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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
What would I change?
- Water resistant zips or flaps to cover zips.
- Hip belt pockets slightly larger and made from waterproof material. Waterproof liner for lid pocket?
- My karabiner closure mod works well. Would be easier with larger loops or O rings.
- Hip belt tightened by pulling inwards (like ULA and Osprey packs).
- Extra drain holes on external pockets (2 per pocket?).
- More attachment points on shoulder straps.
- 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.