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Gossamer Gear Mariposa Plus

rated 4.5 of 5 stars
photo: Gossamer Gear Mariposa Plus weekend pack (50-69l)

The Mariposa Plus is amazingly light for its volume. After hiking with the slightly lighter Mariposa for several seasons, I was concerned about ripping the fabric as I stuffed equipment into the body.  So I bought a Plus for the tougher fabric.  All my gear and food fits in for week-long trips in the Sierra Nevada and on the PCT. 

The pack fits well and I have been happy with it for off-trail hiking too, scrambling over rocks and squeezing through brush. The big mesh pockets are very useful for quick access to snacks, spare clothing, water bottles or for packing wet stuff. The carbon fiber supports seem to be all the minimum necessary to provide structure.

But there was a quality problem with my new Mariposa Plus. The right side of the Mariposa Plus hip belt began ripping out where it attaches to the pack body. The layers of fabric in the belt are sewn into the seam of the packsack. (The hip belt doesn't go all the way around your back.)

Apparently the belt fabric wasn't inserted quite far enough in, and started to fray as soon as I put tension on it while hiking. This part of the weight-saving design doesn't inspire confidence. Now I hesitate to take the Mariposa Plus on a long trip.

Another concern is the lack of load adjusters at the top of the shoulder straps. The straps just attach straight to the top of the pack sack, instead of following the contour of the shoulder. As a result, the shoulder straps cannot carry any of the pack weight.

This isn't a problem if you have the hip belt carrying the entire load. But when I'm hauling extra water or going downhill on the trail, the top of the pack tends to lean back away from my shoulders. Then the hip belt digs in. Tightening the shoulder straps doesn't fix this. Apparently the load adjusters are omitted to make room for the full-size sleeping pad pocket on the back of the pack body.

There are other caveats with such a lightweight pack. I found that I have to pack carefully, with good load distribution and without any sharp edges against the pack fabric. I need to adjust the shoulder straps and the hipbelt just right. The fabric is damaged easily if I lean the pack against rocks or trees. The mesh pockets can snag on bushes. So I had to learn to be careful with it. 

Then I take exception to the idea of inserting an entire sleeping pad for a back cushion- that moves the pack weight too far out from my back. I just put in a sit pad instead. And I find that the hydration pocket is not very accessible. This is a very tall top-loader, so I have to unpack halfway just to check the water level or top off the water pouch. Instead I tend to use water bottles in the outside pockets.

The light weight is very appealing. The volume is enough for 30 to 35 pound loads. But the suspension is not adequate for that much weight.    

Price Paid: $120

Hard to believe nobody has reviewed this pack yet! After searching extensively on-line for lighter packs I chose the Mariposa Plus as my loads will be under 30 pounds these days. Previous packs used over last 20 years: Dana Design Terraplane and Osprey Aether 60.

After purchase I hiked most of the JMT (leaving via the High Sierra Trail rather than over Whitney) and some shorter trails in the USA (totaling about 450KMs) before returning to New Zealand where I walked another 160KMs with it since. In short, I highly recommend this pack for folks seeking a comfortable pack for loads under 30 pounds, exactly as the manufacturer recommends. My loads are 25 pounds or less (we weighed my loaded pack in Yosemite Valley prior to departure for the JMT, so I am sure about this).

I take good care of the pack and it still looks new, although I did make the smallest tear in the netting on one side (probably snagged it on a bush). Yes, a bear canister fits inside (I used the standard Garcia). The mesh panels on the side are pretty handy for snacks and rain coat. Oh yes, I can reach the water bottle while walking, and I read that they have improved on this feature since I purchased mine. I don't like water bladders (sat on the bite valve too many times and got a wet tent) and being able to reach the water bottle while walking is really a bonus for me. I installed the optional foam inserts in the hip and shoulder belts and am happy with them - yes you can save a very tiny amount of weight by using clothing instead, but I am fairly lazy in the morning and didn't want to bother with that.

Absolutely no problems of note and am happy with the fit - this is the only Gossamer Gear pack that would fit me mid-2007, based on the company's on-line measurement information. Perfect size for me and fits all my gear, although I have purchased smaller/lighter gear in the last few years (Gigapower canister stove w/solo cookset, Feathered Friends sleeping bag, Rainbow Tarp Tent). I don't tend to use my sleeping pad (Prolight 4 3/4) as the pad for my back (the pack can be configured this way) - I purchased the optional foam for that purpose from Gossamer Gear and like it. the foam did get dirty after 400KMs of walking, so I bought another one before returning to NZ (being able to remove it while stopped and using it as a sit pad is nice, but does get it dirty and sometimes full of small sticks).

Overall, I am exceptionally happy with the Gossamer Gear Mariposa Plus. I would not recommend exceeding 30 pounds though!

Design: top loading
Size: 70L max
Number of Pockets: three outside mesh pockets
Max. Load Carried: 25 pounds
Height of Owner: 5' 8"
Price Paid: about $150

So far, a good, sensible pack for the lightweight backpacker.

One of the things you always buy with a piece of gear is a piece of the manufacturer and quality in that department can be as important as the gear itself. Gossamer Gear is a small company that appears to care deeply about customer satisfaction which is exactly the kind of company I want to buy my equipment from.

The pack is exactly what the company says it is. Delicate and extremely light. It has 4 large outside see-through mesh pockets which are wonderful for those of us who are forever losing gear in multiple compartment packs. The pack's two stiffening rods give it enough form to make it easy to load.

Padding and frame come from either the supplied foam pad or your own sleeping pad that you fit into a pocket on the front of the pack. I used my 3/4 length inflatable Therm-a-rest which I partially inflated and folded to fit. It's the softest padding I've ever had on a pack. There were no pressure points whatsoever from the pack body.

My previous pack, a Marmot 35 liter 3 pounder had me in serious pain by the second day on the trail. The Mariposa was still very comfortable in that time frame with an average load in the mid 20 lbs.

I'm really happy with this pack owing to the weight savings, the comfort and the convenience, but as the manufacturer says, it may not be for you. Here are some things to consider.

Gossamer gear says it's delicate. I haven't had it long enough to cause any wear, but the material is clearly thinner than what you'd find on the heavier packs. The closing strap would be more aptly called a ribbon which easily twists and bunches so care must be taken to keep it flat. My wife (she has a medium) complained that the stitching on the velcro that closes the pad pockets on the straps chafes. It looks like a little more care in the sewing could have avoided this problem for her. I haven't had any problems with mine.

I think I read a complaint that the hydration tube port was hard to thread the tube through. I had no problem nor could I see any way there could be a problem with it.

The pack arrived missing a sternum strap which was immediately mailed out by the Manufacturer and arrived in a couple of days.

Price per pound is high, but if I get a couple of seasons out of it, it will be worth it for the features it affords.

Design: Top loading with outside mesh pockets
Size: large
Number of Pockets: 4
Max. Load Carried: 28 lb
Height of Owner: 5' 10"
Price Paid: $165

Extremely light and comfortable. I really like the mesh pockets because you can keep things that are wet outside of the pack body. So my tent (six moons luna solo) stays outside, as does fuel (either ethanol or whitegas). The fabric isn't overly waterproof, so it is important to use a waterproof liner (heavy duty trash bag or compacter bag).

Gossamer Gear suggests using socks as padding on the straps, I tried that and it wasn't as comfortable as the foam pads. Having padding pockets that can be opened serves as a good place to stash a little "safety cash".

I've tried using both an REI Thermarest knockoff (3/4 length, lightweight) and a Thermarest Z-pad as the frame (I cut the Z-pad down to 3/4 length - full length is too big). The foam is more comfortable than the semi-inflatable. I haven't tried Gossamer Gear's own pads, but probably will before long.

I've used the bear canister strap as holder for a extension bag for food. (I'm a scout leader and sometimes need to carry extra odds and ends like a serious first aid kit, or some treats, or sometimes don't have choice over how compact or light my food is).

Typically this is an outdoor research hydroseal sack. This extension bag easily fits an ursack which is most of what I need for bears in the south. I also like this approach because it helps separate food from sleeping gear and clothes. Even with this it still fits inside a small pack cover.

It serves as the foundation of my lightweight system. When I teach scouts about packing, I'll often throw it across the room completely loaded to one of the scouts. They understand what I mean by lightweight that way. I've also used this system for air travel - 2 weeks at a meeting in Italy using only carry on with it.

Max. Load Carried: 35lbs
Height of Owner: 5'11
Price Paid: about $190

A few years ago I thought I had taken my last backpack trip. A 50 pound pack was not fun anymore and admittedly I am a little older. However, I really enjoy backpacking so began researching ultra light backpacking and the type of gear which was available. I purchased GG's Mariposa Plus and have been on 3 backpacking trips with it including a section hike on the AT.

Pack weight is critical to keep it under 30 pounds and even better if you keep it under 25 pounds which I have been able to do. I love the mesh nets on the outside and the ability to store a water bottle within easy reach. I recently purchased the hip belt pockets but, have not yet had the opportunity to use them yet. My intent for buying them is not to carry more stuff but, make some of the stuff I carry more accessible such as my camera, snacks, lib balm, etc.

You do have to baby this pack as opposed to my old 6 pound when empty Mountainsmith pack, it cannot be roughed up. I have experienced a very small tear in the upper part of the pack which I have repaired and part of the netting came loose from the sewn seam on the water pocket side. I need to find a way to repair that.

I used the foam inserts in the hip portion and use my spare hiking socks in the shoulder straps. I use part of a Z-Rest pad as my backpad. It has held up very well, is light, and great to pull out on rest stops for something comfy to sit on.

Overall I am totally pleased with this pack and get lots of great comments from other hikers who can't believe my pack weight is so low. When they pick up the pack they become believers however.

Design: Top Loader
Size: Large - 3,000-4,000 CI
Number of Pockets: 4
Max. Load Carried: 26 pounds
Height of Owner: 6' 3
Price Paid: $150

In his review Jeff Spindler states:

"But there was a quality problem with my new Mariposa Plus. The right side of the Mariposa Plus hip belt began ripping out where it attaches to the pack body. The layers of fabric in the belt are sewn into the seam of the packsack. (The hip belt doesn't go all the way around your back.)"

That makes me wonder if he even owns one of these packs! The hip belt for this and most other Gossamer Gear packs is interchangeable and actually passes through the pack body. One can order a large pack with a large belt and hike off a few pounds along the PCT and change the large belt for a medium belt. The belt is not sown into the seam of the packsack at all - in fact, it velcros to the body of the pack.

That having been said, I've recently made the decision to attempt to lower my pack weight and this pack goes a long way towards that effort. I've found it to be very comfortable with the wide shoulder straps spreading the load. It carries everything I need for a multiple day trip and nothing that I don't.

I'm working towards the 10 to 12 pound base weights so common to through hikers not because I intend to do a through hike but because I'm getting along in years and 40 - 50 pound packs take all the pleasure out of backpacking.

I don't miss the load adjusters of my heavier packs and again wonder, based on his comments if Mr. Spindler actually owns one of these packs. The loads I'm carrying (15- 18 pounds) ride easily in this pack.

Price Paid: $150

I picked this pack over a bunch of heavier models available at box stores locally, primarily because it made little sense to me to have a pack that weighed more than the things I carried in it.

So far I have used the pack as a daypack; some shock cord and it works great for this. I add a little more weight than my usual day load, preparing for backpacking with it. I expect good results judging from my day hikes so far. I put the foam inserts in the shoulder pads and hip belt, and use the included sit pad for the back padding, and it carries 20 lbs without the bruising on my hips I was experiencing with an Osprey ultralight pack.

The capacity of this pack is greater than my Osprey, and I will be using it for a backpacking trip over the 4th of July weekend with bear canister and all - I am expecting it will blow the Osprey out of the water. Already I can tell the weight is easier to shift from shoulders to hips, or hips to shoulders, or to balance between the two; something about the curvature in the Osprey pack seems to disagree with my frame. I had sore shoulders no matter what with the Osprey. The Mariposa Plus is easier to carry and bigger - also cheaper. Maybe it's made of flimsier stuff, but I'm sold.

Design: top loader
Size: 4000
Number of Pockets: 4
Max. Load Carried: 20 lbs so far
Height of Owner: 5'7"
Price Paid: $155

This one is a FIVE! No doubt.

The fabric, netting, stitching, hipbelt, and shoulder straps are all of superb quality. I have the 2009 model with the curved one piece aluminum stay, and it carries 20lbs. with just as much ease and even more comfort than my fully framed Osprey Kestrel 38. For its weight, this pack is HUGE, and I could do a winter weekender with the amount of space provided, easily.

I love how wide the shoulder straps are on the Gossamer Gear packs, it shows very clearly that those designing the products are also using them. By distributing the load (as admittedly light as it is) over a wider area on the shoulders, the straps really bring something to the table!

I have a singular gripe, and it doesn't effect the score, it is as follows:

The pack doesn't have any hipbelt pockets. This does not effect the score, because they are available from Gossamer Gear, while it stinks that they cost extra, I understand that not every customer wants them, and since I am so happy with the quality of their gear, I will pay for them happily.

Design: Top loading, internal frame.
Size: BIG! 59L
Number of Pockets: 4 outside
Max. Load Carried: 25-30lbs.
Height of Owner: 5' 11"
Price Paid: $180

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Price MSRP: $170.00
Reviewers Paid: $120.00-$190.00
Weight 17.8 - 20.1 oz (505 - 570 g)
Capacity 2,900 ci body (47 l body), 4,200 ci max (70 l max)
Recommended maximum load 30 lbs (14 kg)
Product Details from Gossamer Gear »

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