Gossamer Gear Backpack Guide: How to Choose

Gossamer Gear Backpack Guide: How To Choose

Gossamer Gear is one of the original ultralight backpack manufacturers and has continuously refined its products to adapt to the needs of lightweight backpackers and thru-hikers. I started using their packs back in 2006 and finished hiking Vermont’s Long Trail in 2008 with a Gossamer Gear Mariposa Plus, now called the Mariposa 60. I’ve used every generation of every one of their backpacks since then, including prototypes that never made it to market, and have a hands-on appreciation of their strengths, weaknesses, and whether they’ll fit your needs. I’ve tried to package that know-how into this guide, but feel free to ask me any questions you might have in the comment form below.

Here are some tips to help you with the selection process.

ModelVolumeWeightBest For
Mariposa60L30.5 oz / 865gBackpacking, Thru-hiking
Gorilla50L29.8 oz / 846gBackpacking, Thru-hiking
G4-2042L25 oz / 709gThru-hiking
Kumo36L20.5 oz / 580gUltralight Backpacking, Peakbagging
Murmur36L7.9 - 12.5 oz / 224- 354gUltralight Backpacking
Minimalist24L11.7 oz / 331gDay Hiking, Urban
Vagabond Jet23L22.8 oz / 648gTravel, Urban
Vagabond Trail23L17.5 oz / 496gTravel, Urban

 Gossamer Gear Mariposa 60L – unisex

Gossamer Gear Mariposa 60 Backpack

The Mariposa 60 Lightweight Backpack is the highest volume backpack that Gossamer Gear makes. A size medium weighs 30.5 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, although packing it up might be quite different than you’re used to. For instance, the Mariposa has 36L of internal covered storage (up to the base of the extension collar) and 24L of external open storage in its front and side pockets. You’ll keep all the stuff you want dry in the covered storage and all the stuff you want easy access during the day in the open pockets, such as layers, food, water bottles, a water filter, tent or shelter, or even a stove and cookpot.

The thing that distinguishes the Mariposa 60 from other packs is the configuration and size of its side pockets. For example, the Mariposa has a long external pocket, which I call a “quiver pocket” 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. Of course, you don’t have to store a tent or shelter in that pocket, but it’s a very convenient place to carry one if you do.

In addition to the stretch mesh front pocket, there are two stacked side pockets on the other side of the Mariposa. The bottom pocket is large enough to hold two one-liter bottles with ease if you don’t use a hydration system, but it also is a good pocket to store a wet water filter, a pot/stove combination, or a Jetboil if you carry one. This is all gear that can get wet if it rains and doesn’t need to be stored inside your pack. It’s also convenient to have easy access to it.

The Mariposa comes with a pre-bent aluminum stay which slots into the hip belt, allowing it to carry up to 30-35 pounds. It has load lifters and a replaceable hip belt in several lengths so you can get a good fit, and closed hip belt pockets. The shoulder pads and hipbelt are well-padded and comfortably shaped to accommodate women and even men with large chests. The pack is available in several torso lengths ranging from 11.5″ to 23.5″ so it can fit very short people as well as very tall ones, with hip belt sizing from 22″-50″.

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. I’ve taken this pack on many Appalachian Trail section hikes and multi-day trips. It’s also great in early spring or autumn when you need to carry a warmer sleeping bag and warmer clothing that takes up more space in your pack.

Read my review of the Mariposa 60L Backpack

Gossamer Gear Gorilla 50L – unisex

Gossamer Gear Gorilla

The Gorilla 50 Ultralight Backpack is slightly smaller in volume than the Mariposa 60 and doesn’t have a long tent pocket on the side. A size medium weighs 29.8 oz. The maximum recommended load for the Gorilla is 25-30 pounds. It is a good backpack to get if you need less volume than the Mariposa 60 because you own more compressible gear and for shorter length trips. The Gorilla’s extra-long side compression straps also make it possible to strap bulky gear to the outside of the pack like snowshoes or a sleeping pad, which would be awkward with the Mariposa 60.

I’ve used a Gorilla for many years on trips up to a week in length, although it takes some packing discipline to carry that much food and gear in the pack. I like the fact that its side pockets are symmetrical, which makes balancing water bottles much easier.

The Gorilla is available in the same torso and hip belt size ranges as the Mariposa 60.

Read our Gossamer Gear Gorilla Backpack Review

Gossamer Gear G4-20 Backpack – unisex

Gossamer Gear G4-20

The Gossamer Gear G4-20 is an updated version of the G4, one of the Gossamer Gear’s earliest backpacks (the 20 stands for 2020, the year this newest model was introduced). With 42 liters of capacity, the G4-20 is a frameless backpack that weighs 25 oz. It’s best for carrying loads under 20 to 25 pounds and makes a nice ultralight backpack for multi-day trips and extended day hikes. It’s a roll-top, with one long quiver pocket like the Mariposa 60 and one short pocket. The roll-top is a good option, especially for a lower volume pack, compared to the over-the-top closure used on Gossamer Gear’s other packs, which can be awkward to open and close if you need to access the main compartment frequently or prefer the simplicity of a roll top. In addition to a front mesh pocket, it also has an external front pocket with a water-resistant zipper good for storing personal items.

Read our Gossamer Gear G4-20 Backpack Review.

Gossamer Gear Kumo 36L – unisex

Gossamer Gear Kumo 36 Backpack

The Gossamer Gear Kumo 36 Superlight Backpack is the favorite backpack of Gossamer Gear’s sponsored Brand Ambassadors. It’s perfect for experienced ultralight backpackers with compact loads, who still need a backpack that can carry up to 20-25 pounds. 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, making it easy to take on airplanes.

The Kumo is similar to the Gorilla with the symmetric water bottle pockets, a front mesh pocket, and the over-the-top pocket, which is ideal for storing maps or travel documents. It also comes with a removable hip belt.

Weighing 20.5 ounces, the Kumo is available in two sizes for torso lengths ranging from 16″-24″ inches and in hip belt length that ranges from 28″-50″. The maximum recommended load for the Kumo is 25 pounds.

See my Gossamer Gear Kumo Review

Gossamer Gear Murmur Backpack

Gossamer Gear Murmur 36L Backpack – unisex

The Murmur 36 Hyperlight Backpack is Gossamer Gear’s lightest weight backpack, ranging in weight from 7.9 ounces to 12.5 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. It is considerably less durable than Gossamer Gear’s other packs and should only be used on developed trails to avoid snagging and tearing the fabric.

The Murmur is similar to the Kumo 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.

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

See my Gossamer Gear Murmur Backpack Review

Gossamer Gear Minimalist 24, Vagabond Jet, Vagabond Trail, Vagabond Package

Gossamer Gear’s other backpacks, the Minimalist, and the Vagabonds are primarily daypacks good for day hikes, summit ascents, and urban use. If you’re looking for an overnight or multi-day backpack, the Mariposa 60 and Gorilla 50 are your best bets, while the G4-20 is optimal for fast and light hikes where you can pack a minimal ultralight load.

Gossamer Gear FAQ

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 ratio 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.

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 daytime 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.

Hip Belt Sizing

The Mariposa 60 and Gorilla 50 have removable hip belts so you can replace one if it doesn’t fit you out of the box. Both of these packs come with a medium-sized hip belt, regardless of the torso size you choose. That medium-sized hip belt fits 80% of the people who buy these packs by design, but you can purchase one that’s larger or smaller without incurring any extra cost if you return the original medium-sized belt to Gossamer Gear. The process for a small or large belt is to add an additional hipbelt of your preferred size to your order, swap it out (see video) at home, and then return the medium belt if you’d like for a full $25 refund.

Sit Pads

The Mariposa 60, Gorilla 50, G4-20 42, Kumo 36, and Murmur 36 all come with sit pad pockets and foam sit pads that can be removed and used as trail seats. They’re really quite handy. You have the option of replacing them with three different pads, all with differing degrees of ventilation. These pads are available in three different sizes to match the torso length or your pack. The Air Flow Sit Pad is the most ventilated and the only one really worth upgrading to, in my honest opinion. It’s also the easiest to reinsert into the backpack pad pockets after use.

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 have 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, Kumo, 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 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, Kumo, 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 is vastly improved over previous versions of Gossamer Gear’s backpacks and is quite robust.

Fabric Durability

Gossamer Gear’s packs are made with Robic Nylon in several different thicknesses depending on the pack size. Robic is now used widely by other mainstream pack companies and is about two times more abrasion resistant than the previous version of nylon used by backpack manufacturers. That said, none of Gossamer Gear’s packs are durable enough for off-trail hiking and are really intended for hiking on maintained trails. As with all lightweight backpacking gear, there are limitations to the durability of the backpack fabrics, and due care must be taken to avoid damaging them. Gossamer Gear packs can definitely last through a thru-hike if they’re not abused indiscriminately.

Repairs and Pack Customization

Gossamer Gear outsources customer pack repair requests to a company named Rugged Thread. They can repair almost any damage you do from mesh rips and abrasion to replacing buckles, straps, or zippers. Gossamer Gear does not offer pack customization. If you contact Rugged Thread directly, mention Gossamer Gear since they’ve negotiated discounts for customers.

SectionHiker is reader-supported. We independently research, test, and rate the best products. We only make money if you purchase a product through our affiliate links. Help us continue to test and write unsponsored and independent gear reviews, beginner FAQs, and free hiking guides.

9 comments

  1. Silverback 65 coming VERY soon. It’s a new version of old 55 (new one is 65)
    They received a shipment already and should be posting details soon.
    Nice overview of GG packs

  2. I have Gorilla and like it. I am able to fit my tent (BA Fly Creek UL2) in the side pocket. One thing I would change is the top where the the tube of the body continues up and makes a flap over the main body. It has a zippered pocket which I find is very limited. Any more than a small volume or weight makes getting in and out of the main body cumbersome. It does provide for expanded volume, but if your need that much volume you are likely over the weight limit of the pack anyways. I would prefer that the tubular part of the main body ended just above the shoulders except at the back side which could still be used as a flap over. This would make it more like traditional packs with a brain, but actually use less material than it does now. It would make that top pocket much more useful. The Mariposa looks to have the same design.

  3. If you need a belt size other than medium, you must order your chosen size as an extra item. The delivered pack will still come with the medium belt attached, and your chosen size as a separate item. This does involve an additional cost to the customer. I just went through this process with GG. In addition to the hassle of having to re-fit your chosen belt to the pack, get a return number, and returning the default medium-size belt, the refund is not the “full” $25 as claimed above but (in my case) $16.78.

    It’s not clear to me why GG can’t simply refit the ordered belt size themselves, or alternatively at least remove the unwanted belt from the order. It’s odd. They could simply ship the correct size (either attached or as separate item) the first place, rather than requiring the customer to go though an awkward return process. See, for example, the way Zpacks or Hyperlite handle this.

    • I suspect it’s because some one other than them is doing the fulfillment. Did they charge you for shipping? Is that why the refund wasn’t $25. What did they say about the difference? This is the process documented on their website to the letter. BTW..Hyperlite doesn’t have replaceable hip belts.

  4. It was 25 less the cost of my shipping the medium belt back.

    Re: Hyperlite, they do sell replaceable belts for some of their models — https://www.hyperlitemountaingear.com/products/removable-hip-belt?_pos=2&_sid=e015e03e3&_ss=r

    It’s kind of unclear, but it may be they match their sewn-in hip belt sizing to the ordered torso size. They have three belt sizes available in their pocket belts —

    Hip Belt with Pockets:
    Small: 26.5” – 49”
    Medium: 27.5” – 50”
    Large/Tall: 29.5” – 52”

    Anyway, this isn’t a huge deal (after all I did buy the pack), it just seems needless expense, hassle and burned gasoline to be shipping the unwanted GG belts back and forth around the country/world. Why not just send the belt the customer orders and be done with it?

  5. Hi Philip, could you comment on packing a BV 500 bear canister ( or the black one Yosemite rents) in the Mariposa 60 and Gorilla pack. Would the canister fit horizontally or does it have to be vertical? Probably wouldn’t fit in the smaller packs in your article. What’s the volume of the canister anyway so I can subtract it from 36 liters for packing the inside of the Mariposa. Thx

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.