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Gossamer Gear Mariposa Backpack Review

Gossamer Gear Mariposa Backpack on Mt Washington
Gossamer Gear Mariposa Backpack on Mt Washington

Ultralight Backpack maker Gossamer Gear overhauled their entire backpack product line this year, including an update of the Mariposa, long considered one of the finest high volume (70 liters) ultralight backpacks made. I bought an earlier version of the Mariposa in 2008 and used it for section hiking Vermont’s 272 mile Long Trail, so I was eager to see how the pack had changed.

NOTE: Gossamer Gear released an updated Mariposa in 2015. Click for my review of the new pack. 

The Gossamer Gear Mariposa

For those of you already familiar with the Mariposa, the biggest noticeable change is the switch to 140 denier Dyneema Gridstop fabric that Gossamer Gear now uses in all of their overnight backpacks. This new Dyneema fabric is a highly durable and waterproof fabric that is far more abrasion resistant than the silicone and urethane coated nylon that the company used to make packs with. I am very rough on backpacks in rocky New England and haven’t torn this pack up yet even though I’ve used it on many above treeline hikes, bushwhacks, and backpacking trips this year.

Gossamer Gear Mariposa - Shoulder Straps and Back Padding
Shoulder Straps and Back Padding

Other big changes include:

  • Replacing all of the mesh side pockets with solid Dyneema fabric for better durabilty
  • Large hip pockets have been added to the hip belt providing more external storage
  • Load lifters were added to the suspension: a must-have for higher volume backpacks
  • A completely new shoulder pad harness system with pre-curved shoulder pads
  • A new top lid system with a large pocket that protects the main compartment from rain

The net result of these changes makes the Mariposa a far more finished and functional backpack, especially for hikers who are upgrading to a lightweight backpack for the first time. Switching to 140 denier Dyneema fabric, completely changed the playing field for the company in terms of enhanced durability and waterproofness, but also let them add many new features to the Mariposa without a significant weight penalty. A size medium Mariposa only weighs 27 ounces, which is still much lighter than most if not all of the other high volume (70 liter) ultralight backpacks available today.

Gossamer Gear Mariposa - Front Mesh Pocket
Front Mesh Pocket

How to Pack a Mariposa

If you use a regular internal frame pack today, but have been considering a switch to a lighter weight or frameless backpack, here are some tips on how to pack them. Most ultralight and lightweight backpackers put all of the gear, food, water, and water filter/purificaton supplies that they need for the day in the outside pockets of their backpack for easy access to it without having to take a long break.

Items that are not needed or items that need to stay dry are carried inside the backpack’s main compartment, customarily wrapped in a plastic compactor garbage bag and additional waterproof stuff sacks as needed. Despite using waterproof fabric, most backpacks are not totally waterproof because they leak at the seams where a needle has passed thread through the fabric. While you can seam seal a backpack, what matters is that the fabric of the pack be waterproof so it doesn’t absorb water and become heavier to carry when you need to hike in the rain.

Lots of Backpack Pockets

The updated Mariposa has 7 external pockets: a large pocket in the top lid, two medium sized one on the right side, a large/long pocket on the left side, two hip belt pockets, and a large front mesh pocket.  On top of that there are gear loops running up and down the sides, front, and top of the pack so you can rig up custom shock cord or webbing to carry and secure even more gear.

When I pack the external pockets of a Mariposa, I put my wet water filter in the front mesh pocket so it can drain (drain holes included) along with an extra empty water reservoir, wind shirt, a few snacks, and my tarp stake/cordage bag. If I’m carrying a tent, tarp, or hammock, I pack it in the long external pocket on the left side of the backpack  along with a plastic ground sheet so I can set up my shelter in the rain if needed without every opening the main compartment of my pack – so it stays dry. The long pocket is perfectly sized for a 2 person tent or a 1 person backpacking hammock.

As a counterweight, I pack 1 or 2 liters of water in the bottom pocket on the right hand side of the pack along with my cook pot/stove/gas canister in the upper pocket on the right side. My maps and compass go into the top pocket on the backpack lid, along with extra hats and gloves, while my camera, SPOT, headlamp, sun tan lotion and other sundries go into the hip belt pockets. There’s a huge amount of external storage on the Mariposa and having all this stuff on hand and accessible means that I can maintain a fast pace all day without stopping, which is the key for walking big miles on backpacking trips.

Gossamer Gear Mariposa - Mariposa Backpack, Circa 2009
Mariposa Backpack, Circa 2009

Suspension System

The most important element of a backpack is the suspension system because more than anything else, it determines whether the loads you carry will be comfortable or not. The suspension system on the Mariposa consists of six components including:

  • Shoulder Straps
  • Hip Belt
  • Inner Aluminum Stay
  • Sternum Strap
  • Load Lifters
  • Removable sit pad which serves as a ventilated back pad

Though significantly revamped since the last version, the new Mariposa suspension uses the same internal aluminum stay and removable sit pad to add stiffness to the pack and help transfer more pack weight to your hips. And while the shoulder pads remain extra wide, they are now pre-curved for greater comfort to fit people with narrower shoulders and/or breasts. The previous model’s scratchy seams for foam inserts (or socks) have been eliminated, and like the hip belt, the foam is sewn into the shoulder pads at the factory.

One of the most notable improvements to the Mariposa is the addition of load lifters, which I consider a must-have on higher volume backpacks. Without load lifters, a heavily loaded backpack has the tendency to pull you backwards and off balance, because the bulk of the load is farther away from your hips. Load lifters help counter the backwards tilt of a heavy pack, bringing it closer to your back, and shifting more of the weight off of your shoulders and onto your hips.

Gossamer Gear Mariposa - Right Side Pockets
Right Side Pockets


If you prefer a big backpack or if you are transitioning from a fairly beefy internal frame backpack to an ultralight one, I’d recommend getting yourself a Mariposa. Switching from a 4+ pound backpack to one that weights under 2 pounds is a revelation if you haven’t tried it, but it doesn’t mean you have to downsize or replace all of your gear at the same time. The Mariposa is large enough in that respect to accommodate all of your existing gear so you can incrementally replace it with lighter components over time.

As someone who has gone through that process, I like the updated Mariposa because it is far more durable than the previous model and because it is so big, enabling me to take much longer backpacking trips into tougher terrain without a resupply. I never would have anticipated tackling such adventures a few years ago when I started using a Mariposa, but I’m excited to hike with the updated version of this celebrated backpack, which already feels like an old friend.


  • Load lifters
  • Integrated hip belt pockets
  • New top lid includes large pocket and provides top compression


  • Be nice if the hip belt and top lid pockets had waterproof zippers
  • Reduced visibility into the contents of the long side pocket
  • Center ice axe loop is difficult to use

Disclosure: Philip Werner is a former Gossamer Gear Trail Ambassador and received a complementary Mariposa backpack from Gossamer Gear for product testing and review.

Written 2012. Updated 2015.

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  1. Like you, I have both the old and the new Mariposa. In almost every way, the new one is an improvement. One thing you didn’t mention is the increased thickness of the hip belt, which adds significantly to the comfort of the carry.

    Waterproof zippers (or protective flaps) would be a useful improvement , particularly on the hip belt pockets.

    I think the Mariposa is a terrific backpack.

    • Noted robin. There’s a lot of little things I left out for brevity, but I agree the carry on this version is much improved with the somewhat taller sacrum part of the hip belt. This resulted in a bit of a sizing change as well, so if you are on the border between medium and large or you used to have a medium you might consider moving to the large, which is what I did, but retained the medium length hip belt since they are interchangeable.

  2. The Mariposa 12 is a real nice pack.
    I use the older Miniposa (only offered for two years) that has less volume. The sitlite pad is good, but I use a NightLite pad, cut and taped into a 5 piece fanfold. Then I drop the internal stays. Like you I use the side pouches about the same way, but, I always keep my compass around my neck and my maps in a ziplok in my pocket. At closer to 40L, it is usually too big for a week out, so, I tend to use it less, lately. It is large enough to carry a small bear canister (large enough for two for 4 days.) This is about the duration of my hikes in the High Peaks Area of NY. While repaired a lot (especially the old style strap keeper, just above the front pouch) I have put 30# of weight in it when I take camera gear.

    I really like this family of packs, generally. As you say, the top flap/pocket was always something that I missed, mostly for coverage in rain. With the larger/thicker pad, I don’t think the internal aluminum frame is needed, but it will come in handy for most hikers.

    I would also give these packs a highly recommended rating for 17oz(Miniposa with two hip pockets) and 27oz (Mariposa.)

    • Thanks for the reminder Jim. You can fit a Garcia backpackers bear canister sideways at the bottom of the mariposa.

      I used to use the thicker nightlight pad or a thermarest zlite with the mariposa but use the thinner sit light now instead because it keeps the load closer to my torso and because I have gotten hooked on pulling the sit pad out every time I stop so I can sit on it. I still love that feature on these packs.

  3. I think it is important to mention the change in torso sizing — at 6′ 2″. I was in a large Mariposa in the old version and it was great. I went to a large in the new pack and the length didn’t work for me. I tried the new XL (really great that they have an offering for taller folks!), but the sizing jump was too much. Love the new features of the 2012 pack as stated above, but I think it is great that GG has a 30 day return policy as I had to take advantage of it. I think one of my issues, in addition to torso length, was that the volume of my gear had reduced and might be more appropriate for the GG Gorilla. One nitpick I would have is that the load lifters on the new pack, while a great addition, are tacked onto the shoulder straps in one place and their attachment point cannot be adjusted. I think the small weight gain of being able to slide this point like most other packs would be nice and might have solved my problem with the new Mariposa.

  4. Appreciate the review and although it’s a bit on the large size for my needs, it looks superb. A 50Litre version in the same spec would be great.

  5. Well you’ve done it again. Great review. You had me sold on the Crown VC 60. I went to EMS have tried it on and am ready to buy it next month. Now I think I might have to compare it with this one. Though I do think this one is slightly bigger then I need. I am hopeing to get out on 2 trips this year for a 3 day 2 night duration.

    • They’re both excellent packs. After I returned the loaner pack that Granite Gear sent me for review, I went out and bought the VC 60 with my own money and use it often. The size/weight of my gear has shrunk over the years and the Mariposa is a bit big for my needs unless I want to take a tent or do an extended hike and need to bring a weeks worth of food. However, it was the perfect size for me for 2-3 day trips a few years ago and more functional with the top lid and hip belt pockets than the VC 60. Hard to choose between the two still.

  6. Good review. I ordered one in Nov on the basis of a couple of other reviews, good to hear you like it too. I have been using the old Mariposa (Lge/Med) since 2009 for extended trips and have found it great, apart from the top closure and the fragility of the side pockets. Looks like those problems have been addressed. Great TGO Challenge pack, which will be the first multiday trip for mine.

    I’m 185cm, so hoping I don’t run into Chris’s problem. Have ordered the same Lge/Med size I had with the old model.

    Will a JetBoil Sol fit in any of the side pockets?


    • I wish I knew – don’t have a sol. I can fit a 1 liter Olicamp XTS pot in mine, so I would expect you can probably fit a sol in the upper right one. If not, then easily in the front mesh pocket.

      • Cool. The Sol is a bit (0.4″) narrower and 1.2″ taller. Should fit.

        Will update when the pack arrives in case anyone else wonders.

        That Olicamp looks like a nice package.


      • Just a follow-up.

        The Mariposa arrived safely yesterday.

        I can happily confirm that a JetBoil Sol fits neatly into the top right side pocket.

        Pack is very nice. Good to see the worthwhile improvements that have been made over the old version, which is still a decent and light pack.


  7. Bought this pack last week in large part due to your review. Actually I bought an REI Flash 62 because I didn’t know any better, then found your review on that and, before I knew it, I was the owner of both bags. I tested them both out on the trail this weekend and I’ve come to a conclusion: the Mariposa is a clear winner.

    I’m a little concerned about the fit on my Mariposa under load, though. I am 6’5″ with a 24″ torso measurement, so I ordered the XL. It fits well in light loads, around 20lb, but at max capacity (35lb) the bag sags halfway down my butt, causing me to have to really hoist the bag up to get it to sit on my hips and cinch it tight to stay there. I wonder if this is just the bag not performing well at max weight or If I would do better stepping down in size.

    • Are you using the internal stay? What kind of pad are you using in the pad pocket?

      • Yep internal stay with the included sitlight pad.

      • I’m surprised. I’ve found the MP stands up to heavy loads rather well. 40 pounds should be not problem for a 69 liter pack.

        Please call Gossamer Gear support on Monday and talk to them about it. I’m not familiar enough with how the XL rides to really understand what is going on with yours. One thing I would advise against is heavily loading the over the top pocket. It is not really meant to carry heavy gear and can lead to some torso collapse. GG also has two sized sitlight pads – make sure you have a long and not a regular. Finally, check your hip belt sizing carefully. If the front of the pockets are too far forward, this can also result in too little load transfer to the hips and a buckling hip belt. I downsized myself from a large hipbelt to a medium and it was much better.

        Let me know how it turns out.

  8. Great review, I also read the one on the REI Flash 65 but I think the Mariposa would work better for me. I’m 6’3″ with about a 23″ torso, do you think I should get the large or XL?

  9. I just recieved my pack today. I am looking forward to using it later this month. What a different in weight from my old external kelty pack. I will let you know how the pack performed.

  10. Today I did a test drive of the pack with twenty pounds of gear I will be carrying. This was my first hike of the year. I did six miles plus hike up the south trail of Cadillac Mountain in Acadia National Forest. The pack performed great. I was not constantly adjusting the pack like my Kelty. There was still room if needed in the pack. I am looking forward to some multi day backpacking.

  11. Loved both GG reviews of the 2012 Gorilla and Mariposa. I have a 2010 Mariposa and I’ve been unhappy with the fit and top closure. I keep trying to like it, but find myself switching back to my older, heavier pack because of how the weight is distributed, but mainly because the old mariposa was uncomfortable on my neck. I’m extremely excited about the new packs and changes!

    Now to decide between the two packs. I’m 5’4″ and weigh about 127. If I don’t use all of the volume most of the time, I wonder if the 2012 Mariposa with compress down to be as compact as the Gorilla. I live in TX and hike in the Southwest where carrying a few extra liters of water may be necessary. Also, I hope to do a few longer trips of two or three weeks in the future and wonder if I shouldn’t plan ahead and get more volume. My base load is around 15 – 18lbs. Water has brought my load up to 25lbs……..uncomfortable to me with any pack when going up the switchbacks!

    I guess I’m wondering how much difference the load lifters on the Mariposa make as opposed to the GG Gorilla?? Which one would you choose to carry on a 4-5 day trip if water were not an issue? Also, from your response to some of the comments, if my waist measurement is 29-30, should I opt for the smaller waist belt?

    Thanks for your wonderful blog and gear reviews!

    • While the Mariposa can be compressed – recommend using non-elastic shock cord – you’d be better off using the Gorrilla. I’ve fit 7 days of food into it and about 12-13 pounds of gear+ 2L water. It works but that’s a heavy load for it, although you’ll eat it down to a reasonable one in a few days. (The only real difference between the packs is tha the Mariposa is 1″ deeper)

      As for load lifters – I’ve never missed them on the Gorilla. The aluminum stay keeps the pack nice and rigid so it doesn’t sag backwards.

      And to answer your question about 4-5 days – I’d definitely use the Gorilla. The Mariposa is way too big at 69 L.

      For sizing, please confer with the Gossamer Gear guys. They can give you the best info.

  12. I love it. This is my favorite rucksack. I have the REI Flash 65, a GoLite Pursuit (no longer made) & an old Jansport frame.
    This pack easily handled 30 lbs trail weight for a quick 34 mile 2 1/2 day trip into the Uinta’s of Utah. It handled and balanced well. I kept my water on the right side & tent on the other.
    My one complaint is the shoulder straps kept slipping & I needed to cinch them up once a mile.

    Here it is in use…

  13. Have you tried this or other GG packs with their Air Beam Pack frames?

  14. I love mine with one exception, the shoulder straps need adjusting constantly with heavier loads. I’ve not yet dropped to the under 20lbs trail weight yet for a 3 nighter so this slipage may be my fault. To compensate, I’ve added thumb loops to the tape.
    I do have 3 other packs and this one is the most used.

  15. So I’m looking looking to purchase my first UL pack after slugging a 6 lb backpack around for 10 years. Think I’ve narrowed it down to the Mariposa and the Hyperlite Mountain Gear Windrider 3400. Does anybody have any suggestions from there? I’ll be using this pack for a variety of purposes from 2 day to 10 day trips and desert backpacking to alpine backpacking. Thanks for the help!

    • Ash,
      I have the mariposa backpack. It is great. I have hike on the A.T. with it. I am also a Scoutmaster and used it on many other trips. It very lite and holds up very well. The key to this bag is to learn how to pack the backpack with one large internal compartment. So that your backpack works for you on the trail. The external pockets are great and roomy for everything I need for easy access to. I highly recommend this backpack.

    • I always recommend a Mariposa to people who are transiitoning from heavy high volume packs to lightweight ones. This pack has 69 liters of capacity but also has excellent compression for lower volume loads. But perhaps the key difference when compared against the windrider is external storage. The mariposa excels in this way, probably more than any other pack I’ve ever used. You’ll never want to use another backpack when you get used to having everything you need during the day at hand without having to open up your backpack.

  16. For years I’ve read your review about the Mariposa and after scouring the internet decided to get one. Finally, this year, I pulled the trigger. it’s a great pack and absolutely love the potential of the long pocket / doubled pockets. Plus – the weight drop going from my Osprey packs was huge. More usable space + lighter weight for about the same price – how could you go wrong?

    Can’t wait to get on the trail with it.

    • I literally just finished packing 40 pounds of food and gear into mine and I’m about to go for a training hike with it. I had some doubts whether it would be up to a big trip that I’m about to take (18 days-no resupply) and tested a lot of other expedition sized packs all winter to see if they would be better at hauling the load. NONE of them were. The Mariposa won hands down. The aluminum stay prevents any torso collapse even with large loads and the external pocket organization is perfect in both wet and dry climates. The Mariposa is one of the greatest backpack designs ever and I’ve tried a lot of backpacks. :-)

  17. The first thing I did when I got my Mariposa was to fit my Tarptent Hogback (4p) into the side pocket. Fits perfect. Cook kit goes into the top right pocket, I fit two half liter water bottles in lower right pocket.

  18. How did you get on with the 40lb load? Was the pack still comfortable?

  19. Interesting. I’ve just ordered an EnlightenedEquipment Aquilo which looks like it has a better internal frame and hipbelt than the Mariposa, for those 30lbs loads, but not such good pockets.

    • That should read Elemental Horizons Aquilo!

      • How did the Aquilo compare with the other packs discussed above? I’ll be carrying a Bearikade weekender, up to 32# on the longest legs of the JMT, normally more like 25# (total, water & food). I’ve never seen one on the trail, but they look intriguing.

  20. This is my first attempt at an ultralight backpack. Since I wasn’t 100% certain about it, I grabbed it used from eBay and it looks like your 2009 photo, so it must be 2 generations old. It is still in decent condition, but definitely has seen some trail miles. The things I noticed as different from their web site is that my hip belt doesn’t have pockets. I snagged a couple from Gossamer so I’m good there although they slide around a bit (duct tape!). My sleeping pad doesn’t fit on the back, so I grabbed my son’s Boy Scout one until I find a better solution. I think I’ll grab a Thermarest Z-Zeat since I want one anyway and put my blow-up one in the pack.

    Nice thing is that there is a decent resale for these packs, so I am confident that I can put it back on eBay when I want to upgrade. I ended up paying 1/3 of the list price, which seems fair to me.

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