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Gossamer Gear Gorilla 50 Backpack: A Comprehensive Review

Gossamer Gear Gorilla 50 Backpack Review (2024)

The Gossamer Gear Gorilla 50 Ultralight Backpack (updated in 2024) is a multi-day internal frame backpack that’s optimized for ultralight backpacking and thru-hiking. Now in its fifth generation, it’s a great backpack for people who want to transition from carrying a much heavier back to a lighter-weight one, without having to replace all of their existing backpacking gear with smaller ultralight items. Many people also choose the Gorilla over the Gossamer Gear Mariposa 60 because it has two identically sized right and left side pockets, making it easier to balance your load.

Specs at a Glance

  • Frame: Yes
  • Volume: 50L (32L main, 18L external pockets) + 10L in the extension collar
  • Weight: 33.5 oz / 949g
  • Gender: Unisex with female-friendly S-shaped shoulder straps and two hipbelt options
  • Pockets: 4 closed, 3 open
  • Hip belt pockets: Yes
  • Hydration compatible: Yes
  • Load lifters: Yes
  • Maximum recommended load: 25-30 lbs
  • Materials: 70D and 100D Recycled Robic Nylon (PFAs-free)
  • Torso Range (multiple sizes): 16-18″; 18″-20″; 20″-22″
  • Hipbelt Range (multiple sizes): 21″-61.5″
  • Canister Compatibility: the BV500 fits vertically while the BV475 fits horizontally in the main compartment.  You can carry a BV500 under the top lid pocket, but the BV475 fits more securely.
  • See Gossamer Gear for complete specifications and sizing

Backpack Storage and Organization

The Gorilla is a top-loading backpack with a total capacity of 50 liters up to the top of the frame,  not including a long extension collar. This includes 32 liters of interior volume and 18 liters in the pack’s external pockets.

The pack has three open external pockets: a huge front stretch mesh pocket that’s good for storing everything you could need during the day, so you don’t have to stop and open the main compartment up. I keep snacks, layers, and wet stuff in mine, including my filter and squeeze bag.

The side pockets can hold multiple bottles while the hip belt pockets are huge.

There are also two large side pockets made with solid fabric for better durability. It’s easy to reach back and grab a water bottle and put it back in. The side pocket is also wide enough to hold a Jetboil Stash, for example, if you don’t want to pack it inside your pack (because it’s wet.) All three pockets have drainage holes on the bottom.

The Gorilla 50 has an extension collar that extends another 11.5 inches above the frame and adds approximately 10 liters of capacity to the pack volume. That extra volume can be used to store a bear canister (vertically) or several bags of Doritos after a town resupply. It also turns the Gorilla 50 is a much bigger pack than you would expect at first glance and gives you a lot more flexibility to overload it on the high end.

The Over the top pocket is sized to hold a map but can fit so much more.
The Over the top pocket is sized to hold a map but can fit so much more.

The Gorilla 50 has an “Over-the-Top” closure that’s essentially an ultralight version of a traditional top-lid instead of the roll-top found on most ultralight backpacks. It clips together at the top and then folds over the top of the main compartment. It has a large external zippered pocket that can hold quite a lot of gear: I use it to store a headlamp, Aquamira drops, maps, compass, hats, gloves, PPE, my wallet, keys, you name it. The front of the Over-the-Top closure is attached to the pack by long webbing straps anchored to the sides of the pack.

You can also scrunch gear, rope, clothing, and even a bear canister under the Over-the-Top closure, which is useful if it’s dripping wet with rain or bear slobber to keep it separate from your gear. Here’s what that looks like with a Bearvault BV500 bear canister, although the BV475 is a bit more secure when strapped down this way. (The BV475 also fits horizontally in the main compartment).

If you pack carefully, you can secure a BV500 or BV475 under the over the top pocket.
If you pack carefully, you can secure a BV500 or BV475 under the over the top pocket.

The Gorilla also has two hip belt pockets permanently attached to the hip belt that close with zippers. The pockets are made with solid fabric for better durability and are large enough to contain several food bars, a GPS, a Garmin inReach, or a point-and-shoot camera. They’re far larger than the pockets you find on conventional backpacks and therefore more useful. I think Gossamer Gear’s backpacks have some of the best hip belt pockets in the industry and I have a hard time adjusting to packs that don’t provide this kind of convenient storage.

Backpack Frame and Suspension

While the latest Gorilla 50 is outwardly the same in appearance as the previous model, the frame and suspension system were completely replaced to provide more inclusive sizing for men and women of different shapes and sizes. In the past, Gossamer Gear was very “unisex” in its orientation, but as the market for ultralight backpacks has grown, it became clear that women (and people with small statures) wanted breast-friendly S-shaped shoulder straps and pre-curved female-friendly hip belts.

The Gorilla 50 comes with S-shaped shoulder straps which are comfortable for both men and women
The Gorilla 50 comes with S-shaped shoulder straps which are comfortable for both men and women

Since S-shaped shoulder straps are comfortable for both men and women, they’re now standard on the Gorilla 50 and the Mariposa 60. There are also two new PVT (stands for Pivot) hipbelt options available for the Gorilla and the Mariposa: a Straight hipbelt similar in fit to the unisex hipbelt sold on earlier models and one with curved wings designed for people (mostly women) with curvier hips and smaller waists. See Gossamer Gear for fitting instructions (scroll down the page).

The PVT hip belts are not compatible with older model Gorilla backpacks, so you’ll need to buy an entirely new backpack if you want to upgrade. Gossamer Gear changed how the frame connects the hipbelt, making it much simpler to replace (without tearing your hair out) than previously. The bottom of the frame is curved and slots into a pouch-like cup at the back of the hipbelt with the added benefit that the sides of the hipbelt can Pivot, that is, move slightly up or down with your hips as you walk. Other backpack makers Gregory, Deuter, and Osprey have hipbelt systems that offer a similar pivot benefit although I think it’s a lot more useful on packs designed to carry much heavier loads than the Gorilla.

Curved and Straight PVT Hip Belts
Curved and Straight PVT Hip Belts

A bigger benefit of the new Pivot system is that it’s much much easier to swap in a new PVT hipbelt if you want to replace the ones that come bundled with the Gorilla. Gossamer Gear sells three out-of-the-box configurations of the Gorilla with preconfigured hip belts and five different hipbelt sizes, which cost an additional $25 if you want to customize your fit. Gossamer Gear will refund the $25 if you send back the original hipbelt – contact them for details.

The PVT frame is also a 360 loop instead of the 270 degree U-shaped frame used in previous models, making for a much stiffer and more responsive carry. Gossamer Gear also added more stiffeners to the back of the hipbelt, resulting in better load transfer to the hips.

Load lifters help pull the frame forward and bring it closer to your torso.
Load lifters help pull the frame forward and bring it closer to your torso.

Load lifters were also added to this version of the Gorilla 50 which tie into the top of the frame and let you pull it in closer to your torso and hips for a more efficient carry. 

In addition, there is a new foam sit pad included that slots into mesh sleeves behind the shoulder straps. While it has holes in it, they don’t provide any ventilation to dry perspiration in your shirt. Still, the sit pad is very handy to pull out when you want a dry spot to sit down in camp or a porch in front of your tent, and easy to slot back into the mesh sleeves when you’re ready to take off again. While you can replace the foam pad with another of your choosing, you want to avoid using something like a full Zlite foam pad because it will be too thick and position the pack too far away from your torso.

External Attachment and Compression System

The Gorilla 50 has two tiers of side compression webbing to compress your load and make it easier to carry. The side compression webbing can also be used to secure gear to the side of your pack. For example, if you’re carrying tent poles or a fishing rod, you can cinch them under the compression straps to keep them secure.

Dual side compression straps make it easy to lash long objects like fishing poles or snowshoes to the side of the pack.
Dual side compression straps make it easy to lash long objects like fishing poles or snowshoes to the side of the pack.

The side compression straps are also quite long, making it easy to lash bulky objects to the side of the backpack. This is very helpful particularly in winter for carrying foam pads or snowshoes, which you can’t fit inside the backpack. I wish all pack makers had compression straps this long! They close with squeeze-style buckles instead of linelocs making them much easier to use in winter when wearing gloves and because they won’t freeze closed.

In addition, the Gorilla has 10 tiny webbing loops scattered along the side and back seams of the pack so you can rig up custom attachment points using an accessory line and a few cordlocks. Gossamer Gear sells a shock cord compression set for this purpose. Many people like to add a cord on the outside of the mesh pocket to dry wet socks or clothing while they walk, for instance. You can also hang a solar panel this way.

Accessory Pocket Attachment Points

Hosekeeper loops, front webbing, and plastic rings make it easy to hang Gossamer gear accessory pockets form the shoulder straps.
Hosekeeper loops, front webbing, and plastic rings make it easy to hang Gossamer gear accessory pockets from the shoulder straps.

Gossamer Gear also makes it easy to add accessory pockets and electronic gizmos to the shoulder straps of the Gorilla, which include D-rings and horizontal keeper straps. They make several handy accessory pockets to attach to the shoulder straps including:

It’s worth picking up a few of these if you buy a Gorilla 50 because they’re purpose-built for Gossamer Gear packs. Gossamer Gear does not sew daisy chains on their shoulder straps, so you can’t use a Hyperlite Mountain Gear Shoulder Pocket with the Gorilla 50.

Trekking Pole Holders and Ice Axe Loop

Trekking pole loops at the base of the pack make it easy to carry trekking poles.
Trekking pole loops at the base of the pack make it easy to carry trekking poles.

Gossamer Gear includes a pair of trekking pole holders on the Gorilla that make it convenient to stow your poles when you want to keep your hands free. The tips of your poles slide into two elasticated loops at the base of the pack, while the tops can be lashed to the side of your pack using the upper compression strap or a cord lock attached to one of the Gorilla’s external lash points. The same holds for securing an ice ax to the pack using the ice ax loop.

Comparable Ultralight Packs w/Frames

Make / ModelWeightFabric
Zpacks Arc Haul 60L20.9 oz / 593gUltra 200
Hyperlite Mountain Gear Southwest 5534.9 oz / 989gDyneema DCF
Granite Gear Crown 3 60L32.6 oz / 1040gRobic Nylon
Osprey Exos Pro 5534.6 oz / 981gUHMWPE Nylon Ripstop
ULA Circuit 68L37.3 oz / 1038gRobic Nylon
Gossamer Gear Mariposa 60L34.2 oz / 968gRobic Nylon
REI Flash 55L45 oz / 1276gRobic Nylon
Gregory Focal 5841.3 oz / 1171gRobic Nylon
SWD UL Long Haul 5030.2 oz / 856gUltra 200
Durston Kakwa 5531 oz / 880gUltra 200

Recommendation

The Gossamer Gear Gorilla 50, now in its fifth generation, is better than ever. The new S-shaped shoulder straps and two hipbelt options are a much better fit for females or people with a smaller stature while the new frame and load lifters make the pack much easier to adjust for greater comfort. The Gorilla is a super comfortable pack that is easy to adapt to your needs whether you need to carry extra food or bulky gear for winter backpacking, or if you want to strip it down for a more streamlined adventure. The two things that I like best about the Gorilla 50 are the 10L extension collar which gives you a lot of flexibility without any added weight, and the extra-long side compression straps for lashing bulky gear to the side of the pack. If you’re a four-season or multi-sport style hiker like me, that feature is a huge value-add that’s pretty hard to find on other ultralight backpacks.

Shop at Gossamer Gear

 

Disclosure: Gossamer Gear donated a pack for an in-depth review.

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2 comments

  1. Hi, how would you say this compares to the Durston Kakwa in terms of comfort and load carrying? Aesthetically I’m more of a fan of the Gorilla and love the idea of having an integrated sitpad but in the end I care more about the performance… Heard good things about the previous Gorillas comfort and people seem to be able to carry a lot in the Kawka. My BW with either bag would end up at around 12-13 pounds and I’d have to carry food for anywhere from 3-10 days, never had to carry more than 1L of water.

    • The Gorilla is a very comfortable. The Kakwa 54 can carry more weight. In the end, the only real functional differences between the Gorilla and the Kakwa, other than the fabric, are the side compression straps and the top closure. I far prefer packs with two tiers of webbing straps and buckles over those with cords and linelocs for side compression because I’m a 4 season hiker. On that score the Gorilla wins. But the over the top pocket can be annoying if you have to open it frequently during the day. But it’s only a little more annoying than a rolll top. :-)

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