter summer overnighters.
    My only gripe is that my particular model is a tad heavy at 26.2oz :-/ I’ve yet resisted the temptation to take a knife to the straps…

  5. Sorry that should be 28.2oz not 26.2oz. Not a big deal anyway. Especially when it carries aswell if not better than my old Blaze which weighed in at 46oz!

  6. Excellent comparison article. I’ll be posting the link to my blog site! I love the tent quiver pocket on the Mariposa and probably the primary reason I don’t switch to the Gorilla for my pack of choice. I use the Gorilla for snowshoeing and winter hiking. I’ve been using the QuikSak for day hikes, but I think I need to upgrade to the Type II as it’s wearing on the bottom quickly. I’m sure I carry too much water weight at times when I use my bladder.

  7. The shoulder harness has always been a problem for me, cuts into my neck. In Nov. I had the opportunity to attend a Trail Ambassador presentation and see the full line up of GG packs, the presentation by the Ambassador was very impressive. And I got to load the Gorilla and Mariposa with my personal gear, I guess my built doesn’t favor to a GG pack harness.

  8. My favorite Gossamer Gear backpack is a GoLite Pinnacle. I love this ultralight backpack, and now have a spare, still in the plastic, since I know I will absolutely wear one out. It is under 2 pounds and has all the features I need including plenty of exterior pockets for “quick reach” items during the day. I use my old (heavy) Osprey 65 for weekend training hikes to get in shape for my next AT section hike.

  9. I’ve been eyeballing the G4 for a while mainly because it’s a pound lighter and half the price of the Mariposa. Phil, have you used a G4? I know you’ve used the Mariposa and Gorilla from other things you’ve written. The lack of stays makes me nervous (I think old school retrofit was using arrow shafts). I am still getting base weight down – full pack weight ends up being 25# for me.

    • I’ve used all of Gossamer Gear’s packs and have done a lot of behind the scenes testing of prototypes for the company over the years. The G4 is a great pack, but like all frameless packs, you need to pay a lot more attention to how you pack it than a pack with an internal frame stay, meaning that your load becomes the frame. I think at 25 pounds you’d be way better off with a Mariposa frankly.

      The old Mariposa, circa 2008 used carbon fiber arrow shafts for stays, but the stay in the modern Gossamer Gear packs is much different and infintely better because it slots down behind the hip belt and really transfers the load to the hip belt. The only “frame” you get with the G4 is the Nightlight and you have to pay extra for it.

      You have to understand that the G4 has only been updated cosmetically over time (different colors) whereas the Mariposa and Gorilla have had major design improvements over the years. They keep getting better and better, although I think they’re unlikely to change much over the next year or two.

      • Philip, thanks, that’s helpful. Yeah, the G4 is a design frozen in time; still tempting due to the price point and my 3 kids coming up the backpacking ranks. But you’re right that the Mariposa is probably a more sensible evolutionary step from my Osprey Volt 60 (3 1/2#).

        When did you become a “former” GG Ambassador?

      • December 1, 2014. I dropped all my sponsors so I can spend more time hiking and writing. I did a lot for them and this gives me a lot more free time.

  10. I really like the improvements GG has made to these packs, but neither the Mariposa nor the Gorilla will work for me. The Mariposa is too big (all my gear fits in about 50L even for a 10 day solo trip or sherpa-ing for grandkids) and the Gorilla has no load lifters. Thanks to highly pressure-sensitive shoulders and past lower back issues, I must have load lifters (to get the pressure completely off my shoulders) and a lumbar pad (to help my lower back). Fortunately, my current pack has both these things and, right out of the box, fit me as though it were custom made for me. It’s a SMD Comet, 2005 model, long since discontinued (SMD ditched the lumbar pad in 2006 and dropped the Comet model altogether about 2010). Fortunately, my old Comet is holding up just fine–I have had to do a few minor stitching repairs. If it dies before I do, though, I’ll have a VERY interesting time finding something comparable! My experience just proves, IMHO, that pack fit is as individual as shoe fit.

  11. Great article. I have a Gorilla and I love it. The pack is perfect for my most frequent trips, 4 days and three nights. For longer trips, I chose the ULA Circuit over the Mariposa.

  12. Dee how does the gorilla compare to the ULA Circuit ? Does either carry weight better than the other ?

    • The biggest different is the rigidity of the frame. The Circuit will bulge into your back if you overstiff it because it doesn’t have a rigid frame. The Gorilla doesn’t bend inwards because the aluminum stay in the pack is much more rigid. Both are great packs although I prefer the Gorilla.

  13. Great article. The gorilla is a good 10 oz lighter than my Osprey daypack. I was just out day hiking in Anza Borrego, and had some unavoidable scrapes to pack and other gear in a slot canyon. I would be more deliberately careful if backpacking, but I wonder how the new robic and mesh would hold up to normal southwest wear? I’m deciding between the gorilla, ohm or SMD Fusion. GG and SMD Fusion are currently on sale.

    • The robic will be fine – it’s even tougher than the fabric that they used previously. You should realize that Gossamer Gear is based in Austin and they hike in the southwest all of the time. Same with many of their trail ambassadors, like Derek Hansen (Ultimate Hang) who lives in AZ.

  14. The Gorilla and Mariposa keep getting heavier as GG tries to find a bigger niche. They are not ultralight packs, they are ” lightweight framed packs”.

    I think the color is ….well, Ill keep that to myself. Ill just say I dont know what they were thinking. That does not detract from functionality.

    • Actually, I think their main motivation has been to increase the durability of theri backpacks and they’ve done a great job of doing just that, That’s the biggest complaint people have about ultralight gear – it’s delicacy. If a pack can’t last through a thru-hike, you’ve been ripped off.

  15. I’ve been using the GG Kumo with a pocketed hipbelt for about a year now, fits my 3-season kit for up to 4 nights or so, and blends into my backside so that I hardly feel I’m carrying anything. They really hit the sweet spot with this one for me.

    • I don’t know if you realize it, but the Kumo was just a toughened up version of the Murmur, with more durable materials. Both packs had the same dimensions (and yes, I know many people including myself who adore the pack).

  16. GG put a new Kumo on their site a few days ago!

  17. Finally – I’ll be adding it above.

  18. I’m doing some comparison shopping, and was looking at the GG website. It says the Mariposa is 3487 ci (57l.) total. Here, you’ve listed it at 70L. Where did the 13 liters go?

    • They changed the way they added up the volume. The old number was 69.5 L. I’ve gone and updated the specs listed here, so they’re in synch now.

      • Thanks Phil, I also contacted GG, and they said they stopped including the extension collar, but the capacity hadn’t changed. To me, it seems to be an odd choice, as I’m shopping and comparing, I wouldn’t think of the Mariposa at 57L and the ULA Circuit at 68L to be the “same” capacity. 10 liters is a big difference. Anyways, thank you! I was also glad to see today’s ULA review, as I’d narrowed my comparison down to those two packs.

  19. I don’t why both companies make it so difficult to understand what their pack’s capacity is. There’s actually a common industry standard which leaves out all open storage and the extension collar and just bases the size of the pack on closed storage capacity. I once suggested that Gossamer Gear call the Mariposa the “Mariposa 69” (or whatever number fits), like other manufacturers, but that would make things too easy for consumers.

    • I’m happy to say that Gossamer Gear has changed their naming scheme and included the volume in the product name of all of their packs!

      Gossamer Gear Mariposa 60
      Gossamer Gear Gorilla 40

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