Gossamer Gear Mariposa 60 Backpack Review

Gossamer Gear Mariposa 60 Backpack Review

The Gossamer Gear Mariposa 60 is a lightweight ultralight-style backpack that weighs 30.5 oz. It’s ideal for weekend backpacking and long-distance trips, particularly if you prefer a backpack that has lots of pockets and a frame, like a more conventional backpack, but weighing half as much. The Mariposa is also available in a wide range of sizing options, including short torso lengths, long torso lengths, and interchangeable hip belt sizes. This is welcome news to short people, tall people, and square-shaped people who don’t fit into the round holes dictated by conventional backpacking companies.

Gossamer Gear Mariposa 60 Backpack

Comfort
Weight
Suspension
Features
Adjustability
Sizing
Durability

A Backpacker Favorite

The Gossamer Gear Mariposa 60 Backpack is perfect for hikers transitioning from a heavier backpack to a lighter weight one because it provides plenty of storage and pockets to organize your gear.

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Specs at a Glance

What Makes the Mariposa 60 so Unique?

The Gossamer Gear Mariposa 60 has been on the market for over 10 years and undergone many design changes during its lifetime. While those changes have improved its durability, carrying capacity, and quality, the pack’s personality and widespread popularity have stayed the same. What is it that makes the Mariposa 60 so beloved by the people that use it? I’ve long pondered that question since I bought my first Mariposa 60 back in 2008 to hike Vermont’s Long Trail.

If there’s one thing that’s remained constant during the Mariposa’s evolution, it’s the configuration of its side pockets, with one long tent pocket on the left and two smaller pockets on the right side of the pack. This pocket layout is unique and lets you move some of the bulky gear that usually hogs up the main compartment, like a tent and or a Jetboil, to an outside pocket, making it much easier to pack the gear that you don’t need during the day and want to keep dry and safe inside the pack.

This pocket layout also can help change the way you think about your backpacking gear and how to categorize it by function or frequency of use. I often recommend the Mariposa to hikers transitioning from a heavier conventional backpack to an ultralight-style one for just this reason, and because a 60L pack is large enough to carry your pre-existing gear list without forcing you to leave anything behind.

The Mariposa 60 is now available in this very attractive green color in addition to the classic grey
The Mariposa 60 is now available in this very attractive green color in addition to the classic grey.

But the Mariposa isn’t for everyone. For all of their benefits, the pack’s external pockets can be difficult to adjust to if you don’t carry a tent or you’ve been weaned on ultralight-style packs that have symmetrical water bottle pockets. They also make it impossible to add functional compression straps to the pack, which can make it awkward to carry less than full loads with the Mariposa. You can still attach gear to the outside of the backpack, as I illustrate below, but the compression capability is lacking.

Backpack Organization and Storage

The Mariposa 60 has seven external pockets and a main storage compartment.

  • Front stretch mesh pocket
  • Left-hand tent pocket
  • Upper right accessory pocket
  • Lower right water bottle pocket
  • Over-the-top map pocket
  • Two hip belt pockets

Front Stretch Mesh Pocket

The front stretch mesh pocket is a good place to store wet items and extra layers you want easy access to during the day so you don’t have to stop and open the main compartment. The mesh weave is open so it drains well and it’s gotten much tougher over the years, so it has good durability. The mesh is reinforced with 200D Robic nylon like the rest of the pack bottom so it won’t rip or abrade when you set it on the ground. There’s also a drain hole at the base so it the reinforced portion won’t collect water in the rain.

Long left pocket is perfectly size to hold a tent. Shown here with a Tarptent ProTrail Li.
The long left pocket is perfectly sized to hold a tent. Shown here with a Tarptent ProTrail Li.

The Tent Pocket

The left side of the Mariposa has a long tent pocket, 14 inches deep and open at the top, which is ideal if you carry a one or two-person tent. But you can really put anything you want into it, like a hammock/tarp or larger items that you want to segregate from the rest of your gear. For example, if your tent gets wet at night, or soaked with internal condensation, this tent pocket is a good place to store it separate from your other dry gear. It also makes it convenient to pull out to dry in the sun if you stop for a rest break.

The tent pocket also works well with tents that have components that make them hard to pack sideways in the main compartment, like the tents made by Tarptents that have carbon fiber struts in the corners. However, the contents of the tent pocket cannot be reached when you’re wearing the backpack, so it’s not a particularly good place to put a water bottle unless it’s being held in reserve.

The lower right hand pocket can hold 2 Nalgenes or Smartwater bottles
The lower right-hand pocket can hold 2 Nalgenes or Smartwater bottles

Right-hand Accessory and Water Bottle Pockets

The Mariposa has two right-hand pockets, one on top and one on the bottom. They’re both 8″ tall and open on top with an elastic band to keep their contents from popping out. The bottom pocket is designed specifically to hold two, one-liter water bottles, including 32 oz Nalgenes or Smartwater bottles. Water bottles stored there are easy to reach and replace while wearing the backpack. Both of the right-hand pockets also have drain holes to avoid collecting water in the rain.

I often carry my cook system in the upper right-hand pocket, especially if it’s wet, or a toiletry kit for easy access during the day. It’s also a good option for carrying snacks or a damp water filter/squeeze system.

The top pocket is good for storing maps, hats, and light gloves.
The map pocket is good for storing maps, hats, and light gloves.

Map Pocket

There’s a map pocket in the fold-over lid that’s also handy for storing your personal effects. It extends the width of the fold-over lid, so it’s actually quite large, but whatever you put inside it has to be flexible to wrap over the top of the main compartment.

Hip belt pockets

The hip belt comes with two large zippered pockets that are solid-faced for durability and water resistance. I usually use these to store my compass and a folded-up map, Aquamira water treatment drops, and bug dope, but they’re also large enough to store a smartphone or a point-and-shoot camera.

The hipbelt pockets are large enough to store a Smartphone, snacks, nav tools, etc.
The hip belt pockets are large enough to store a Smartphone, snacks, nav tools, etc.

Main Compartment

There’s a hydration pocket in the main compartment, where you can hang a water reservoir if you choose to use one. The hydration port is centered between the shoulder straps and covered to prevent rain from leaking in. Using a hydration system is not a bad way to carry water in a Mariposa because it can be tricky to balance the load across the right-hand water bottle pocket and the left side tent pocket if you have a very lightweight tent and carry two liters at a time.

The main compartment is cavernous and unstructured. I usually line the Mariposa with a white plastic compactor trash bag to help protect my gear from moisture even though the Mariposa’s Robic nylon fabric is quite water-resistant. A white compactor bag can also make it easier to find gear inside the pack.

The Mariposa has an aluminum frame stay that runs the length of the pack and slots into the hip belt.
The Mariposa has an aluminum frame stay that runs the length of the pack and slots into the hip belt.

But the closure at the top of the main compartment is a bit clunky. There is a plastic clip used to cinch close the top of the extension collar before you can fold the over-the-top flap over it. I still find it unnatural to use compared to a drawstring or a roll top. Gossamer Gear does make two packs with a rolltop though, the 40-liter G-4 20 (reviewed) available now, and the 55-liter Silverback (reviewed) which is being updated and be available again later in 2021.

The extension collar must be gathered with a small clip instead of a drawstring, before you fold the map pocket:lid over top of it.
The extension collar must be gathered with a small clip instead of a drawstring, before you fold the map pocket/lid over top of it.

Backpack Frame and Suspension

The Mariposa comes with a lightweight frame stay that slots into sleeves on the pack of the pack and terminates in the hip belt. It’s optional so you can remove it, but it’s so lightweight and improves the pack’s handling so much, I’d recommend keeping it in. The current model comes with the frame preassembled, which is good because it can be tricky to get it to slide properly into the hip belt. That is another reason not to remove it from the pack if you don’t have to.

The framestay slots into the hip belt to maximize load transfer. It also has internal stiffeners to prevent buckling under heavier loads.
The frame stay slots into the hip belt to maximize load transfer. The hip belt also has internal stiffeners to prevent buckling under heavier loads.

The frame stay is pre-bent so most people will not have to modify it, but it can be customized if required. The frame stay gives the Mariposa a max recommended load weight of 30-35 pounds and keeps the pack from collapsing on itself when it’s loaded up.

The pack also has an integrated sit pad that pads the frame stay so you don’t feel it through your back. It’s easy to pull out and sit on to keep your bum warm or dry when you take a break or cook dinner. It’s a signature feature of Gossamer Gear’s overnight packs although now copied by many other pack manufacturers.

The Mariposa includes load lifters which I consider important on higher volume backpacks, starting at about 50 liters of capacity. Without load lifters, a heavily loaded backpack can have the tendency to pull you backward and off-balance. Load lifters help counter the backward tilt of a heavy pack, bringing it closer to your back, and shifting more of the weight onto your hips.

The sit pad is easy to pull out for a dry place to sit during rest breaks.
The sit pad is easy to pull out for a dry place to sit during rest breaks.

While the Mariposa is unisex, Gossamer Gear has done a lot of work in recent years to make it more comfortable for women by adding softer foam and spacer mesh to the inside and top edges of the shoulder pads and hip belt. The resulting pack is exceedingly well-padded and comfortable to wear, but a little bit too soft and cushy for my taste. Most people really like the padding though because it conforms well to their hips and doesn’t slip.

The hip belt is tensioned with a conventional pull-back mechanism while the sternum strap buckles together in the middle to help eliminate painful pinching. The sternum strap slides up and down along webbing straps attached to the shoulder pads so you can adjust its height in an infinite number of ways instead of only being locked into preset positions.

While Gossamer Gears packs are unisex, the shoulder straps and hip belt have extra padding to make them comfortable for women.
While Gossamer Gear’s packs are unisex, the shoulder straps and hip belt have extra padding to make them comfortable for women.

External Attachment and Compression System

The Mariposa 60 is noticeably light on side compression straps and external attachment points because the side pockets get in the way of having them. However, there are tiny webbing loops purposely distributed around the perimeter of the pack that let you create your own compression or attachment points with some cord and a cord lock. Gossamer Gear sells a convenient accessory cord kit for just this purpose.

While the Mariposa lacks side compression straps, you can thread cord through webbing loops that surround the pack to create customer attachment points.
While the Mariposa lacks side compression straps, you can thread cord through webbing loops that surround the pack to create custom attachment points.

There are 8 x 2 such webbing loops sewn into the seams of each side of the backpack along with 4 plastic rings on the over-the-top flap that you can anchor cord to. There are another 4 plastic rings on the front shoulder straps along with two hydration hose keepers, which are good anchors for the accessory pockets that Gossamer gear sells.

For example, here’s how you can attach snowshoes to the side of a Mariposa
For example, here’s how you can attach snowshoes to the side of a Mariposa.

You can route accessory cord through those webbing loops and plastic loops in many different ways. For example, you can rig up:

  • Rig up a pair of parallel cords on each side to carry snowshoes or a foam pad.
  • Criss-cross a cord on top of (over) the front mesh pocket to dry wet clothing.
  • Secure tie a solar panel to the map pocket so it drapes down the front of the pack.

The possibilities are really endless and help overcome the fact that the side pockets make it hard to provide two tiers of webbing-based side compression straps.

You can also secure awkwardly sized gear under the top pocket.
You can also secure awkwardly sized gear under the top pocket.

With a little imagination, you can use also the top fold-over pocket to sandwich awkwardly shaped gear like a foam sleeping pad, cylindrical tent body, or a low volume Bear Boxer Bear Canister (also sold by Gossamer Gear) onto the top of the main compartment, making it easier and more convenient to carry. This doesn’t work with a full-sized canister, however, which will fit vertically inside the Mariposa.

The Mariposa has the requisite ice ax loop as well as trekking pole tip holders found on most packs but does not include shaft holders for either making them a bit hard to use unless you have some of that cordage around.

Philip Werner at a river crossing in Scotland
The author backpacking across Scotland with a Gossamer Gear Mariposa Backpack a few years ago.

Comparable Internal Frame Backpacks

Make / ModelWeightGenderPrice
Elemental Horizon Kalais 60L39.8 ozM | F$270
Gossamer Gear Mariposa 60L30.5 ozM$270
Granite Gear Crown 2 60L36.7 ozM | F$200
Hyperlite Mountain Gear Windrider 3400 (55L)34.9 ozM$355
Osprey Levity (Lumina) 60L31.2 ozM | F$270
Superior Wilderness Designs Long Haul 50L28.6 ozM$265
ULA Circuit 68L41 ozM | F$255

Recommendation

The Gossamer Gear Mariposa 60 Backpack is perfect for hikers transitioning from a heavier backpack to a lighter weight one because it provides plenty of storage and pockets to organize your gear. It has a lightweight frame that provides plenty of load-carrying support for heavier loads. With a maximum recommended load of 30-35 pounds, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a backpack that’s as comfortable, refined, and easy to use as the Mariposa 60.

If you don’t need 60L of capacity, but like what you see in the Mariposa, check out the 50L Gossamer Gear Gorilla. It has fewer external pockets than the Mariposa but is also a great backpack.

Starting in 2021, all Gossamer Gear Backpacks are sold with medium size hip belts, which fit 80% of its customers. If you need a small or large hipbelt, it costs an additional $25, but a rebate is available for its cost when you return the unused hip belt. The refund is issued when Gossamer Gear receives the returned hip belt. It can be shipped back gently folded in a small box, but not an envelope, according to Gossamer Gear's instructions.

Disclosure: The author received a backpack for this review.

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12 comments

  1. Philip – do you have any indication that while the pack can carry 30-35 pounds, is it comfortable in that range?

    • The pack can carry up to 30 pounds provided it fits you. Above that is more challenging. But thats as much an issue of fitness as much as anything else. I have carried 45 pounds in a Mariposa but it wasnt a lot of fun climbing big mountains with it because thats a lot of weight. It would have also sucked if I was using a heavy osprey pack.

  2. How comparable would you say is this bag in capacity to the optic 48, I have one but am considering the maripossa or gorilla but am aware these companies calculate the volume differently. Thanks

    • The optic has 48 liters of closed storage. The Mariposa has 36L of closed storage in the main pack body to extension collar seam
      and 24L spread across 7 exterior pockets. Bottom line: The Mariposa has more storage if you don’t mind storing some gear in its open pockets.

  3. I love my Gossamer Gear, but that hip belt shenanigans is rediculous. Do they cover shipping cost?…which for some reason is stupid expensive from GG. Seems like way more trouble for everyone than it should be.

  4. Love my Mariposa, which most often is used on AT section hikes. The one can’t live without feature for me now is the long side pocket–I look at other packs and always think “nope, need that side pocket.” I agree that 30 lbs seems to be the practical weight limit; I like it at 25 lbs full up.

  5. Hi Philip, do you know if a Tarptent Stratospire 2 would fit in the large tent pocket? One grip with the tent is that it makes packing awkward.

  6. David Michael Harding

    I have an older GG pack that I’ve used on two and three night trips and carried a TT Double Rainbow, which according to Tarptent’s website, packs up slightly larger than the Stratospire 2. I store it in the quiver pocket when I hike. I wish I had that pocket on my other packs. It seems perfectly sized for my tents.

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