Review: Gossamer Gear Mariposa 60 Ultralight Backpack

Ultralight Backpack
Gossamer Gear Mariposa 60
$315, 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.

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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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Gossamer Gear Mariposa 60 hipbelt pocket.
Gossamer Gear Mariposa 60 hipbelt pocket.

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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Gossamer Gear Mariposa 60 two side pockets.
Gossamer Gear Mariposa 60 two side pockets.

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


The Verdict

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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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.

—Michael Lanza

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2 thoughts on “Review: Gossamer Gear Mariposa 60 Ultralight Backpack”

  1. Hey Mike.
    Just wanted to leave you a thank you for your review of the gossamer gear Mariposa 60. I’ve been looking for a lightweight backpack and based on your review I purchased a Mariposa from Garage Grown Gear (10% off). I’ve always wanted to carry less weight, but most of my trips of the hike in, base camp then day hike variety which has put me on a path of more comfort/more weight less compromise.

    Over the years, the kids have grown up (no longer slugging their gear) and I’ve been able to transition to an ultralight tent, lighter stove etc, and have been able to get under 30lbs for most of my trips over the past few years. So I started thinking about moving away from my 5lb Osprey Xenith to something ultralight. I wanted a pack with good pockets, a brain, good structure and support and decent volume.

    Based on your review I took a flyer on the Mariposa. When it arrived I was shocked at the ~2″ by 14″ by 30″ box that it came in… what the heck…never seen a backpack in a box like that. I got it out of the box and rolled my eyes as I thought I’d been duped, the thing was so lightweight, there was no way it was going to provide any support, and I was sure that I’d snap, rip or puncture something the first time I used it… but what the heck I got it, might as well see what it does.
    We planned a trip based on our regular MO. 9 miles each way up past Sawtooth lake, 3 nights so in-out and 2 days of day hiking (around 6 miles each) one to a false peak and another to … well different destination.

    My first epiphany to the power of the Mariposa came when I put in the very first item. I backpack with my wife and we carry a pretty heavy King Solomon double sleeping bag. Since I got the light pack, I got the heavy sleeping bag. I put it in the pack by itself, thought this isn’t too bad, then with the sleeping bag in the pack I picked up my wife’s empty Osprey and the Mariposa still weighed less. ….oooh, i’m going to like this.

    Pack weight ended up just under 30 lbs. Tons of room in the main bag, hip pockets provided easy storage of an oversized Note 10 plus my glasses case on one side, gorp in the other. Huge back pocket where I put my camp shoes and rain jacket, dog leash, water bottle, etc etc etc. Overall impressive capacity and functionality.

    On the trail the thing carried great at that weight, plenty of adjustability, plenty wide hip belt better than expected structure.

    The pack weighs less than most fanny packs, so for day hiking it was a no brainer to carry the entire thing. The removable sit pad was awesome for day hiking and of course it carrys great with just day hike gear in there.

    I can’t gauge the durability after only one trip, but I can say that it held up for this one trip just fine.

    My only negative on the pack would be the sweaty back syndrome that seems pretty common for ultralight packs that don’t have a mesh transom. I’m definitely considering the upgrade but even as is, I will pick this pack every time over anything else I’ve ever owned.

    Thanks so much for being a trusty reviewer and see you on the trail.

    • Hey Joey, thanks for that detailed report and I’m glad you’re pleased with your Mariposa 60. I remember having the same thought about the tiny box it arrived at my house in. Wow. But it does have excellent capacity and carries 30 pounds comfortably. It also functions as a daypack reasonably well, considering how much can fit inside that thing. Good luck with your future adventures with it! I hope we bump into each other on the trail sometime; be sure to say hello. Happy trails.