Welcome!

Welcome! Ultralight backpacking is my passion, and keeping up on new technologies, gear, and techniques relevant to UL backpacking is what floats my boat. I'm always looking for the lightest, most functional items to improve my own backpacking kit, but I am also looking for gear of interest for anyone wanting to lighten their load.

A blog is also the ideal place to post some random philosophical thoughts about UL backpacking and why we do it. It's a passion after all, so we just plain enjoy talking about it. When I'm out hiking by myself, my mind wanders and some interesting thoughts rise to the surface. A blog is the perfect place to share and discuss ideas. I hope readers of this blog will add their wisdom to my comments, respond to my questions, ask their own questions, and correct me if I get something wrong. Happy hiking! Will

Friday, August 22, 2014

Outdoor Retailer Summer Market 2014 – Gear of Interest for Lightweight and Ultralight Backcountry Travel – Sleeping Pads, Shelters, Backpacks, and Trekking Poles. Plus the Lightest Rain Jacket on the Market, Made Lighter.



By Will Rietveld and Janet Reichl

We publish our main OR coverage on the Gossamer Gear blog. That coverage omits sleeping pads, shelters, backpacks, and trekking poles due to a potential conflict of interest because Gossamer Gear sells gear in those categories. We publish our coverage in those categories here on our own independent blog.

Note: items featured in this collection of gear will be available in spring 2015 unless stated otherwise.

Sleeping Pads

There were a bunch of new pads this time, including one that is full length and weighs just 6.5 ounces and costs $25 – I’ll bet that gets your interest! For lightweight and minimalist pads, we definitely have more options.

Adventure Medical Kits Escape Sleeping Pad. Made of aluminized plastic with 85% heat reflectivity, this full size pad weighs just 6.5 ounces and will cost around $25-$30. That’s the good news. The downside is this is considered an emergency pad, which means it’s not designed for continuous use. Obviously the plastic is pretty thin for it to be that light weight. Ultralight backpackers will see it a little differently: how long will it last if I use it carefully, like on top of a good groundsheet or a Gossamer Gear ThinLight pad? I look forward to testing that idea. The Escape Pad can be paired with AMKs 5.5 ounce Escape Bivy (that we reported on last summer) to create a 12-ounce sleeping system.


Exped SynMat Hyperlite Sleeping Pad. This new R-3.2 insulated, full-length, 11.6-ounce sleeping pad is claimed to be the lightest insulated sleeping pad when it comes out in spring 2015. It will actually be available in three sizes: the 71x20.5x2.75 inch version (the lightest one) will cost $169; the wide version will cost $179, and a long-wide version will cost $189. Exped laminates the insulation to both the top and bottom surfaces within the pad to get maximal benefit from the enclosed synthetic insulation. Also, their pads use an exclusive pair of inflation and deflation valves (the intake one is one-way) instead of the familiar plastic twist valve, which they claim is prone to breakage and leakage.


Big Agnes Green Ridge Pad. This new pad will replace the Clearview, and yes it’s green rather than clear. It will be available in a range of sizes like the Clearview; the lightest one is 20x60x2.5 inches and 13 ounces; $60. It does gain a bit of weight since the Clearview in that size was about 11.5 ounces as I recall. This is a good value for a lightweight inflatable non-insulated sleeping pad.


Big Agnes Double Z Sleeping Pad. For anyone who wants a lightweight thick sleeping pad, the 4-inch thick Double Z pad weighs only 17 ounces and costs $80, also a good value. 17 ounces is heavy for ultralight backpackers, but lightweight backpackers may find this pad made in heaven. After all, a standard Therm-a-Rest foam pad weighs about a pound and a half, so this is lighter and much more comfortable than a conventional pad. You might faint while blowing it up at high elevations, but that’s another matter.


Sea To Summit Sleeping Pads. Sea To Summit introduced a line of sleeping bags a couple of years ago, and now they will be getting into the sleeping pad business with a new line of pads that includes three versions: Comfort Plus, Comfort Light, and Ultralight. I will focus on the latter version because it’s the lightest one at 11.5 ounces for the Small size (66x21.5x2 inches), 12.5 ounces for the Regular size (72x21.5x2 inches), and 16 ounces for the Large size (78x25x2 inches); MSRPs are $100 for Small and Regular and $129 for Large. These pads feature Air-Sprung Cells which means the cells are independent; pressing on one cell does not affect adjacent cells. Other features are liquid extrusion TPU lamination which prevents fabric delamination, anti-microbial treatment of the interior to prevent mold development, and a multi-function valve that allows for easy inflation, rapid deflation, and a fine-tuned pressure adjustment. The bottom is 40 denier nylon for durability, and the R-value is 0.7. A ThermoLite insulated version will also be available for $30 more and adds 3 ounces.


Crazy Creek Air Chair Pad. The good news is this minimalist 36x17.5 inch pad weighs just 7.4 ounces; the bad news is you need to buy the Air Chair to get the pad, $79.75. The pad is made by Klymit, so perhaps if we encourage them enough, one company or the other will offer the pad separately. At one time Kooka Bay offered a torso pad with similar dimensions that weighed only 5.3 ounces, but alas Kooka Bay is gone. Hopefully, someone will fill the void.

 

Shelters

Last summer we reported that we are starting to see two-person double wall shelters in the 2.5 pound range. A year later we are seeing more of them, and even some weighing just 2 pounds, which is remarkable. With the availability of high-tenacity nylon fabrics and coatings that make the fabric stronger, not weaker, manufacturers are less reluctant to use thinner fabrics in shelters. However, these fabrics are more expensive to manufacture, so expect to pay more. Tents made of 10 to 20 denier fabrics are wonderfully lightweight but require reasonable care to maintain their functionality and extend their longevity.

Also, it seems that manufacturers have gone beyond the stage where they were shrinking and de-featuring tents to lighten them. Buyers were simply not very interested in a two-person tent with only one door and little headroom. Now, with the use of lighter weight fabrics and lighter poles or the use of trekking poles, we are seeing more and more tents in the 2 to 2.5 pound range (trail weight) with two vestibuled doors and ample floor space and headroom, which is what buyers want.


Exped Mira Hyperlite (1, 2, and 3-person versions, double wall, semi-freestanding). This is a good one to start off with. This tent is supported by three poles in sleeves, which is a plus for distributing wind force thereby increasing stability.  It has dead-end pole sleeves for assembly convenience. The one person version has one side entry with vestibule, while the 2- and 3-person versions have two doors with vestibules. Floor dimensions for the 2P version are 49x85, with 43 inches of headroom. The Mira tents are made of 20 denier fabric with 1500 mm of waterproofness, which includes the floor. The 2-person version has a trail weight of 2 pounds 9 ounces and will sell for $379; the 1P is $329, and the 3P is $479.


Sierra Designs Tensegrity (1- and 2-person versions, single-wall, trekking pole supported). Sierra Designs is returning to its roots and re-inventing itself with innovative and functional gear for backpacking. The Tensegrity tents look like a lean-to; they are supported with two trekking poles at the head end and one hoop pole at the foot end, and have a gear storage vestibule at the head end which can be converted to a canopy with two more trekking poles. There is access to the gear storage from inside the tent via a zippered mesh window. Entry into the tent is through protected side doors (only one on the 1P version). The FL version is made of 20 denier coated polyester ripstop and is seam taped; the Elite version is made of nylon fabric coated with silicone on both sides, which will require seam sealing by the user. The Tensegrity 1 FL has a trail weight of 1 pound 15 ounces, and the Elite version weighs 5 ounces less; MSRPs are $320 and $400 respectively. The 2-person version weighs 2 pounds 8 ounces for the FL version and 6 ounces less for the Elite version; MSRPs are $390 and $490 respectively.


Hilleberg Enan (1-person, double-wall, semi-freestanding). The new Enan resembles the Akto, with a single center hoop pole. It’s made of Hilleberg’s new Kerlon 600 fabric, which is a 10 denier triple silicone coated nylon. Headroom is 37.4 inches at the center. It has a side entry, protected by a vestibule. Both ends have a mesh vent that is closable. Trail weight is 1 pound 15 ounces and MSRP is $625.


MSR Flylite (2-person, single-wall, trekking pole supported). The Flylite is another lean-to looking tent; it’s supported by two trekking poles at the head end and one pole at the foot end. The 29 square foot floor is 55 inches wide at the head end tapering to 42 inches at the foot end; headroom is 42 inches. The walls are 10 denier fabric and floor is 20 denier. Ventilation is through mesh panels protected by flaps on the front and sides. Weight is 1 pound 9 ounces and MSRP is $350.


Lightwave Sigma (1- and 2-person, breathable single-wall, freestanding). This breathable single wall tent has a technology story. Its 20 denier nylon fabric is coated on the inside with X-Tex which is a Cocona (activated carbon) coating. According to the designer, Carol McDermott “the activated carbon absorbs the water vapor and prevents it from forming droplets, so the inside tent surface feels dry to the touch. The large surface area created by the activated carbon means that the energy required to keep the water in an evaporative state is much lower, and this results in the fabric continuing to be effectively breathable.” He further explains “this technology is massively more breathable than an eVent tent because eVent is no longer functional when it becomes coated with condensation, while the Cocona technology continues to transfer water molecules to the outside.” The Sigma tents are rated 4-season, have one entry, and headroom is 42 inches. Weight for the 1P version is 3 pounds 8 ounces and 2P version is 4 pounds 5 ounces and MSRP is $649. It would be nice if they can get the tent weights down a pound or so.


Big Sky International Wisp (1-person, single-wall, trekking pole supported). The Wisp will be offered with five fabric choices: 40-denier PU coated nylon (a low cost option), SuprSil (like regular silnylon, only stronger), SuprSil UL SUL (a lighter version of silnylon), SuprSil SUL (a still lighter weight of Silnylon), and Let-it-Por (Cuben Fiber) with weights of XX, 20, 18, 14, and 10 ounces respectively. Entry is from the side though a vestibule. MSRPs range from $150 to $500 depending on the fabric option. I published a First Looks article on the Wisp on this blog in early August.


Six Moon Designs Deschutes Tarp (1-person, single-wall, floorless, trekking pole supported). I had the opportunity to meet with Ron Moak at OR, who showed me his new Deschutes Tarp. Basically it’s a roomy one-person floorless shelter made of Cuben Fiber that weighs a mere 7 ounces. This shelter is not bugproof, but it provides 44 square feet of protected area and 49 inches of headroom. I have used shelters of this type before (the SMD Gatewood Cape and Wild Oasis) and find them very liveable. The difference is the Deschutes is larger, and a floorless shelter is a good option if you hike with a dog. MSRP is $330. A silnylon version is available (13 ounces, $165).


Nemo Blaze (1- and 2-person versions, double-wall, non-freestanding). We found the lightest new double wall tents at Nemo. The Blaze 1P has a minimum weight of 1 pound 11 ounces and the 2P weighs 2 pounds – that’s right a 2-pound 2-person double wall tent! And it’s not skimpy on features and space either. The 2-person version has two side entries with vestibules, floor dimensions of 50x85 inches (30 square feet), and 40 inches of headroom. It attains that low weight by using one diagonal longitudinal hoop pole and hubbed cross pole to support the vestibules, plus use of 7 denier fabrics for the canopy and 10 denier for the floor. The Blaze’s floor dimensions will accommodate two 25-inch wide sleeping pads and has more headroom than the Hornet below. This tent definitely requires some TLC, but from my past experiences its remarkable how strong and durable these fabrics are. MSRPs are $370 for the 1P and $450 for the 2P.


Nemo Hornet (1- and 2-person versions, double-wall, semi-freestanding). How’s this for beating your own record; the Hornet has a similar feature set as the Blaze but weighs slightly less and costs significantly less. The differences are the pole design (one longitudinal hubbed wishbone pole), fabrics (15 denier body, 7 denier fly, 15 denier floor), floor dimensions (the Hornet is narrower at the foot end), and less headroom compared to the Blaze. The 1P version weighs 1 pound 10 ounces and MSRP is $320; the 2P version weighs 1 pound 15 ounces and has an MSRP of $370.


Marmot Force

Marmot Amp

Marmot Nitro

Backpacks

Under backpacks I present a potpourri of new models, new manufacturers, and new innovations.

Ultimate Direction Fastpack 20 and 30. Ultimate Direction specializes in gear for endurance runners, who prefer a pack with lower volume and plenty of pockets to make everything accessible on the fly. Many of those features transfer to fastpacking, which introduce some refreshingly innovative ideas into backpacks. What distinguishes these packs are their vest suspension and well-designed feature set. The Fastpack is available in 20 and 30 liter volumes, which could accommodate an overnight gear kit. I received the Fastpack 20 three months ago for testing and comment, and was immediately impressed with the feature set and vest suspension. The backpanel side of the pack has extra wide shoulder flaps (like a vest) with numerous pockets on them, two sternum straps for securing it over your chest, a removable padded backpanel, and no hip strap. The absence of a hipbelt is surprisingly liberating, as long as pack weight is under about 10 pounds. You wear it instead of carrying it. The frontpanel side had a full-height stretch nylon front pocket plus two stretch side pockets that are reachable. It has s drybag type top closure that attaches to side compression straps, so compression is self-adjusting. Inside there is a hydration sleeve with one center hose port. The front pockets, five of them on the vest flaps hold water bottles, energy bars, and other needed items close at hand. For fast and light trips, it’s really handy to carry energy drink in a chest pocket bottle plus plain water in a hydration bladder. The new for 2015 Fastpack 30 has a HDPE framesheet+foam backpanel, and an internal stretch mesh divider. Both packs are available in unisex S/M and M/L; the Fastpack 20 weighs 24.8 ounces and costs $149, and the Fastpack 30 weighs 26.6 ounces and costs $174.


Camelbak Octane 18X and Pursuit 24LR/Sprite 22LR. The multisport Octane 18X (left) is a nicely designed larger size hydration pack with large easy-access hipbelt pockets, included 3 liter reservoir, and zippered front to allow extra storage; weight is 1 pound 2 ounces and MSRP is $120. The Pursuit and Sprite (right) are mens/womens done-in-a-day packs featuring a polycarbonate framesheet, trampoline backpanel, 100 ounce lumbar reservoir with wide opening for easy cleaning, and numerous outside pockets. Weight is 2 pounds 9 ounces, $150.


More Mountain Hardwear Backpacks Available with an OutDry Lining. Last year Mountain Hardwear announced their first waterproof backpacks, achieved by laminating an OutDry membrane to the inside of the pack. The initial packs are larger volume. Now MH will offer the OutDry feature to three more pack models (Scrambler, Ozonic, and Direttissima) in mens and womens versions ranging from 30 to 58 liters. According to the MH representative, the OutDry lining adds only a fraction of an ounce to the weight of the pack. The packs’ top pocket is not laminated, but does have a PU coating. Pictured is the Ozonic 50.


Granite Gear Virga 26. Granite Gear will be introducing a smaller version of their popular Virga frameless backpack, the Virga 26. The new pack has 26 liters of volume, 100 denier Cordura fabric with 210 denier reinforcements, a rolltop closure, stretchwoven front and side pockets, side compression straps, well-padded shoulder straps, and a webbing hipbelt. Weight is 16 ounces and MSRP will be $120.


Lightwave Fastpack 50 and Ultrahike 60. These are not brand new models but they are new to the US via www.crux.us.com, a US distributor. The Fastpack 50 (left) has aluminum stays, stretch nylon side pockets (no front pocket), zig-zig side compression straps, seams are either welded or seam taped for waterproofness, and each side has a ski holder strap at the base; weight is 2 pounds and MSRP is $240. The Ultrahike 60 (right) is a similar design except the side compression is via a zig-zag cord system. Weight is also 2 pounds and MSRP is $270.


Thule Capstone Backpacks. Thule, a Swedish company known for its car-mounted carrier systems surprised us with a line of new backpacks. The packs are not very lightweight, but we note their innovative frame system consisting of a framesheet plus two tensioned tubes.

Trekking Poles

Not a lot new in the trekking pole category, but we did find an interesting technology story.

Leki Speedlock II Pole Lock. The Leki representative provided us with some interesting information on pole locks. Leki will be introducing their new Speedlock II (left) on their poles in 2015. It’s one-third smaller, 25% lighter, and 20% stronger than their current external lever lock (right). Interestingly, he told us that their internal twist locking mechanism is significantly stronger than an external lever lock. I thought the opposite was true. When he explained it, it made sense: an internal expansion lock has more power than an external compression lock, partly due to the amount of surface area and partly due to the type of force.

Rainwear

As a bonus to this installment, I add the Berghaus Hypersmock 2.0, the lightest rain jacket on the market, made lighter for 2015.

Berhaus HyperSmock 2.0. In my winter 2014 OR Show coverage I reported on this hyperlight rain jacket, weighing just 3.88 ounces according to Berghaus. I got one in size Large to test and found it actually weighs 3.4 ounces (funny how you sometimes wish for less). At summer 2014 OR I found out this jacket will be revised for 2015 and lightened to 2.65 ounces! And it’s claimed to be 100% waterproof. The MSRP is $149. One thing I discovered right away is the jacket is very trim fitting; size Large will layer only over an ultralight down jacket, but no more. More info to come as my testing continues.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

First Look: Gossamer Gear 2014 Gorilla Backpack – Some Nice Improvements to an Already Outstanding Pack



By Will Rietveld

At 46 liters, the Gorilla is a medium volume pack suitable for hikers on the upper end of ultralight or the lower end of lightweight, in other words a base weight between 8 and 12 pounds. It’s intended for loads in the 15 to 25 pound range, and optimally in the 15 to 20 pound range.

When I reviewed the original Gorilla for Backpacking Light Magazine in 2009 I gave it a Highly Recommended rating. Now, in August 2014, Gen 3 will be arriving soon, and I can safely say its better than ever.

Gorilla Genealogy

The original Gorilla was constructed of a durable 210 denier PU-coated nylon ripstop fabric, had mesh outside pockets, a removable contoured one-piece aluminum stay, two webbing compression straps on each side, and stuffable 4-inch wide shoulder straps and hipbelt. The weight was 24.2 ounces.


In Gen 2 the Gorilla was constructed of Gossamer Gear’s 140 denier Dyneema Gridstop fabric, had fabric side pockets and a mesh front pocket, and retained the wide shoulder straps and hipbelt but without the option to stuff them with clothing. The side compression straps were dropped in favor of an external shock cord compression system. Pack weight increased to 26 ounces.


Now Gossamer Gear will soon be introducing Gen 3 of the Gorilla; what are the changes and how much do they affect pack weight?


The Gen 3 2014 Gossamer Gear Gorilla – What’s New?

The main changes are as follows:
  • The Gorilla is now constructed of Robic fabrics (see below for a description); the previous 140 denier Dyneema Gridstop exclusive to Gossamer Gear will be phased out.
  • The side compression straps are back (hooray!!), two on each side.
  • An internal hydration sleeve with two hose ports has been added.
  • The shoulder straps are narrower and thicker, with spacer mesh on the inside.
  • The hipbelt is wider and thicker, also with spacer mesh. (Identical and interchangeable with the Mariposa)
  • New stretch mesh on the pad sleeve and front pocket.
  • A trekking pole holder has been added to the front of the pack.
  • Webbing cinch straps replace the previous cord/buckle to hold down the top cap.
  • Cord loops are added to zipper pulls on the hipbelt pockets and top cap pocket.

As you can see, the changes are basically the same as the updates to the Mariposa pack. The main difference from the Mariposa (besides volume) is the Gorilla has side compression straps and only one pocket on each side (versus the Mariposa’s one tall pocket on the left and two pockets on the right). The weight of the pre-production Gen 3 Gorilla is 28.3 ounces (size Medium) by my scale.

Fabric Changes – What is Robic?

As you can see, the 140 denier Dyneema Gridstop fabric of Gen 2, which was touted as “the ideal lightweight backpack fabric”, has been replaced in Gen 3 by Robic fabrics. Robic, made by South Korea’s Hyosung Corporation, is designed for applications where very high resilience and durability are needed. It surpasses Nylon 66 in tensile strength, tear strength, puncture resistance, and abrasion resistance. According to the manufacturer, this fabric is 100% high-tenacity nylon that can easily retain its original exterior even after long periods of use. The "old" Dyneema Gridstop contains super strong Spectra fibers in a grid pattern, but the rest of the fabric is ordinary Nylon. Bottom line, Robic is more durable than Gen 2’s 140 denier Dyneema Gridstop, lighter weight, and more cost effective. Gossamer Gear uses 100 denier Robic in the body of its new packs and 100x200 denier Robic in abrasion areas.

Photo Tour of the Gen3 Gossamer Gear Gorilla


The backpanel view shows the Gorilla’s new narrower, thicker shoulder straps, which are more female friendly. The new ones are 2.5 inches wide and 5/8-inch thick, replacing the 4-inch wide ¼-inch thick straps that are too wide for some people. The hipbelt is now 4.5 inches wide and ½-inch thick and is interchangeable with the Mariposa. It replaces the previous 4-inch wide ¼-inch thick belt. The pad sleeve mesh is a bit lighter weight and a looser stretch. The sternum strap is nicer webbing then before and the whistle is gone.


The frontpanel view shows the new webbing straps (gold) to snug down the top cap and new mesh on the front pocket.


The side view shows the pack’s side compression straps; welcome back! Side pockets are durable Robic fabric.


The Over-The-Top lid is retained. The zipper pull on the top pocket, and hipbelt pockets, now have a cord loop that is easier to grab.


Bottom view. Note that the removable Thinlight pad supplied for the pack’s backpanel overlaps the hipbelt, providing extra lumbar padding.


Close up view of the new narrower/thicker shoulder straps.


Close-up of the new spacer mesh on the inside of the hipbelt, and shoulder straps.



The hipbelt pockets remain the same size and have a cord loop on the zipper pull to make them easier to open.
 

First Impressions

Based on my experience with previous generations of the Gorilla, and my testing of Gen 3 so far, following are my initial impressions:
  • After researching Robic fabric I am very impressed by its claimed strength, durability, and lower cost. It’s very easy to understand why Gossamer Gear made the switch. However, this is a new fabric to outdoor gear and its suitability needs to be tested under field conditions.
  • I am delighted to see the return of real webbing side compression straps.
  • Refinement. I like all the upgrades; the Gorilla just keeps getting better!
  • Pack weight continues to creep upward, another 2.3 ounces by my measurement, but that could change in the production pack.
  • Frame. Since the Gorilla is a medium size backpack, Gossamer Gear’s removable stay system is probably sufficient for weight transfer and carry comfort. Even with pack weights down to 15 pounds, my research has found that the removable stay effectively maintains pack torso length, transfers weight well without a closed cell foam pad, and helps the pack conform to the user’s back. The standard contour of the stay fits many users, and can easily be bent more or less to tailor it to the contours of a user’s back. Simply pull the stay out of the pack and bend it on the edge of a kitchen counter.

 

The Ideal Lightweight Backpack?

If your base pack weight is in the 8 to 12 pound range, with the volume that normally goes with that weight, the Gorilla is arguably the ideal pack for you. There several good packs out there in this size range (46 liters) that will comfortably carry the load, but the Gorilla is the lightest one I know of and has the best utility.

Monday, August 4, 2014

First Look: Gossamer Gear 2014 Mariposa Backpack – New Fabric and Lots of Nice Upgrades



By Will Rietveld

The Gossamer Gear Mariposa, their largest volume backpack at 70 liters, first appeared in 2004. Now, in August 2014, Gen 4 will arrive. It has come a long way. One can compare it with the evolution of a trend-setting car model, like the Toyota Prius. We are now in Gen 3 of the Prius, with each new generation dazzling us with advanced design, new technologies and features, better performance, more comfort, and more reliability. But the basic concepts have not changed. The Mariposa follows this same evolution.

Mariposa Genealogy

The original Gen 1 Mariposa was constructed of silnylon, featured two carbon fiber arrow shafts in sleeves on the backpanel to enhance weight transfer, and allowed the user to pad the 4-inch wide shoulder straps and hipbelt with clothing (or use provided lightweight foam pads). The outside pockets were all mesh. The measured weight (size Medium) was 17 ounces.


Then came the Mariposa Plus (Gen 2) constructed of a more durable grey ripstop nylon. It retained the straight carbon fiber stays, stuffable shoulder straps and hipbelt, and mesh pockets. Measured weight was 20.5 ounces.


The 2012 Mariposa (Gen 3) made further advances by introducing Gossamer Gear’s 140 denier Dyneema Gridstop pack fabric, a one piece contoured aluminum stay, a new Over-The-Top closure, fabric side pockets, and eliminating the option of stuffing clothing in the shoulder straps and hipbelt, while retaining their wide width. Measured weight is 28 ounces.


Now, in August 2014, the latest (Gen 4) Mariposa debuts, which is the subject of this article. How has it changed, and how much weight has been added?


What’s Different?

The new Mariposa is an upgrade, not a makeover. The pack has the same dimensions, volume, sizes, and basic features. There are a few bigger changes and lots of smaller ones. Overall, the new Mariposa is more elegant, professional, and refined.

The main changes are:
  • The Mariposa is now constructed of Robic fabrics; the previous 140 denier Dyneema Gridstop exclusive to Gossamer Gear will be phased out.
  • An internal hydration sleeve with two hose ports has been added.
  • The shoulder straps are narrower and thicker, with spacer mesh on the inside.
  • The hipbelt is wider and thicker, also with spacer mesh.
  • New stretch mesh on the pad sleeve and front pocket.
  • A trekking pole holder has been added to the front of the pack.
  • Webbing cinch straps replace the cord/buckle to hold down the top cap.
  • Cord loops are added to zipper pulls on the hipbelt pockets and top cap pocket.

So how do these changes affect pack weight? Not much; by my scale the pre-production Gen 4 Mariposa is only 0.9 ounce heavier than Gen 3; size Medium weighs 28.9 ounces without the external bungie system.

Fabric Changes – What is Robic?

As you can see, the 140 denier Dyneema Gridstop fabric of Gen 2, which was touted as “the ideal lightweight backpack fabric”, has been replaced in Gen 3 by Robic fabrics. Robic, made by South Korea’s Hyosung Corporation, is designed for applications where very high resilience and durability are needed. It surpasses Nylon 66 in tensile strength, tear strength, puncture resistance, and abrasion resistance. According to the manufacturer, this fabric is 100% high-tenacity nylon that can easily retain its original exterior even after long periods of use. The "old" Dyneema Gridstop contains super strong Spectra fibers in a grid pattern, but the rest of the fabric is ordinary Nylon. Bottom line, Robic is more durable than Gen 2’s 140 denier Dyneema Gridstop, lighter weight, and more cost effective. Gossamer Gear uses 100 denier Robic in the body of its new packs and 100x200 denier Robic in abrasion areas.

Photo Tour of the Gen3 Gossamer Gear Mariposa


The backpanel view shows the Mariposa’s new narrower, thicker shoulder straps, which are more female friendly. The new ones are 2.5 inches wide and 5/8-inch thick, replacing the 4-inch wide ¼-inch thick straps that was too wide for some people. The hipbelt is now 4.5 inches wide and ½-inch thick, replacing the previous 4-inch wide ¼-inch thick belt. The pad sleeve mesh is a bit lighter weight and a looser stretch. The sternum strap is nicer webbing then before and the whistle is gone.


The frontpanel view shows the new webbing straps (blue) to snug down the top cap, new mesh on the front pocket, and trekking pole holders (lower left).


The left side of the pack still has a large, tall pocket.


The right side has two pockets as before. Overall, the four outside pockets will hold a lot of gear and clothing.


The Over-The-Top lid is retained. The zipper pull on the top pocket, and hipbelt pockets, now have a cord loop that is easier to grab.


Bottom view. The SitLight pad provided with the pack overlaps the hipbelt, providing a padded lumbar area.


Close-up of the new narrower/thicker shoulder straps, which are identical to the ones on the new Gorilla backpack.


Close up of the spacer mesh on the inside of the new hipbelt. The new belt is wider and thicker than the previous one, and is interchangeable with the Gorilla.


The attached hipbelt pockets are the same size as the previous version; cord loops have been added to the zipper pull to make them easier to open.


The outside pockets on the Mariposa will swallow a lot of gear. My entire gear kit will fit in the outside pockets of this pack.


Even the “smaller” side pockets on the Mariposa are big and will hold a lot of gear.


First Impressions

Based on my experience with previous generations of the Mariposa, and my testing of Gen 4 so far, following are my initial impressions:
  • Pack Weight. On my scale, the new pack weighs 28.9 ounces in size Medium. That is a gain of only 0.9 ounce (based on measured weights) from Gen 3, which is extraordinary considering the changes (mostly additions) made to the pack.
  • Materials. The new Robic fabric is impressive, and its specifications indicate it should outperform the previous 140 denier Dyneema Gridstop. This is one of the first applications of Robic fabrics in backpacks, so it needs some time to develop a track record. Switching to lighter weight Robic fabrics was the key factor to offset the weight gain from adding several comfort and convenience upgrades.
  • Refinement. The new Mariposa really looks professional and dialed in for the lightweight backpacker. The word “Spartan” no longer applies. The new Mariposa provides loads of volume, comfort, utility, and convenience for a sub-2-pound backpack.
  • Utility. This is a very functional backpack, with a total of seven external pockets to organize your gear and make it readily available on the trail without having to dig into the interior of the pack. The three fabric side pockets and mesh front pocket will hold a huge amount of clothing and gear.
  •  Pack Volume Compression. The Mariposa does not have any traditional side compression straps (as the new Gorillia pack will have). Rather, as with previous generations, an external elastic cord compression system for the front and/or sides of the pack is provided, which basically squeezes the pack to a smaller size. For a discussion of this issue, read my article LightweightFrameless Backpacks State of the Market Report 2011: Part 1 – Choosing andUsing a Frameless Pack. On the Mariposa, the asymmetric side pocket design (a tall pocket on one side and two shorter ones on the other) makes it very difficult to add conventional side compression straps without interfering with the pockets.
  • Frame. The Mariposa has a removable inverted U-shaped, contoured aluminum stay that slips into sleeves on the backpanel. For its light weight, the contoured stay contributes a lot for transferring weight, retaining pack torso length, and contouring the pack to the user’s back. The Mariposa is a big pack (70 liters), and filling that entire volume usually adds up to a weight of 25-30 pounds or more, so the Mariposa needs an appropriate frame to effectively transfer that weight to the hips. In my limited testing carrying 20 pounds, I found the new Mariposa’s improved suspension system, in combination with the removable stay, helps a lot with weight transfer and carry comfort. 

 Important Tip for Pack Selection

  • When comparing Gossamer Gear packs, many buyers will notice that the new Mariposa backpack weighs only slightly more than the new Gorilla, so they will reason “why not get the Mariposa so I will have plenty of volume when I need it, and the cost is not much different either.” Don’t do it!! Unless you really need a large volume pack, you are much better off choosing a pack that matches the volume of your gear kit plus room for 5-6 days of food (see the above referenced article). The Mariposa lacks a good pack volume compression system, so it will not carry that well when partially full. It is far better to choose a smaller volume pack, like the Gorilla (which has good compression), that will be closer to full most of the time, and compressed, compared to carrying a larger volume pack that is not full most of the time. Bottom line, many people overestimate the pack volume they need; its best to take the time to accurately determine the pack volume actually needed (its usually smaller than you think) and avoid the error of purchasing a pack that is too big.