I typically purchase gear with an eye toward fastpacking, and previously thought of high-capacity packs as being useful only for slower thru-hikes or long trips into the backcountry. The Gossamer Gear Mariposa 60 backpack has changed my mind. Though spacious at 60 liters, with solid suspension, durable materials, and a slew of well-planned pockets for organization, the Mariposa weighs only 2 pounds and easily obtains ultralight status. In fact, it quickly has become my go-to pack for backpacking trips regardless of distance or number of days. Below I break down the Mariposa's carrying comfort, weight, organization, durability, fit and sizing, and more. To see how it stacks up, see our article on the best backpacking packs.
Despite an ultralight build that weighs just over 2 pounds, the Gossamer Gear Mariposa 60 is surprisingly comfortable, even when loaded down. Much of the credit goes to its suspension system, which uses an internal aluminum stay that inserts into the hipbelt. This lightweight frame stiffens the pack and helps distribute the weight from the shoulders onto the hips. The stay can be removed to reduce weight by 3.5 ounces, but I prefer to leave it in. Without it, I feel that the pack loses its structure and makes the hipbelt ride up onto my waist.
Further, with a recommended maximum load of 35 pounds, the Mariposa has a fairly high load capacity within the ultralight category. For my trip in the Canadian Rockies, I packed the basics for fastpacking along with a large amount of camera gear, pushing the pack slightly beyond its load limit. Even after multiple eight- to 10-hour days on the trail, the Mariposa remained balanced and comfortable. With proper adjustments to the load-lifter straps and hipbelt, it never felt as though it was hanging off of my back or pulling on my shoulders.
The Mariposa has a number of components that can be removed to save weight and create a more streamlined pack. As I mentioned above, I prefer to leave the stay in for comfort, but I often take out the “SitLight” backpanel. This foam piece slides into two sleeves and doubles as back support and a sit pad, but I find that it can bunch up and lead to pressure points. Unless I ever plan to reduce weight by leaving a sleeping pad behind or have gear with particularly sharp edges, I will continue to leave the backpanel at home.
The Mariposa is an ultralight-focused pack that can weigh as little as 17.2 ounces when stripped down. Because it’s so customizable both in terms of features and sizing, your body type and preferences will determine the exact weight of pack that you end up carrying. For example, a small pack with a small hipbelt weighs 1 pound 12 ounces, while a large backpack with a large hipbelt weighs just over 2 pounds (a full list of possible weights can be found on Gossamer Gear’s website here). You also have the option of going without the hipbelt entirely, which will save you $45 and right around 10 ounces, but you’ll give up a lot of carrying comfort in the process.
One of the first things I noticed about the Mariposa is its sheer number of external pockets. Not only does the pack have a cavernous main compartment, it also features a zip pocket on each hip and one on the top flap, two dump pockets on one side and one on the other, and a highly functional rear mesh dump pocket. Although I’ve never owned a backpacking pack with so many external pockets, I was an immediate convert. The four dump pockets are extremely convenient for storing items independently of each other—even large items such as a shelter or sleeping pad—and keeping gear easily accessible. Furthermore, each of these dump pockets features a drainage hole, and the ventilated design of the rear mesh pocket makes it especially ideal for stowing wet gear.
The main compartment is a deep cylinder with a large, bear-canister-friendly opening. I like the option of having a secondary zipper along the main compartment to access my heavy camera gear at the bottom of the pack, but unfortunately the Mariposa omits this feature in the name of weight-savings. For those who don’t have expensive equipment that they prefer to keep stowed away in their main compartment, the lack of side entry likely won’t pose a problem (the external dump pockets are extremely helpful with organization). And to round out the feature set, the Mariposa includes your typical pack essentials such as a hydration sleeve, exit hole, and straps to keep the hydration tube in place. And though I haven’t used them yet, on the rear of the pack are several attachment points for trekking poles and an ice axe, along with loops for customizing a bungee attachment system.
Gossamer Gear overhauled their backpack lineup a few years back, and one of the most significant changes was shifting from Dyneema fabric to a 100- and 200-denier nylon called Robic. The claim is that the Robic used on the Mariposa 60 is more durable and puncture-resistant, and we can now attest to that. Despite solid abuse on trips through the Canadian Rockies and Coast Mountains, the fabric has not torn, stretched, or visibly worn in any manner. This is a notable improvement over our recent tests of Dyneema packs—both the Hyperlite Mountain Gear 3400 Windrider and Zpacks Arc Blast developed small punctures relatively quickly. Even the large mesh exterior pocket of the Mariposa, which we’ve stuffed to the gills, has held up admirably.
However, one benefit of Dyneema construction is its waterproofing properties. The Robic fabric isn’t waterproof but is decently adept at shedding moisture. We were caught in a few torrential rainstorms while backpacking, during which I was worried about the contents in the bag. However, I was pleasantly surprised that my gear remained dry. That said, while the Gossamer Gear Mariposa can handle brief showers, I would recommend a cover if the forecast calls for heavy rain.
We touched on this in the weight section above, but one of the best features of the Mariposa (and smaller Gorilla) is that it allows for an extremely customizable fit. First, you choose from three unisex torso sizes ranging from small to large. Next, the hipbelt is purchased separately, also available in small, medium, and large. Further, the unisex fitting applies to the shoulder straps, the shape of which impressively accommodates both my wife (narrow shoulders) and me (a relatively large frame). Combined with features such as an aluminum stay that can be bent to further hone in the fit, an adjustable sternum strap, and load-lifter straps above the shoulders, this pack is highly adjustable for a range of body types. And to help, Gossamer Gear provides an extensive fitting chart on their website. For further reference, my large pack and medium hipbelt comfortably fit my 33-inch waist and 42-inch chest.
What We Like
- Robic nylon fabric performs as billed: it’s light, more durable than Dyneema, and sheds light moisture.
- Exterior organization is a standout in the ultralight class.
- The pack is comfortable right up to its weight limit of 35 pounds.
What We Don’t
- We found the removable “SitLight” pad along the backpanel was prone to bunching, and as a result we often left it behind.
- A few more cinch straps would be great for tightening the pack when not fully loaded.
- Some brighter color options would be nice.
|Gossamer Gear Mariposa 60||$270||2 lb. 0.6 oz.||Nylon (100D & 200D)||60L||Top||7 exterior|
|Hyperlite 3400 Windrider||$345||1 lb. 15.7 oz.||Dyneema (50D & 150D)||40, 55, 70L||Top||3 exterior|
|Zpacks Arc Blast 55||$325||1 lb. 5.2 oz.||Dyneema (2.92 oz/sqyd)||55L||Top||3 exterior|
|Osprey Levity 60||$270||1 lb. 15.2 oz.||Nylon (30D & 210 x 200D)||45, 60L||Top||4 exterior|
|REI Co-op Flash 55||$199||2 lb. 10 oz.||Nylon (100D & 420D)||45, 55L||Top||9 exterior|
|Granite Gear Crown2 60||$200||2 lb. 5.8 oz.||Nylon (100D & 210D)||38, 60L||Top||6 exterior|
When the Mariposa was first released, it was beloved by thru-hikers and early adopters of ultralight gear but went largely unnoticed elsewhere. Now, with new Robic fabric and a competitive price of $270, the pack has an impressive resume that should please a wider group of backpackers. Among the competition is the Hyperlite Mountain Gear 3400 Windrider, which features a nearly identical weight and level of carrying comfort, but less organizational features and a significantly higher price tag ($345). The Windrider uses Dyneema Composite Fabric instead of Robic nylon, which is waterproof along with being lightweight. That said, Dyneema is prone to puncturing from sharp rocks and other objects (see our in-depth review of the Hyperlite 3400 Windrider) and is less durable overall than the Mariposa’s Robic construction. All told, the Gossamer Gear wins in the organization and durability categories, but the Hyperlite’s waterproof design is alluring for those who hike in wet environments.
The Zpacks Arc Blast 55L ($325) is another worthy contender that uses a mix of Dyneema and polyester fabrics, giving it the added benefit of waterproofing. This material also is amazingly lightweight, keeping the pack at 1 pound 5.2 ounces—significantly lighter than the medium version of the Mariposa. But with only three external pockets (none of which zip), the Arc Blast is limited in its organizational capacity, and we find that it doesn’t carry a load quite as well. If pack weight is your number one consideration, it’s hard to argue against the Arc Blast. But we give the overall edge to the Gossamer Gear Mariposa for its added durability, organization, and carrying comfort.
Osprey’s Levity 60 is yet another attractive option, similar to the Mariposa in its lightweight nylon makeup and large external dump pockets. But at 1 pound 15.2 ounces, the Levity is both lighter and features superior ventilation: the backpanel is constructed from a thin mesh which allows constant airflow between the user’s back and the pack. We find that ventilation often is overlooked on ultralight packs but makes a large difference during rigorous hikes and in warmer climates. Unfortunately, this means the Levity has to shave weight somewhere, and its extremely thin 30-denier nylon along the sides requires special care and gives up a lot in terms of durability when compared to the packs above . We give the edge to the Gossamer Gear based on its superior carrying abilities and more robust fabric, but the Osprey is a pack to consider if you prioritize weight and ventilation.
Finally, REI isn’t known for their ultralight gear—perhaps quite the opposite—but we’ve been impressed with the latest Flash 55. It is a super customizable design that can go from a fully featured traditional pack at 2 pounds 10 ounces to a stripped-down ultralight pack at only 2 pounds 3 ounces. Plus, the Flash features rarely seen (in the ultralight world) backpanel ventilation and a burly 420-denier bottom fabric (for more, see our in-depth Flash 55 review). Similar to the Mariposa, the Flash excels at comfort and support, even with heavier loads, but REI doesn’t offer the same convenience of customizing torso lengths and hipbelt sizes. And at 2 pounds 3 ounces for the most stripped-down version (i.e. no top lid or hipbelt pockets), the Flash 55 is still heavier than the fully featured Mariposa. Despite coming up short in a direct comparison, it’s exciting to see REI entering the ultralight world, and we appreciate the solid construction, entry-level price ($199), and nice feature set of the Flash.