Gossamer Gear G4-20 Backpack Review

Gossamer Gear G4-20 Backpack Review

The Gossamer Gear G4-20 Backpack is a 42-liter frameless roll-top backpack that weighs 25 oz. Being frameless 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. In many ways, the G4-20 repackages many of the unique features of Gossamer Gear’s Classic Mariposa 60 Backpack in a lower volume and lighter weight form for hikers who want its utility without its weight or added volume.

Gossamer Gear G4-20 Backpack

Comfort
Weight
Suspension
Features
Adjustability
Sizing
Durability

Ultralight Backpack

The Gossamer Gear G4-20 is a 42 liter frameless backpack that's fun to use because it's suitable for so many different types of trips from ultralight thru-hiking and hut-to-hut trekking to all day peakbagging adventures and fast-and-light overnights.

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Specs at a Glance

  • Type: Frameless
  • Top Closure: Roll top
  • Weight: 25 oz (includes 3.3 oz external sit pad)
  • Pockets: 5 + main compartment
  • Gender: Unisex
  • Ice ax loop: 1
  • Trekking pole holder: No
  • Hydration compatible: Yes, center ports but no internal pocket
  • Bear Canister compatible: Yes, vertical
  • Sizing: Three fixed torso ranges and hip belt lengths
  • For additional specs click for Gossamer Gear product page
The G4 is available in an attractive blue or Gossamer gear’s traditional silver color
The G4 is available in an attractive blue or Gossamer gear’s traditional silver color

The G4 incorporates a number of design elements that are common on Gossamer Gear’s other backpacks. It has a front stretch pocket that’s good for storing clothing layers and other items you want easy access to during the day. There’s an external sit pack pocket and a foam sit pad that’s nice to sit on when you want to take a break, although it has holes in it so its no longer waterproof like Gossamer Gear’s other sit pads. Finally, there are gear loops distributed along the seams of the pack where you can clip on items or attach cord/cord locks (sold separately) to create compression or shrink excess pack volume.

The G4 has a external sit pad sleeve and removable foam sitpad.
The G4 has an external sit pad sleeve and removable foam sitpad.

Modular Roll Top

The G4 has a roll top that can be secured with buckles and webbing straps to the sides of the main compartment or on clipped together on the top and held in place with a single top strap. All of the straps are removable, so you can choose which ones you prefer and remove the excess straps or keep them all in place. (Note: the side straps and the top strap are not interchangeable.) 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 and to open and close if you need to access the main compartment frequently or prefer the simplicity of a roll top.

The G4 doesn’t come with side compression straps, but there are gear loops in along the seams so you can add your own cord for compression or to hold items alongside the pack.
The G4 doesn’t come with side compression straps, but there are gear loops in along the seams so you can add your own cord for compression or to secure items to the side of the pack, like fishing rods shown here. Gossamer Gear sells accessory cord and cord locks for this purpose.

In use, I’ve found that the side straps are awkward to use and run slack unless the pack is fully loaded, while the top strap is easier to use when the pack is partially loaded. The top strap is also useful if you want to carry a folding foam pad on top of the pack.

Pocket Configuration

The pack comes with 5 pockets total including 2 hip belt pockets(described below), plus the main compartment. There is a map-sized pocket on the front of the pack above the stretch mesh pocket that has a waterproof zipper and is large enough to hold your personal items from ski goggles to keys, wallet, and electronic devices. It’s pretty handy.

The left hand side pocket is 10” high, while the right is 6” tall
The left hand side pocket is 10” high, while the right is 6” tall

There are two more pockets on the sides of the main pack bag, one 6″ tall and the other 10″. Both can hold two Smartwater bottles. You can reach both pockets while wearing the pack, although it’s much easier to pull bottles out of the shorter pocket unless you’re really flexible. The tall pocket is reminiscent of the tall quiver-style pocket on the Mariposa 60, but is much more accessible when the pack is worn. It’s good for stashing long thin objects like fishing rods or a Jetboil stove system. Both pockets have drainage holes in their bottom.

Backpack Suspension

Fixed Length Hip Belt

The G4 comes with a fix length hip belt that is sewn directly to the back of the pack and not removable or interchangeable like most of Gossamer Gear’s other backpacks. That said, the hipbelt size ranges offered have a lot of overlap and you should be able to get a good fit anyway. I still wish that the hip belt was removable because that’s a nice feature on a frameless backpack, but if that’s something you want, I suggest that you look at the Gossamer Gear Kumo 36 instead.

The G4 has one open mesh pocket and one solid pocket with a waterproof zipper well sized for a phone or camera
The G4 has one open mesh pocket and one solid pocket with a waterproof zipper well-sized for a phone or camera

The hip belt has two pockets. One is large enough to store a phone and closes with a waterproof zipper, while the other is an open mesh pocket good for storing snacks and items you don’t mind losing.

Shoulder Straps

The G4 is a unisex backpack with J-shaped shoulder straps. Plastic loops have been added to the shoulder strap that are compatible with Gossamer Gear’s shoulder strap pocket and other clip-on gear like an inReach Mini Satellite Messenger. I would prefer having daisy chains sewn to the front of the shoulder straps because they’re compatible with a wider range of pack pockets, but it’s not a show-stopper as they say.

Maximum Load

Gossamer Gear lists the G4’s max load at 30 pounds, but I think 20-25 pounds is a more realistic range. While the foam pad helps the hold its shape and the hip belt is sewn onto the pack, the G4 is still a frameless backpack and doesn’t transfer much to weight to the hips. The hip belt is wide and richly padded but it isn’t firm enough for significant weight transfer. This is totally in-line with what I expect from a frameless backpack, but it’s important that you understand that the G4 is an ultralight backpack and has a limited load capacity by design.

Comparable ultralight frameless backpacks

Make / ModelVolumeWeightFabricPrice
Mountain Laurel Designs Exodus 5558L18 ozDyneema DCF$290
SWD Superior 4048L15 ozXPac$180
Atom Packs The Atom 4040L14.8 ozXPac$235
Zpacks Nero38L10.7 ozDyneema DCF$199
Pa'lante Packs V2 Lightweight Backpack31L, 37L17 ozXPac$240
Zimmerbuilt Quickstep36L9.75 ozDyneema DCF$150
Granite Gear Virga 254L19 ozCordura Nylon$140
Gossamer Gear Kumo36L21 ozRobic Nylon$165
Gossamer Gear G4-2042L25 ozRobic Nylon$180
ULA CDT54L24 ozRobic Nylon$145

Recommendation

The Gossamer Gear G4-20 is a 42-liter frameless backpack that’s fun to use because it’s suitable for so many different types of trips from ultralight thru-hiking and hut-to-hut trekking, to all-day peakbagging adventures and fast-and-light overnights. It’s a roll-top backpack making it simpler to use than most of Gossamer Gear’s other packs, with a permanently attached hip belt, and lots of pockets, which distinguishes it from Gossamer Gear’s other frameless backpacks.  The G4 is heavier than many other frameless backpacks because it has a hip belt, making it a good choice if you prefer one on a backpack but want to shed some gear weight. That said, it’s important to understand that the G4-20 is a frameless backpack with a maximum load of 20 to 25 pounds, so you can’t carry as much weight as a similarly sized backpack with an internal frame or frame stays

Disclosure: Gossamer Gear provided the author with a backpack for this review.

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9 comments

  1. Hi Phil, long time reader 1st time poster.

    Really enjoy your reviews, appreciate the breadth and depth of things you manage to cover. One thing I would love to see is stats in metric as well. As a none American I don’t think I would like to know how much time I have used in life googling conversions around backpacking gear :P I find this a thing with manufacturers websites as well.

    • You should give me some credit. I’m the person who convinced Gossamer Gear to put liters in their backpack product names. Wish they’d stick to that convention.

      • Why thank you for that ? their site is actually pretty great in therms of that, consistent Keith figures for most things as well. Really handy

      • FWIW, I’ve given up trying to convince Hyperlite Mountain Gear to rename their packs in terms of liters and not cubic inches, even though it would be to their advantage.

  2. I recently was in the market for a frameless pack and decided against the GG. The main reason is the sewn in hipbelt, that I see as a design flaw. On a frameless pack, I see the belt as being optional at best, since the load transfer without a frame is minimal. Why they did not make the belt removable or offer an option with a 1″ removable belt is beyond me. Anyway, I ended up going with a Zpacks Nero that, at 38 liters, is a bit smaller than the GG but fit what I was looking for to a tee. It also weighs in at a crazy light 12 ounces with the removable belt.

    • Two things: I think they made the hip belt permanent so they can sell it in retail stores and my guess is that they also wanted a frameless pack with a hip belt since it’s removable on all their other frameless packs.

  3. This is a fun refresh of the 20+ year old G4 design. I have an original G4 and still use it occasionally. I agree that not making the hip belt detachable is a bit of a head-scratcher. I imagine it made manufacturing less complex and brought cost down.

    Question about the foam back/sit pad – does it improve ventilation over using a Nightlight or other GG pad?

    Also, it looks like the 42L volume is the main compartment (not including the extension collar) plus the mesh and side pockets. Good for folks to remember this is measured similarly to other cottage manufacturers and different from mainstream manufacturers (Osprey/Gregory/et al.) who typically rate just the main compartment or main+brain.

    • Hey JP. I’ve owned one of the old G4s and I don’t see the resemblance to the new model at all. :-)

      The total volume really is 42 liters – 30L in the main compartment and 12L in the mesh and side pockets.
      When Gregory, Osprey, Granite Gear, etc measure pack volume, they only measure the volume of *closed* pockets. There’s actually an industry standard for this.

      The new pad does not improve airflow. Yes, it has holes cut into it, but they lead to a solid wall of robic on the pack of the pack so it goes nowhere. Gossamer Gear doesn’t recommend using a (3 panel) Nightlight pad with their packs because it pushes the center of gravity away from your core too much. You’ll get much better results using one of their other single panel sit pad designs or if you put the nightlight on the interior of the pack so it’s a tube.

      • Thanks! I guess any frameless pack is going to sit right on one’s back and ventilation will be minimal – bit of an issue in the swampy mid-Atlantic May-Sep but OK other times of the year. The new pad is cheaper than their Airflow SitLight pad but GG’s verbiage gives zero clue as to which has better ventilation.

        I have occasionally used one of their 1-panel SitLights in the back, but the page for the Nightlight says:
        “Simply fold this pad up in the morning and store it in one of our backpack sleeves.” So I have done that. I don’t find it awkward but I’m also not bushwhacking (lunacy with an original G4 anyway), just using it on trail. Will have to try it around the perimeter as you suggest.

        I have an 1/8″ Thinlight which I use in combination with inflatables for some extra protection – could see using that as a tube.

        Thanks for all your informative reviews! I notice the Silverback is currently only $15 more – that’s a much different pack however, but I think the features are worth the weight. Or I might go with the Camo Kumo that’s $60 less and is much more comparable if less cavernous.

        Been tempted for years by the MLD Exodus. Don’t think this is the year however.

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