Gossamer Gear Mariposa 60
$285, 60L/3,661 c.i., 1 lb. 14 oz. (medium pack with small hipbelt)
Sizes: unisex S-L for both pack and hipbelt
Certain items of gear rise to the status of “classic” based on their enduring popularity—especially with ultralight backpacking gear—and that rings true for the Mariposa 60. After hauling it on late-summer, multi-day hikes in Wyoming’s Wind River Range and Washington’s Pasayten Wilderness, I’ve come to understand why I’ve seen this pack on the backs of so many ultralighters: It sports much of what you’d want in an ultralight backpack with hardly a flaw.
Central to this pack’s appeal is its weight: Few backpacking packs weigh under two pounds—in fact, even many of today’s best daypacks weigh more. For backpackers whose top priority is low weight, the Mariposa 60 automatically vaults ahead of many of its best competitors on the short list of these backpackers.
I found the Mariposa 60 carried quite comfortably with about 25 pounds inside on a three-day, 22-mile, August backpacking trip in the Wind River Range (that was cut short by terrible weather). Wearing it backpacking about 45 miles over five days through Washington’s Pasayten Wilderness in September, I began with just over 30 pounds, which seemed to push the pack’s comfort—and more specifically, to overwhelm the hipbelt. But it felt better after I ate some food ballast, reducing the total weight closer to 25 pounds.
The pack’s suspension system is comprised of a unisex harness with light, flexible, ergonomic shoulder straps and hipbelt that are perforated for ventilation and lack any kind of rigid structure. There’s also a removable back/sit pad, with the option of upgrading to the more deluxe air flow sit pad or a thinner and lighter pad or forgoing the pad completely (which compromises comfort and requires loading the pack carefully to avoid objects jabbing into your back).
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The Mariposa achieves some transfer of load weight from shoulders to hips with a lightweight, U-shaped, internal stay—a common feature of packs in this category. That’s a minimalist design that keeps pack weight low but obviously cannot deliver the amount of support and rigidity typical of heavier packs with more substantial internal suspension systems. (On the flip side, ultralight packs that are even lighter than the Mariposa 60 may have no support structure like an internal stay.)
Gossamer Gear describes the pack’s max carrying capacity as “best with loads under 30 pounds but will handle up to 35 just fine.” I found the first part of that sentence more accurate, although I expect the second part may prove true for some backpackers for whom 35 pounds is nothing. But for many people—including me, and I’ve carried far more than 35 pounds over innumerable days and miles in a variety of backpacks over the past three decades of testing gear—the Mariposa harness doesn’t really provide the support for that much weight, instead shifting that weight onto the only backup support system: your torso. However, it comes close.
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The pack comes in three unisex sizes with an interchangeable hipbelt in three sizes, allowing for fit customization that compares with what’s offered by some of the most-respected brands in much larger packs: Most backpackers will find a Mariposa size that fits them well. I fall in the middle of the sizing range for the medium pack and, as expected, it fit me quite well. But my 30-inch waist falls within the wide sizing range of both the small and medium hipbelts, so I tried both and found the small better for me. In fact, I swapped out the belt myself and that process took at most 15 minutes the first time—you have to line up the two ends of the removable, U-shaped stay with their slots on the back of the hipbelt—but was simple enough.
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A top-loader with a roll-top closure that clips with two straps to the pack’s front side, the Mariposa’s 36-liter main compartment has abundant space for five to seven days—and conceivably more—of food and three-season, lightweight gear, including a full-size bear canister (inserted upright; it will not fit horizontally). On our five-day hike in the Pasayten, I even brought my favorite luxury gear item—a one-pound camp chair (scroll down in this review to see it)—plus some superfluous gear I was testing; and while I filled the Mariposa up, it fit everything well. Dedicated ultralighters will find this pack’s capacity often more than enough.
One common drawback of ultralight backpacks is their minimalist organization, especially skimping on external pockets. The Mariposa 60 eliminates that concern with seven external pockets that add a combined 24 liters of capacity. The voluminous stretch-mesh front stuff pocket will swallow a wet rainfly and shell. The deep pocket on one side accommodates an ultralight shelter, air mattress, or both folding trekking poles and an umbrella. Gossamer Gear also sells separately its Lightrek Pack Bungee Attachment ($5) for attaching poles or other items to the Mariposa using its external gear loops and two plastic attachments for seating pole ends.
Two smaller pockets on the other side hold a liter bottle—I could reach into the lower pocket to grab and reinsert a bottle while wearing the pack—and plenty of small items like a map, gloves, and snacks. The two zippered hipbelt pockets each easily accepts a smartphone with room for a couple of energy bars as well. The zippered lid pocket, positioned on the main compartment’s extendable collar fabric (because the Mariposa does not have a traditional lid) is convenient for small items; but filling the pack cuts into that pocket’s volume.
Other nice touches include a safety whistle on the sternum strap, one axe loop, and six D-rings on the shoulder straps. Lastly, the 100-denier and 200-denier Robic nylon pack fabric will survive serious abuse; the only true durability weakness is the stretch-mesh front pocket.
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Gossamer Gear Mariposa 60
For ultralight and lightweight backpackers who commonly carry no more than about 30 pounds—with deliberate emphasis on that caveat—the Gossamer Gear Mariposa 60’s sub-two-pound weight, custom-fit comfort, and features make it a top performer in this category.
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See my picks for “The 10 Best Backpacking Packs” and “The Best Ultralight Backpacks,” my “5 Expert Tips For Buying the Right Backpacking Pack,” and all of my reviews of backpacks, backpacking gear, ultralight backpacks, and ultralight backpacking gear at The Big Outside.
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Whether you’re a beginner or seasoned backpacker, you’ll learn new tricks for making all of your trips go better in my “12 Expert Tips for Planning a Backpacking Trip,” “A Practical Guide to Lightweight and Ultralight Backpacking,” and “How to Know How Hard a Hike Will Be.” With a paid subscription to The Big Outside, you can read all of those three stories for free; if you don’t have a subscription, you can download the e-guide versions of “12 Expert Tips for Planning a Backpacking Trip,” the lightweight and ultralight backpacking guide, and “How to Know How Hard a Hike Will Be.”
NOTE: I tested gear for Backpacker Magazine for 20 years. At The Big Outside, I review only what I consider the best outdoor gear and apparel. See categorized menus of all of my gear reviews at The Big Outside.