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Gossamer Gear Backpacks: How to Choose

Gossamer Gear Backpacks - How to Choose
Gossamer Gear Backpacks – How to Choose

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.

Gossamer Gear Mariposa 60 Backpack
Gossamer Gear Mariposa 60 Backpack (Photos courtesy of Gossamer Gear)

 Gossamer Gear Mariposa 60L – unisex

The Mariposa 60 Lightweight Backpack is the highest volume backpack that Gossamer Gear makes. A size medium weighs 32.7 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 has a pocket like this!

The Mariposa has seven pockets, an internal hydration sleeve, load lifters, adjustable hip belt with pockets and an internal frame stay which slots into the hip belt, allowing it to carry up to 35 pounds. It has a cushy unisex suspension system comfortable for both men and women with torso ranges from 11″-23.5″ making it an excellent option for women with short torsos as well as young adults. Hip belt sizing from 24″-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 (current model)

Gossamer Gear Silverback 50 Backpack
Gossamer Gear Silverback 50 Backpack (Photos courtesy of Gossamer Gear)

Gossamer Gear Silverback 50L – unisex

The Silverback 50L Backpack is the newest overnight backpack made by Gossamer Gear and is designed for hikers who want a rugged backpack that can be used on trail or off. A size medium weighs 37.5 ounces.

The Silverback is more rugged than the Mariposa because it uses heavier duty fabrics and doesn’t have an external facing mesh pocket that gets ripped up if you have to bushwhack through thick vegetation. It also has better compression straps and a top lid pocket, like a conventional alpine style backpack. It shares the same hip belt, hip belt sizing, and frame system as the Mariposa, making it easier to fit.

In addition to its off-trail and lightweight chops, the Silverback is large enough and durable enough for four season hiking, including heavier winter gear which has sharp points, like snowshoes and crampons.

Before you select the Silverback 50 or the Gorilla 40 below, you need to ask yourself if you want a backpack with a top lid pocket. While the pocket itself is removable, the webbing straps that strap it down are not and can clutter the pack when hiking with smaller loads.

Read my review of the Gossamer Gear Silverback 50L Backpack (current model)

Gossamer Gear Gorilla 40L Backpack
Gossamer Gear Gorilla 40 Backpack  (Photos courtesy of Gossamer Gear)

Gossamer Gear Gorilla 40L – unisex

The Gorilla 40 Ultralight Backpack is almost identical to the Silverback 50L but is smaller in volume and less durable making it better for use on well maintained trails. A size medium weighs 33.6 oz.

The Gorilla is a good backpack to get if you need less volume than the Mariposa or Silverback for weekend or overnight trips. The Gorilla’s compression system also makes it possible to use for peakbagging and strenuous day hikes, when you want to carry a little extra safety gear, food, water,  or insulation.

I 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. If you’re rough on backpacks and rip them up, I would recommend upgrading the to Silverback 50, which has the same top lid and compression system.

The Gorilla is available in the same torso and hip belt ranges as the Mariposa and Silverback. The maximum recommended load for the Gorilla is 30 pounds.

Read Gossamer Gear Brand Ambassador Will Reitvelt’s Gear Gorilla Backpack Review (Current model)

Gossamer Gear Kumo 36 Backpack
Gossamer Gear Kumo 36 Backpack  (Photos courtesy of Gossamer Gear)

Gossamer Gear Kumo 36L – unisex

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 for carrying 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 Mariposa with the same water bottle pockets, 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.

Weighing 19.6 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 (older 2012 model)

Gossamer Gear Murmur Backpack
Gossamer Gear Murmur 36 Backpack  (Photos courtesy of Gossamer Gear)

Gossamer Gear Murmur 36L Backpack – unisex

The Murmur 36 Hyperlight Backpack is Gossamer Gear’s lightest weight backpack, ranging in weight from 8.5 ounces to 13.2 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 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 (older 2012 model)

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

Gossamer Gear’s other backpacks, the Type II, the QuickSak and the Minimalist are primarily daypacks good for day hikes, summit ascents, and urban use. If you’re looking for a entry level overnight backpack, the Mariposa, Silverback and Gorilla 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 courtesy 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, Silverback, or Gorilla from Gossamer Gear, you can choose to get a hip belt which is a different size than the torso length 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, 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, Silverback, 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 pockets is vastly improved over previous versions of Gossamer Gear’s backpacks and quite robust.

Disclaimer: Philip Werner is a former Gossamer Gear Brand Ambassador. While he has received free products from Gossamer Gear, he was under no obligation to write this article and does not have a current business relationship with the company. 

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7 comments

  1. I’ve read through many of your gear reviews… aaaand possibly the entire site :) … and I’m excitedly waiting for my Mariposa to arrive by fedex today!! Thanks for the great site.

  2. I purchased a Gorilla In some time in 2016 as a “cosmetic blemished” pack at a reduced price. After hikes and going overs, along with some staring at the website, I am now of the opinion that I got an improved version of the gorilla with the original top flap instead of the new brain. Maybe a small run of “proof” packs from the new factory that didn’t have the brain? No idea. I can’t notice anything wrong with the way it carries, it’s stitching, or it’s appearance.

  3. The backpacks are all good. It’s so hard to choose, but thanks for the tips.

  4. I really like the 50L Silverback. The heavy duty fabric and durability are attractive qualities ensuring this pack lasts for many seasons in the Whites. I appreciate advice pro’s and con’s. Excellent article.

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