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Gossamer Gear Mariposa 60 Backpack Review

Backpack Review

The Gossamer Gear Mariposa 60 is a lightweight backpack that weighs 30.7 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 quite a comfortable backpack to wear with a wide range or sizing options, including short torso lengths and interchangeable hip belt lengths. This allows you can dial in a near custom-fit that’s hard to duplicate when purchasing a backpack that’s only available in a small set of torso lengths and fixed length hip belt lengths. It is important to keep in mind that the Mariposa is a lightweight pack that can’t be treated like airport luggage. It’s designed for use on well-established hiking trails and not cross-country travel through heavy brush.

Specs at a Glance

What Makes the Mariposa 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, weight carrying capacity, and quality, the pack’s personality and widespread appeal have stayed the same. What is it that makes the Mariposa 60 so beloved by the people that use? I’ve long pondered that question since I bought my first Mariposa back in 2008 to hike Vermont’s Long Trail.

The Mariposa 60 has a unique side pocket configuration with a long quiver pocket on the left and two stacked pockets on the right.

If there’s one thing that remained constant during the Mariposa’s evolution, it’s the configuration of its side pockets, with one long quiver 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 a stove, 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.

But 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, something that is easy to overlook if you have to pack it in one big pocket in a conventional backpack. 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.

For example, I usually use the long quiver pocket to pack everything I need to set up my shelter for the night, like a tent, stakes, poles or a hammock, suspension system, and a tarp if I’m hanging. I pack my cookset and stove in the upper right-hand pocket and a water bottle in the bottom pocket. This makes it easy for me to find stuff when I want to set up camp and to check that I have everything the next morning.

While it seems like such a simple thing, breaking up my gear by category and function helps kickstart the process of replacing my existing gear with lighter or more compact alternatives…if that’s something you want to do. There aren’t many backpacks that facilitate the same conceptual transformation, which probably explains why people have such a deep appreciation for the Mariposa, even if they replace it with a lighter and smaller backpack down the road.

Backpack Organization and Storage

The Mariposa 60 has a lot of pockets, in addition to the three external pockets, I discuss above. There’s a map pocket in the fold over lid that’s also handy for storing your personal effects and a front stretch mesh pocket which is good for storing layers, snacks, damp clothing, and wet stuff like a water filter that you want to access repeatedly during the day. Once you get used to using a backpack with an open stretch pocket like this, it becomes very difficult to switch to a pack that doesn’t have one.

The front stretch mesh pocket is good for storing layers, snacks, and damp items like a water filter or squeeze reservoir.

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.

There’s a hydration pocket in the main compartment, where you can hang a water reservoir if you choose to use one. It’s actually not a bad way to carry water in a Mariposa because it helps center the weight and keep it close to your core muscles. You can also carry water bottles in the bottom side pocket (which are reachable) but it can make the pack harder to balance if you need to carry more than one liter at a time.

The top lid pocket is good for storing maps and personal effects.

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 nylon fabric is fairly water resistant. Since all Mariposas are grey in color, the white bag also makes it easier to find gear inside the pack. I do the same thing with all backpacks, even ones made with waterproof materials like Dyneema or XPac, which can still leak through the needle holes that are made to attach the shoulder straps and a hip belt to the pack bag.

When packing a Mariposa, it’s best to pack the main compartment first before filling the outside pockets with gear, packing it with your sleep insulation on the bottom, your heavier items or food bag in the middle, and lighter weight, more frequently accessed gear at the top. Everyone has their own system, but that’s generally how I pack my packs.

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

Backpack Frame and Suspension

The Mariposa comes with a lightweight frame stay that slots into a sleeve 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 slot it into the hip belt. That is another reason not to remove it from the pack if you don’t have to.

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 when it’s loaded up.

The Mariposa comes with a sit pad sleeve and foam pad that’s easy to pull out and replace.

The pack also has an integrated sit pad sleeve 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 and not found elsewhere.

The Gossamer Gear sit light pads provides a clean place to sit when cooking dinner.
The Gossamer Gear sitlight pad provides a clean place to sit when cooking dinner.

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 has 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.

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 Mariposa has two large hip belt pockets that can easily fit smartphones or point and shoot cameras,

The hip belt is tensioned with a pull forward mechanism, that makes it easy to adjust, 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 an infinite number of ways instead of only being locked into preset positions.

The Mariposa is also available is a very wide range of torso sizes and hip belt combinations, so you can choose the right hip belt length you need independent of your torso size. People with short torsos (such as women) and long torsos (such as men)  are also well served since the Mariposa is available in torso lengths ranging from 11.5″ up to 23.5″. That’s an unusually broad range of torso lengths but helps explain the fanatical loyalty that many Gossamer Gear customers have towards the Mariposa.

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 elastic cord and cord lock. Gossamer Gear sells a convenient accessory cord kit for just this purpose. For example, you use a little cord to lash tent poles to the side of the pack more securely or hand a solar panel from the top fold-over pocket.

Bare Boxer Contender Snugged under Bear Canister Gossamer Gear Mariposa Over-The-Top Lid
Bare Boxer canister held under a Gossamer Gear Mariposa fold-over lid.

With a little imagination, you can use also the top fold-over pocket to hold awkwardly shaped gear like a foam sleeping pad, cylindrical tent body, or a low volume Bear Boxer Bear Canister (also sold by Gossamer Gear) on the top of the pack, making it easier and more convenient to carry.

The Mariposa has the requisite ice axe 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. These are included on the Gossamer Gear Ranger 35, one of their new daypacks, so hopefully, they’ll be included on the Mariposa and the company’s other overnight packs in the near future.

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

Comparable Internal Frame Backpacks

Make / ModelWeightGenderPrice
Elemental Horizon Kalais 60L39.8 ozM | F$270
Gossamer Gear Mariposa 60L30.7 ozM$270
Granite Gear Crown 2 60L36.7 ozM | F$200
Hyperlite Mountan Gear Windrider 3400 (55L)34.9 ozM$345
MassDrop+Granite Gear Crown X60L40.2 ozM$120
Osprey Levity (Lumina) 60L31.2 ozM | F$270
Sierra Design Flex Capacitor 60L43.2 ozM$200
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 organizational pockets. It also has a lightweight frame which 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 if the Mariposa, check out the 40L Gossamer Gear Gorilla. It has fewer pockets than the Mariposa, but is also a great backpack. If you prefer a rolltop pack instead of the foldover top used on the Mariposa, check out the Gossamer Gear Silverback 55. You can remove its top lid and use it a pure roll top pack.

Note: When ordering a Mariposa 60, be sure to order a hip belt, since one is not included in the base price. It’s a really confusing aspect of the Gossamer Gear store for first-time buyers. Trust me, you’re not going to want to use the Mariposa unless you buy a hip belt to go with it. 

Disclosure: Gossamer Gear provided the author with a Mariposa 60 for this review. The author is a former trail ambassador for Gossamer Gear but is no longer sponsored by the company.

Editor's note: Help support this site by making your next gear purchase through one of the links above. Click a link, buy what you need, and the seller will contribute a portion of the purchase price to support SectionHiker's unsponsored gear reviews, articles, and hiking guides.

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21 comments

  1. The outside pocket configuration is similar to the old Six Moon Designs Starlite, which I thought was the best feature of that pack. I had to chuckle, because how you describe using the three side pockets is what I evolved into when I used the Starlite. I never liked the mesh material that SMD used on the side pockets and it’s inability to port heavier loads (usually long sections with no resupply) led me to abandon the pack. This Gossamer Gear looks like a better option with that same pocket configuration I felt was the best of any packs I have owned.
    Thanks for the review.

  2. I used to think a backpack had to have a mesh or trampoline back for air circulation to keep my back from overheating. The Mariposa solves that problem and every other problem I’ve had with backpacks. It feels like it was custom made just for me. The sit pad keeps my inflatable pad from sliding around on the tent floor. The optional shoulder strap pocket keeps my phone secure and handy. The water bottle pockets are reachable! The gray color is emblematic of the no-nonsense design. I love this pack.

  3. I used the Mariposa for 460 miles of the Arizona Trail and then about 500 miles on the Camino de Santiago in the Spring of 2019. The stitching at the load lifters is pulling out, and Gossamer Gear won’t uphold the warranty for manufacturing defects. I absolutely believe that this is a manufacturing defect, in that the stitching should hold. There were some days when I had 40 pounds in the pack but most of the time it was within their recommended range of 30 to 35 pounds while on the AZT, and I carried about 20 pounds on the Camino. Buyer Beware !!!
    I am done with Gossamer Gear.

  4. I’ve put about 70 miles on this pack this spring and love it. It was a replacement for my Osprey Ariel 65AG, which I liked the features of but could never get to fit comfortably. In addition to the sub-2 lb weight, my favorite features are the pockets and the pouch on top of the flap. It seems to adjust a little differently than the Osprey but once I got that dialed in, it was great. I upgraded to the flow through back pad and really like it. Fully loaded for a 3-4 day trip, my pack weight is in the 25-27 lb range, which the Mariposa handles like a dream. I can’t reccomend this pack strongly enough.

  5. I have an older Mariposa, which I love for the reasons mentioned by Phillip and other users. It does, however, have a couple of drawbacks. First, while the sit pad or a 1/2-length pad in the back-sleeve is very convenient, it permits no air circulation. GG has tried to address this with egg-crate knobs and perforations in the pad to permit air flow, but I don’t find they work and just trap sweat. That is no big deal in hot weather, when sweat is just a fact of life, but in the winter, when the sweat can freeze, it is a problem. Second, while the frame works very well to transfer weight to your hips, I would not pack the Mariposa with more than about 27 pounds. For more weight, I would recommend a conventionally-framed pack.

    • Did you upgrade to the new frame/hipbelt system yet? It does improve the upper weight limit considerably.

      • Mine is 4 years old. I’m not sure when they upgraded. Mine looks and sounds like the one you picture and describe in your review. To be clear, you could carry 30-35 lbs, but I personally have been uncomfortable when I have tried to carry that much weight in the pack.

      • They upgraded the hipbet/frame system in 2016. It doesn’t sound like you have it. It really makes a huge difference. I’d contact them if you’re interested. It might be as simple as buying a new hip belt.

      • I have a 2015 model Gorilla and modified it to accept a new model hip belt. I think I found the basic how-to on BPL, possibly a James Marco posting. As I recall, the basic materials were SilNet, cordura, and a hot knife. I also posted a detailed set of photos somewhere but I’d have to search for where! I’ve foolishly tried too many online storage options over the years and have trouble remembering where some things are!

  6. I *love* my Mariposa 60L… so lightweight and so spacious and just the right number and size of pockets. The one adjustment I’ve made, however… I removed the aluminum frame piece… adn the back pad thingie… and instead I insert my Thermarest Zlite mattress pad to function as the frame, the backpad, and removable mattress pad. :-)

  7. I’m one of those people accustomed to “traditional” packs that’s been looking for a transitional solution to something lighter. A major appeal of the Mariposa 60 for me was the external pockets, which i’m used to having and would not want to be without on multi-day trips.

    Having done what i thought was enough research, and considering the generally positive reviews, i finally pulled the trigger during the last sale a few weeks ago ($180), and placed an order. It arrived the other day. I’m 6′ .5″, about 185 pounds, 20.5 inch torso, and got the “large” size pack with a “medium” waist belt. The padding on the straps and waist belt seem thick and cushy enough, but what i quickly noticed is that the padding on the waist belt doesn’t extend around the front of my hip bone. It’s nearly three inches shorter than the padding on the belts of other packs that i’ve used that i know work well for me. The adjustment strap (that leads to the buckle) actually contacts the front of my hip bone. And that strap is narrow compared to the wider one on my current pack. Baffling to me why they would skimp on the padding like this.

    Apparently, the padding on the “large” belt extends an inch or so more than on the medium, but that would still leave it an inch or two short of covering my hip bone. Dang.

    Customer service was curiously unresponsive to the specifics of the issue when i communicated it (via e-mail).

    I put the pack back in the box for a return. Along with the waist pack that’s a little too small for how i’d want to use it. Guess i’m sticking with my (3-pound+) North Face Banchee for now.

    • At least you had the sense to return it and not try to wear it.

      • I thought about putting some weight in it and wearing it around the house a bit, but it was clear there was going to be a problem. Too bad, as otherwise, it’s just the kind of pack i’ve been looking for. Would have shaved a pound and change off my well-pocketed Banshee (misspelled above). The search goes on…

  8. I have had mine for about 4 years and many hundreds of miles. Mine has never been truly full, but at 2 lbs I cannot save enough weight to make a smaller pack worthwhile. I have carried north of 30 lbs (long water carries) and dine a fair amount of bushwacking. I also used it on a week long canoe trip. It is worn but nowhere near worn out. I did recently upgrade to the new hip belt mostly to get even larger pockets for snacks. Favorite pack EVER

  9. I picked up a Mariposa 60 + hip belt a few months ago and have hiked 50+ miles around Boulder, CO with 50 lbs of weights to prep for the 80 mile Collegiate West NOBO along the CDT this summer. No problems whatsoever and ultra comfortable. Last year I did the CW SOBO with an Osprey Atmos AG 65 and I can tell the Mariposa is a much better fit.

  10. Tall guy – I’m 6’4″ and have a 23.5 torso length. I was fortunate to pick-up a Mariposa in 2016 when they still had the XL version. I have a wall of backpacks hanging in the garage (Mountainsmith, Kylmit, Go-Lite, Osprey, etc.) This is the best fitting pack in its weight class for my torso. I’ve found it to be very durable and a very comfortable ride. I’ve carried ~ 40+ lbs. during an eight day trip in the Sierras where we carried bear canisters and food for the whole trip. It held up extremely well.
    The only draw back is the lack of airflow along the back (I’ve tried the airflow pad but its not much better than the original). Its a small trade off for the comfort and the fit. I now have a 40L Gorrilla but the Mariposa is still the better fit. I’m not sure Gossamer gear’s new sizing (no XL) will be a good thing for me when it comes time to replace it. Until then I’m set.

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