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 of 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.

Gossamer Gear Mariposa 60 Backpack

Comfort
Weight
Suspension
Features
Adjustability
Sizing
Durability

Refined and Functional

The Mariposa 60 is a lightweight backpack with an excellent frame and suspension system. Capable of carrying 30-pound loads with ease, it has lots of pockets to help you stay organized and can be used for a wide variety of trip types.

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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 it? 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 cook set 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 other 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 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. 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 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 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 roll-top 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 as 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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8 comments

  1. Very good review! I am looking at making the switch to a lightweight backpack from a current 4lb 10 oz Gregory Baltoro and the Mariposa is a strong contender, based on reviews like this one. My one potential concern is how much the Mariposa material may soak up rainwater. My concern isn’t about waterproofness (I use a trash compactor bag in the main compartment) but how much the Robic material may soak up an all-day light rain and end up several pounds heavier. Any comments or experiences with this on the Mariposa?

    • It’s insignificant. Robic is nylon and absorbs very little water. This concern is a holdover from when packs were much with much heavier fabrics like pack cloth. A couple of extra pounds? No.

    • Shawn
      I made that exact switch (Baltoro to Mariposa) three years ago and have been happy about the switch. I still have the Baltoro for winter/snow camping when I have to carry more gear than will fit in/on the Mariposa.

  2. Would you recommend this over the ULA Circuit? Sorry if it seems like a vague question but I’m trying to choose between the two and struggling to see one’s advantages/disadvantages over the other.

    • Here are a few points to consider. You can get female shoulder straps on ULA packs (”s” shaped) but not GG packs. The roll top on the ula is easier and faster to use than the Gg flap. The ula pack has more durable fabric. You can also have it made in XPAC which is super durable and waterproof. Finally there are about 2 inches of torso adjustments on the ula pack to dial in a fit. The mariposa has that long pocket which is good for a tent but hard to use with a water bottle.

  3. Lauren, I had a Mariposa for several years and just switched to the ULA Circuit for many of the reasons Philip mentioned, none the least of which is the fantastic individualized customer service at ULA. I had fit problems with my Mariposa and didn’t receive the help I had hoped. I took this past spring to try out several UL packs designed for multi day hikes and am happy with my Circuit (with the S straps).

  4. I bought one last winter and have used it on day hikes loaded between 25-30lbs. I haven’t yet used mine for an overnight or gone up to my high of 35-38lbs. I like it, I did get some optional items for it, the cord kit and kit for holding hiking poles (elastic cord and spring loaded deice that can loop through the loops you mentioned). I do find sweat building up on the sit pad (standard egg crate style), but it doesn’t seem to absorb sweat, it seems to brush shake off, I am thinking rain won’t be absorbed either. I also bought one of their camera/phone add on pouches that attaches to the shoulder straps (these also will fit on other brand pack straps as well). My other pack (70L) has a stiffer internal frame but is @2.5lbs heavier, this is why I am trying this pack.

  5. Have been using the Mariposa for 5 yrs for about 25 nights a year in the New Mexico Pecos Wilderness (NW Sante Fe, SW Taos – A most wonderful area to explore). I am 65 years and always looking to reduce my step-off weight and would switch if I found a better option. Just finished, today, a 7 day in the Pecos. Started at 26 pounds and ended at 16. Sometimes I have to pack extra water for a dry route. Going up to the mid 30’s is OK. I use the internal plastic bag (compacter bag or Gossamer’s custom clear bag is great), 15L compression sack sleeping bag at bottom and daily unneeded stuff on top of that then food bag and likely needed stuff on top of that. Big side pocket for Gossamer Gear One, Stakes and plastic floor. Bottom pocket on other side for water. Top side for rain gear. Big stretchy for hydration, poo bag, Garmin, gloves, snacks, extra water if needed. Fold over top for sleep pad. Great pack. (BTW- My first hike in the Pecos was with the Osprey Atmos 65L – nice pack but it has been in my closet for the last 5 years.)

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