Living with the Gossamer Gear Mariposa rucksack

I’ve had my Gossamer Gear Mariposa (2012 version) for just over one year now, so I thought it was time to do a “living review”. I have the older Mariposa as well, which I bought in 2008 (here’s a comparison). The other rucksacks I have used over the past few years have been the Lightwave Ultrahike 60 and the Osprey Exos 58.

Since July last year, I’ve been on six trips. I’ve used the Mariposa on every trip. This has not been intentional. A couple of times I’ve intended to use the Ultrahike or the Exos, but when I’ve done a comparative packing exercise, I’ve always decided to use the Mariposa. Sometimes when I take an item of gear, I wished I’d taken another item. I can’t say I’ve ever regretted using the Mariposa or hankered after another pack. Perhaps this is the highest praise I can give the Mariposa.

So what’s so good about the Mariposa?

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Comfortable to carry

If a rucksack isn’t comfortable to carry, then no amount of features will compensate. The latest Mariposa is the most comfortable rucksack I’ve ever worn. It has a really simple back system using an inverted aluminium “U” internal frame. The back pad has two stretch mesh pockets for a foam mat. I actually use two foam mats, a 150cm long 3mm thick closed cell sleeping mat (folded) and a thicker small piece of closed cell foam that doubles as a sitmat. Sometimes I also add a bit of fleece (shown above) in the lower pocket to mitigate a sweaty lower back in hot conditions.

The shoulder straps are wider than many rucksacks, which helps avoid sore shoulders. They are padded with thin, firm foam, which retains the shape better than some other rucksacks I’ve tried. Unlike the old Mariposa, they are shaped, but not excessively so. The new version also has load lifter straps, which help control the pack when full. My one criticism is that the grosgrain straps occasionally slip through the buckle.

The hipbelt is considerably wider than the old Mariposa and a significant improvement. It really helps to transfer the weight of the pack onto the hips. While it is removable, it is firmly attached to the body of the pack by Velcro. Overall, the hipbelt and shoulder straps make the pack secure on your back, but are flexible enough to allow your body to move naturally. I found packs like the Exos more restrictive in contrast.

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Packing flexibility

A comfortable carry is great, but if you can’t fit your gear in, it is of little use. I’ve found the Mariposa to be the best pack I own for packing flexibility. I’ve always been amazed at how much I can fit into the Mariposa. The main body seems to swallow gear. However, for me, it’s the pockets that really make this sack.

The large external side pocket is large enough for a Scarp, Nitro Lite 200 or Duomid with OookWorks inner plus poles and pegs. I really like having the tent in an external pocket, particularly in wet weather.

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On the other side are two pockets. The upper one, I use for a food bag for any food I need during the day. If I’m travelling on a train, I’ll put my valuables bag in it, so I can easily remove it when I stow the rucksack in a luggage rack. The lower pocket, I usually use for water bottles and sometimes snacks. On the old Mariposa, these pockets were mesh, which could get snagged. Changing them to solid material has made the sack more robust.

On the front of the pack is a large, fine mesh, stretchy pocket. Again, this is an improvement on the old Mariposa as it is more stretchy and less prone to snagging. I use it for my wet weather gear and other odds and ends that I might need during the day.

The hip belt has a zipped pocket on each wing. The old Mariposa had none. I used to carry a reversed belt pack, but now I don’t need to as these have meant that camera, phone and snacks can be carried with easy access. They really should have protective covers over the zips as they will let in any rain easily and don’t have drain holes.

On the lid, there’s a pocket which is big enough for map and compass, but not much more. Again it ought to have a protective flap against rain. Inside the pack there’s a sleeve for a hydration bladder, but I use it for maps and books (inside a waterproof map case).

In addition to the external pockets, Gossamer Gear provide some shock cord and cord locks. I’ve used these for lashing points on the lid and either side. There are a number of small grosgrain loops, which enable a number of configurations, according to preference.

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The shoulder straps have some useful D rings for lashing (unlike the old pack). I’ve utilised these for a map attachment on one side and to secure an OMM I-Gamy water bottle holder on the other side. On the rear are a couple of shock cord loops and cord grips to stow trekking poles.

Overall, I’ve found the new Mariposa has the best options for packing that suit me. Others won’t like all the external pockets, but for me, the Mariposa works well.

Build quality

While the old Mariposa was not by any means shoddy, it did have a slightly amateur feel to it. The build quality of the new Mariposa is up with the best. The quality of the workmanship and materials is first rate. I’ve yet to find a fault after a year of use. On the old pack, there were some loose threads and some stitching had come loose. Also some of the mesh had frayed. So far, there have been no signs of wear apart from a trivial abrasion mark of the lid.

Gossamer Gear seems to up with the best that specialist gear manufacturers like OookWorks and Mountain Laurel Designs can offer. I’m impressed.

Tweaks

As you might expect, I’ve made a few mods to the Mariposa. Here’s the first batch. I also modified the lid closure, which you can see here.

What would I change?

These are my suggestions:
  1. Water resistant zips or flaps to cover zips.
  2. Hip belt pockets slightly larger and made from waterproof material. Waterproof liner for lid pocket?
  3. My karabiner closure mod works well. Would be easier with larger loops or O rings.
  4. Hip belt tightened by pulling inwards (like ULA and Osprey packs).
  5. Extra drain holes on external pockets (2 per pocket?).
  6. More attachment points on shoulder straps.
  7. Stowage loops on shoulder straps for walking poles like Osprey packs.

I am in two minds about the “Over the Top” (OTT) lid. On the one hand it’s much neater. On the other hand the old drawstring and Y strap was easier to pack and gave the option of stowing a tent or stuff sack on the top of the pack.

I would like to see a larger version of the Mariposa for winter. Stuffing a winter sleeping bag and winter clothing into a sack takes up a lot of room. I’d like to have the option of not having to crush my winter sleeping bag into oblivion to make it fit.

Addendum: Gossamer Gear packs are now available in the UK through backpackinglight.co.uk

Disclosure: I purchased my Mariposa rucksack with my own funds. Gossamer Gear gave me a modest discount on the advertised purchase price. I have no formal links with Gossamer Gear (or backpackinglight.co.uk), but have exchanged emails with them occasionally.

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38 thoughts on “Living with the Gossamer Gear Mariposa rucksack”

  1. Sounds like a great sac! My only concern with it would be the sleeping mat being outside, although I suppose you could wipe it down it it gets soaked. Has this been an issue at all?

    1. It’s folded and protected underneath the sit mat so doesn’t get very wet. I put it under an air or SI mat in the tent (just my way of doing things). Never been a problem so far.

      1. That is one seriously light rucksack! That combined with the fact that you rate it as one of your most comfortable rucksacks has certainly peaked my interest!

      2. You’ll soon be able to get them in the UK from Backpackinglight.co.uk. Sometimes simple designs are the best.

  2. I still have the old Mariposa which occasionally gets an outing. The old Mariposa is very comfy but the let down was the durability of the material (I have had to repair the material a couple of times). I never got around to buying the newer version but it does look like a good upgrade of the older model. My ULA Conduit has served me well for the past 2 years so no need to buy another pack! ๐Ÿ˜€

    1. ULA packs are well made and tough, so I don’t think you’ll need to replace the Conduit for a long time ๐Ÿ™‚

      1. I hope not. Its a great pack and the ydont make them anymore

        If I did need one, I might look at the GG Mariposa ๐Ÿ˜‰

  3. Having used one a lot this year I cant fault it much. For me a ideal TGOC pack and the extra space over the Gorilla allows it to be used on longer trips between supply. Improvements over the old material GG used is significant in design and performance. Glad you like it so much. Says how much GG have raise their game.

    1. I believe Backpackinglight.co.uk will be stocking them soon but don’t know what the price will be. I bought mine from GG direct.

  4. I’ve been using one in the Colorado Rockies for nearly a year, and I agree on its comfort. Though many light backpackers pride themselves on the tinyness of their packs, I prefer not having to crush down-filled items into their smallest volume possible.

    I used my Mariposa all last winter as a daypack for backcountry ski descents (and ascents of course). An emergency down jacket kept the main bag full enough not to be floppy. I removed the waist belt, sternum strap, and alu frame, since I was carrying less than ten pounds and I liked the greater freedom of movement when skiing down steep powdery descents.

  5. Another positive, you can reach a water bottle in the bottom side pocket without being a contortionist (something my ULA catalyst doesn’t achieve)

    Wishes: agree with all of what was said in the review; I’d had that the OTT should pleated in some fashion to give it more volume and thus have it be a bit closer in usability to a a floating lid.

  6. My thoughts on your suggestions:
    AGREE – Water resistant zips or flaps to cover zips (haven’t been in rain yet, but can imagine this would be a big help)
    AGREE – Hip belt pockets made from waterproof material. Waterproof liner for lid pocket? (glad you mentioned this, I’ll grab some ziplocks for my upcoming trip)
    DISAGREE – Hip belt pockets slightly larger (I prefer this size vs ULA)
    DISAGREE – Hip belt tightened by pulling inwards (I prefer GG vs ULA).
    AGREE – Extra drain holes on external pockets.

    Thanks for review – I have a couple of suggestions myself since GG posted a link to your review and are reading follow-up comments:
    (1) A better way to condense pack (but I like your side compression revision)
    (2) Slightly more shaped or narrow shoulder straps (but I understand trade-off, mine have gotten more comfortable with use)
    .

  7. I have a Gorilla, but find it too small, so will be upgrading to a Mariposa when Bob
    and Rose receive order. Agree about waterproof zips for hip pockets or a cover
    of some sort. Just back from a rainy trip to the Lakes and hip pockets got very
    wet inside . This is such an obvious need I wonder why GG missed it . Also the
    top pocket needs to be a bellows pocket to make it more usefull (plus waterproof
    zips ! )

    1. I’m thinking of painting the zips with silicone seam sealant. Won’t make them waterproof but will make them less permeable. I’m also wondering about adding some drain holes. More adventurous would be adding a flap to cover the zip. I would like some bellows as well. It’s only big enough for a map and compass.

      1. I shingle my rain jacket over the hip belt pockets. Keeps them dry during rain. In general, I do not expect a pack to keep anything dry. That expectation ends in tears.

      2. I agree that packs will leak but unprotected zips make the process quicker. Seems sensible to have some cover.

  8. Ive been thinking of getting myself the Exos for quite some time, is there any disadvantages you could enlighten me with? My research on the web hasnt come up with a lot of negative info, and it cant all be good can it? ๐Ÿ˜‰ Would the exos be something that you would recommend?

    1. The Exos is a good sack but I prefer the Mariposa because:
      1) it’s lighter
      2) more packing flexibility
      3) the “carry” is better, in particular it moves with the body. I found the Exos a bit rigid.
      4) the material of the Exos tends to absorb water more, especially the straps and front pouch.

      I think the Exos might be better in hot weather because of the back ventilation, but apart from that, I prefer the Mariposa.

  9. Robin,

    I bought / imported this pack with an introductory discount just after it came out in about June 2012. I was enamoured by it’s design features, promising carry comfort and weight etc.

    Due to other commitments I haven’t used it apart from half a dozen day walks (with light day loads for two people not exceeding 10 kgs) just to check it was comfy.

    I recently used it for the Offa’s Dyke path to carry the all the belongings of myself and my girlfriend for a bed and breakfast based walk.

    By day three the base of both shoulder straps were beginning to become detached from the webbing straps.

    By day seven some other stitching had become to unravel at the top of one of the shoulder straps

    At most including three litres of water I was carrying 13 kgs including the weight of the sack.
    On average, I was only carrying about 11 kgs.

    I believe these weights should not overload a pack of this type.
    I pride myself on looking after my gear as well as possible.

    The pack was kept serviceable by some rough stitching repairs in the field.

    However, I am disappointed by the quality / longevity of the stitching.

    In my view this level of failure is premature and not good enough.

    I have never had this sort of problem with my other packs (OMM Jirishanca, Aarn Natural Balance, Black Diamond Infinity 60, Crux AK57).

    I still think this pack is an excellent design and the carry comfort is very good.
    However, please be aware I would definitely recommend carrying a needle, thread and thimble and know how to use them.

    1. That’s very disappointing. So far, mine is perfect and I’ve not had my problems. Have you contacted GG. It’s possible you’ve got a rogue pack. I’m sure they’d sort it out.

    2. It sounds, Mike, like you are keeping company with a bad pack. GG would probably like to hear about it. Mine shows no signs of wear after a year of carrying nine to twenty pounds except for a little fuzz on the elastic side pocket tops.

  10. With having the pack for over a year before using it in earnest, I was a bit concerned that if I contacted GG they would think that I was lying and had worn it out with massive useage or overloading.
    Thanks for your comments though.

  11. I have used a Golite Trek pack for years and really like it. I am considering getting the Mariposa after having read your review and several others. This is because the Trek is not made any more and it is getting a bit long in the tooth (floating lid held together with duct tape for example). I don’t like the look of Golite’s more recent offerings. Have you had any experience of the Golite Trek as I would bevery interested in your views of how well the Mariposa compares?

    1. I had a a Golite Trek a while ago and didn’t like it. The length, hipbelt and lack of frame weren’t right for me. Like footwear, packs can be quite individual. Unfortunately it can take several days to find out whether a pack works for you.

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