Gossamer Gear Gorilla 50 Backpack Review

Gossamer Gear Gorilla 50 Backpack Review

The Gossamer Gear Gorilla 50 Ultralight Backpack is a multi-day backpack that’s optimized for lightweight backpacking and thru-hiking. 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. If want less a little less volume than 50L, check out the Gossamer Gear G4-20 Ultralight 42 Backpack.

Gossamer Gear Gorilla 50 Backpack

Comfort
Weight
Suspension
Features
Adjustability
Sizing
Durability

Highly Versatile Ultralight Backpack

The Gossamer Gear Gorilla 50 is a multi-day backpack that's optimized for lightweight backpacking and thru-hiking. It's 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.

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Specs at a Glance

  • Frame: Yes
  • Volume: 50L (32L main, 18L external pockets) + 10L in the extension collar
  • Weight: 29.8 oz (size medium); 16.9 oz stripped
  • Gender: Unisex
  • Pockets: 4 closed, 3 open
  • Hip belt pockets: Yes
  • Hydration compatible: Yes
  • Load lifters: No
  • Maximum recommended load: 25-30 lbs
  • Materials: 70D and 100D Robic Nylon
  • Torso Range (multiple sizes): 11.5″-23.5″
  • Hipbelt Range (multiple sizes): 22″-50″
  • See Gossamer Gear for complete specifications and sizing
Previous versions of the Gorilla 40 from 2010, 2012, and 2015
Previous versions of the Gorilla 40 from 2010, 2012, and 2015

Evolution of the Gorilla

While the Gorilla 50 is technically “new” for 2021, it’s very similar to the previous 2015 Gorilla 40 model but with a 25% increase in capacity. Despite its volume increase, it still uses the same frame, which is more than sufficient for both pack volumes.

While there are many other new features on the Gorilla 50, the most notable are listed below:

  • The Gorilla 50 is now available in the classic Gossamer grey or a new mustard yellow color.
  • The Gorilla hip belt has been reinforced with rear stiffeners for better load transfer.
  • Every Gorilla 50 ships with a side medium hip belt (which fits 80% of customers). You need to purchase a separate hipbelt if you want a different size, but a refund is available if you send the original medium belt back to Gossamer Gear. Contact Gossamer Gear customer support for details.
  • The side compression straps now have buckles which make it easier to strap gear to the sides of the pack. The straps themselves are also much longer.
  • The sit pad has been reshaped and is now perforated.
  • Webbing loops have been added behind the hip belt so you can replace it with Gossamer’s fast belt. This is useful if you really want to strip the weight or go frameless.
The Gorilla 50 is a top loading backpack with 2 sides pockets and a front mesh pocket
The Gorilla 50 is a top-loading backpack with 2 side pockets and a front mesh pocket.

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.

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 extension collar (above the shoulder straps) adds another 10 liters of storage
The extension collar (above the shoulder straps) adds another 10 liters of storage.

The Gorilla 50 has an extension collar that extends another 11.5 inches above the frame and adds an additional 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 closure simply folds over the main compartment and buckles to the pack’s sides
The Over-the-Top closure folds over the main compartment and buckles to the pack’s sides.

The Gorilla 50 has an “Over-the-Top” closure that’s essentially an ultralight version of a traditional top-lid. It clips together at the top and then folds over the top of the main compartment. It has a huge zippered map pocket, like a top, lid but is much more streamlined and lightweight. The zippered pocket 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 Over-the-Top closure is attached to the pack by long webbing straps anchored to the sides of the pack.

You can secure a large bear canister under the Gorilla’s Over-the-Top lid
You can secure a large bear canister under the Gorilla’s Over-the-Top lid.

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 Garcia Bear Canister which is what we have to use in the Adirondacks High Peaks Region because the bears have figured out how to open BearVaults (very similar in size to a BV500). The Gossamer Gear Mariposa 60 uses the same Over-the-Top closure.

The hip belt has very large pockets that can hold a ton of gear and are easy to reach
The hip belt has very large pockets that can hold a ton of gear and are easy to reach.

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.

External Attachment and Compression System

The side compression straps are very long so you can carry quite bulky objects
The Gorilla’s side compression straps are very long so you can carry quite bulky objects from pads to snowshoes.

Compression Straps

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.

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 which makes them much easier to use than compression straps that don’t “open”.

The long straps also make it easy to carry bulky snowshoes, which will make winter backpackers happy!
The long straps also make it easy to carry bulky snowshoes, which will make winter backpackers happy!

Gear loops

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.

There numerous straps and D-rings on the shoulder straps to attach pockets or hang other items.
There numerous straps and D-rings on the shoulder straps to attach pockets or hang other items.

Accessory Pocket Attachment Points

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 a number of 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

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 plastic 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.

The Gorilla 50 has a removable frame stay.
The Gorilla 50 has a removable frame stay.

Backpack Frame and Suspension

The Gossamer Gear Gorilla 50 has a modular suspension system with four components.

  1. A removable aluminum stay that provides rigidity and load transfer to the hip belt.
  2. A foam sit pad that provides padding and comfort, but is externalized so it can be used for multiple purposes.
  3. A hip belt that locks into the aluminum stay and carries the pack weight (primarily).
  4. Shoulder straps help keep the load close to your back and in an optimal alignment with your hips

All of these can be removed, with the exception of the shoulder straps, to reduce the weight of the pack or enable the use of a climbing harness, which you can’t use with a backpack hipbelt. If you were to remove all of the strippable components, you could reduce the weight of the Gorilla 50 from 29.8 oz down to 16.9 oz

Here are the component weights if this is of interest:

  • Pack frame: 3.0 oz / 86 g
  • Sitlight pad: 2.2 oz / 62 g
  • Medium belt: 7.7 oz / 219 g
  • Pack body: 16.9 oz / 479 g

The Aluminum Frame Stay

Weighing just 3.0 ounces, the aluminum stay slides into two narrow fabric tubes that terminate in the hip belt (for optimum load transfer) and is secured in place with a velcro strap as shown above.  While you can remove the stay to save weight, most people leave it in because it’s so lightweight. It’s also pre-bent, but you can modify the curvature yourself if need be.

The framestay slots into the hip belt for optimum load transfer.
The framestay slots into the hip belt for optimum load transfer.

Hip Belt

The Gorilla hip belt is removable and available in different sizes, independent of the torso length of the pack. This means that you can get a great fit, even if you’re a tall woman with a skinny waist or a short tubby guy. It is secured in place with a velcro patch behind the sit pad. The frame stay then slides into reinforced slots in the hip belt to transfer the pack load to your hips. It works really well, but it can be a little tricky to swap the medium hip belt that comes with the pack with a different size if you need to switch.

In the past, I’ve always used a large size hip belt in Gossamer Gear packs. I suspect the sizing has changed a bit because I now get much better load transfer and fit using a medium size. Gossamer Gear claims that the medium size fits 80% of their customers and all of their packs now ship with that size. (see above for how to get refund credit if you need a different size).

The wings of the hip belt are finished with an air mesh fabric that resists sliding down smooth nylon clothing while providing excellent comfort. The belt cinches close with a single buckle, which can be easily replaced if broken. There’s no need for a more complex hip belt apparatus with multiple straps and a mechanical assist because the hip belt conforms easily to your body shape and the webbing doesn’t slip.

The foam sit pad slides into two stretch pockets and pads the framestay
The foam sit pad slides into two stretch pockets and pads the framestay

Sit Pad

The back of the Gorilla, where it touches your back, is padded with a removable sit pad that you can also use to insulate your bum during rest stops and food breaks. The sit pad is held in place by two stretch mesh panels making it easy to remove or replace. If you don’t use a sit pad much today, you’ll be surprised by the difference that having convenient access to one will make.

On the Gorilla 50, the sit pad is now perforated so there is a chance you’ll get wet if you place the pad on a wet surface and sit on it. It’s also been cut down into an hourglass shape. If you want, you can replace it with a pad you supply and cut to fit. One piece of advice, don’t use a pad that is much thicker than the sit pad because it will move the pack too far from your center of gravity.

The Gorilla 50 has a unisex shoulder harness that most men and women find quite comfortable.
The Gorilla 50 has a unisex shoulder harness that most men and women find quite comfortable.

Shoulder Harness

The Gossamer Gear Gorilla shoulder pads are designed for unisex use. The upper half is sized so they don’t rub against the necks of people with narrower shoulders. The lower half of each strap also has a much more pronounced curve to accommodate both men and women. Like the Gorilla hip belt, the straps are also lined with air mesh, giving them a much softer feel that conforms to different body shapes.

One feature that is notably absent on the Gorilla 50 are load lifter straps. They are included on the Gossamer Gear Mariposa 60 if they’re important to you. In testing this pack, I didn’t once feel that I needed load lifters to tilt the pack forward to make it easier to carry. I attribute that to two factors: my packing style, which puts heavy items close to the frame stay, and the fact that I stayed within the max load recommendations (30 pounds) of the backpack. I can’t guarantee that you’ll have the same experience, but I never missed not having load lifters.

Comparable Ultralight Backpacks

Make / ModelVolumeWeightPrice (USD)
Gossamer Gear Gorilla Backpack 50L50L29.8 oz$240
Granite Gear Crown2 6060L36.7 oz$200
Hyperlite Mountain Gear Junction 340055L32 oz$355
Osprey Levity 6060L31.2 oz$270
Six Moons Designs Minimalist47L35 oz$210
SWD DCF Long Haul 4050L30 oz$179
Zpacks Arc Blast 5555L20.3 oz$349

Recommendation

The Gossamer Gear Gorilla 50 is a new multi-day backpack that’s optimized for lightweight backpacking and thru-hiking. It’s 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 when needed, 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.

Disclaimer: The author received a sample pack for this review. 

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18 comments

  1. I have a HMG 3400 which causing me left shoulder pain anytime I have over 15 lb in the pack so I have been looking to get another multi day pack. I have been leaning towards the ULA Circuit but I have also heard that Gossamer packs are one of the most comfortable packs out there. You have reviewed both and used both I believe. Any preference one over the other?

  2. American companies keep on designing the best backpacks in the world. Other nation’s companies (Ex. Deuter) merely cherry pick their best features. Not that Deuter makes bad packs at all. I have their Air Contact Lite 65+10 pack for my winter trips and it is a great pack, if derivative.

    Looking closely at the GG pack line still leave me liking my Osprey EXOS 58 3 season pack for its trampoline mesh back among other features. The GG Gorilla 50 large side pockets are not attractive to me. I’m absolutely not a “water bottle” dependent backpacker. Instead I prefer hydration systems, Camelbak in particular. I DO carry a bike bottle for electrolyte drink in a front “wet rib” pouch attached to my EXOS’ lower shoulder straps.

    • I think you’re cutting Deuter short there. They’re very innovative, but not in the models that REI chooses to sell. They also still make the best women’s packs out there, something that Gossamer Gear for all its comfort, hasn’t ventured into.

  3. Florence A Julias

    My current backpack is the Women’s Gregory Maven 55 which is 3.6 lbs. I am looking for a lighter but comfortable pack. Can you help with the pros and cons of the Gossamer Gear Mariposa vs Granite Gear Crown 2? I normally carry about 25 lbs, out for 2-4 days, and I’m 67.

    • The biggest difference is the mariposa side pocket. If you carry water bottles on both sides of your pack, you’ll hate the Mariposa. The Mariposa hip belt is not adjustable and the top flap can be irritating if you have to open the top of your pack often. I usually use the crown as a roll top and leave the lid at home. The crown has excellent external straps so it can be used in winter to carry snowshoes. That is very difficult with the Mariposa. They’re both excellent packs but those are the biggest differences.

  4. I appreciate the comment on longer compression straps. I replaced all the pcord straps on my Granite Gear and added buckles to make it easier to attach snow shoes.

    How would you compare GG60 to this pack? On a recent winter backpack I needed every cubic inch of the GG60.

    • I can actually get my snowshoes onto my GG pack with the stock straps, in the sides or on the front…but the biggest difference is the top lid/pocket and the adjustable hip belt on the Crown 60. I really like the option to use a roll-top or a top lid depending on the time of year. The Gorilla “lid” is just ok. I really wish it was a roll-top instead. One place where the gorilla is a bit better is on the side pockets, although Granite Gear fixed those more or less to be more accessible when worn. There are so many variants of the Crown 2 out there now, you have to be careful which one you get.

  5. Hi Phillip,

    Thank you for the useful review, appreciate your work.

    I am now considering this pack but will be moving from my current Rei Flash 55. I’m wondering how you would compare the internal volume of both these packs?

    I’ve measured my flash 55 and it seems to align quite similarly with the measurements on the Gossamer Gear website. However, it would be useful to hear your thoughts on this. Would you say internal volumes, excluding extension collars, are similar? Or would you say the flash is more similar to the Mariposa.

    Comparing pack volumes without being able to view in person is difficult. Particularly when manufacturers have different ways of measuring!

    Again, thank you, and look forward to the response.

  6. I’m having a hard time judging from any photos I see of this pack, but is the yellow like classic mustard color? Is it as bright as mustard yellow?

  7. It’s a darker mustard yellow.

  8. Hi Phillip, thanks for the review, very informative as usual.

    I wanted to ask your opinion regarding the GG Gorilla and the use of hydration packs (I use the Camelbak Omega): I see in the review that it is hydration compatible, but I’m assuming the reservoir goes inside the Gorilla, which would mean taking everything out if a refill is needed, correct? If so, would you say the external attachment/compression straps are a safe alternative to keep hold a 3L reservoir in place?

    In my current setup (Osprey Stratos 50) I use the ventilated backpanel to store my 3L Camel so I can easily refill when needed without having to get all my stuff out of the pack. Do you think the stretch mesh panels in the back of the Gorilla (where the sit pad goes) would work the same way?

    Thanks!

    • There are some hydration systems that you can refill while they’re in the pack. I would investigate that option.
      I do extra water carries with a 3L bladder in the front mesh pocket. The size compression straps would also hold one securely in the side pocket.
      The stretch mesh panels on the back of the Gorilla would not work. That would be a complete fail unless you carried the backpack on your head!

      • > There are some hydration systems that you can refill while they’re in the pack.

        That’s a good point. I’ve read good things about the Platypus but haven’t tried it myself yet.

        > The size compression straps would also hold one securely in the side pocket.

        That’s good to know. Thanks!

        > That would be a complete fail unless you carried the backpack on your head!

        Ha! Alright, so maybe not then. Cheers!

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