Tag Archives: Gossamer Gear Mariposa

Mariposa rucksack – Frankenpack edition

WordPress managed to delete my original post on this, so I’ll try to recreate it. As followers of my blog will be aware, I’ve made some changes to my old Gossamer Gear Mariposa. The front pocket mesh ripped on my 2017 TGO Challenge. A friend kindly replaced it with a solid one and at the same time replaced the old shoulder straps with new ones.

I’ve had a bit of a love/hate relationship with the Over The Top closure. I preferred the drawstring and Y strap closure of the original Mariposa. I persuaded another friend to remove the OTT closure and replace it. I’m very pleased with the result.

It makes the rucksack easier to pack and more flexible with different loads. It gives a little more volume too, which is helpful for longer trips.

The top closure has a Y strap but it is also possible to use a single strap which is useful for smaller loads. I also added a karabiner to further cinch down the load if required.

I’ve also changed the backpad from some tent underlay (from Needlesports) to an evazote mat from Ultralight Outdoors Gear. I’ve saved a bit of weight, 66g vs 120g.

I’m not sure if I’ve blogged this before but I put a bit of fleece (from a dog bed!) in the lumber area which makes it more comfortable in warmer conditions. If it’s raining I usually remove it to stop it getting wet.

Some time ago I also swapped the original hipbelt for the latest version, which is much better.

So there you have it, the Mariposa Frankenpack, my almost perfect rucksack. The only further improvement would be replacing the gridstop fabric with X-Pac. Now if I could persuade someone to do that…

New Mariposa hipbelt

I didn’t realise until recently that the new style hipbelt for the Gossamer Gear Mariposa is backward compatible with my old style dyneema Mariposa. The new hipbelt has two significant advantages over the old style.

Firstly, the ends of the aluminium stays locate directly into pockets in the hipbelt. This means that the load transfer of the pack to the hipbelt is directly coupled. Additionally, the hipbelt is stiffer and has more padding, both of which should improve both the dynamics and the comfort of the hipbelt.

Secondly, the pockets are larger. In the old hipbelt, the pockets were only big enough for a small compact camera like the Sony WX100. A larger compact like the Sony RX100 was a bit of a squeeze. With larger pockets, it fits with ease. It also means a bit more space for snacks in the other pocket.

The only modification needed in the old Mariposa is to cut a couple of small holes in the channels containing the frame so they can exit the pack body and locate into the hipbelt. It was really easy. One tip is to insert (and then remove!) a pencil into the hipbelt stay pockets as they are quite tight and need to be opened up a bit. I bought my hipbelt from backpackinglight.co.uk . Bob has a useful video on how to fit the hipbelt.

I’ve not given it a full test yet, but my initial impression is that it is a signicant improvement over the old hipbelt.  Here’s some pictures.

Dartmoor daunder gear roundup

DSC01272One reason for going to Dartmoor was to firm up what gear to take on the TGO Challenge. The major items under consideration were shelter system and sleeping system.

Let’s start with the shelter. I took my Trailstar and OookStar nest. In many ways, the conditions were ideal for a real test, high winds and heavy rain. Overall, the TS and OS passed with flying colours. I had a small amount of leakage near the apex of the TS, where I hadn’t sealed properly, which dripped onto the OS. I was glad of having a solid inner, as it cut down draughts significantly.

Having said that, it was definitely colder than a true tent, because of the open door. That’s not a criticism, but just a fact of the design. Once you get the hang of it, erecting the Trailstar is quite easy, although it needs a bit of fiddling around to get totally right. What was pleasing is that it is easier to erect in high winds and to take down than I thought it might.

There is a lot of room inside, but the true liveable room is really around the pole. There’s plenty of storage room, but headroom is quickly restricted near the shelter walls. This was OK for me, but I could see why taller people have problems. The porch groundsheet was a great success, both for storing things on and for sitting on to get in and out.

DSC01230Karabiner and cord mod

I’ve made two modifications to the TS/OS. I’ve added an Alpkit karabiner at the apex of the TS to make clipping on the OS much easier. I’ve also added a small length of cord at the apex of the OS so I can secure it to the handle of the trekking pole. This tensions the fabric of the OS better.

I found I was ducking, twisting and turning more than in my other shelters, which made my back a bit sore. I think I need to be a bit more careful in future. Overall, I like the TS/OS. However, I’m not taking it on the Challenge. I’m going to revert to what I know and trust: the Scarp.

I just like the Scarp. All the space is usable. It has great headroom and is definitely warmer. More or less, it doesn’t matter what direction the wind is coming from or if it changes direction. It has a smaller footprint, which can be useful in some circumstances. If you factor in more (and heavier pegs), heavier flicklock poles and the porch groundsheet, then the weight differential with the Scarp is extremely modest at around 60g. So, on balance, I’m going to take the Scarp, although I will be using the Trailstar again.

The other major decision was about sleeping bag and sleeping mat. In the Monadhliath, I chickened out and took my Alpkit Pipedream 400. Dartmoor was an ideal opportunity to test my modified Rab Neutrino SL 200. I was really pleased with its performance.

The addition of Climashield APEX 167 insulation into the underside panel, where there was no insulation before, has transformed the bag. Insulation is virtually on a par with the Pipedream 400 and the bag is 75g lighter overall. The Climashield is noticeably warmer than down on the underside.

Despite the additional insulation, it still compresses into the original Rab stuff sack, significantly smaller than the Pipedream. The addition of a down collar was a success as well. Coupled with the As Tucas Sestrals balaclava, it is now a decent three season sleeping bag. I will be taking this bag on the Challenge.

Mountain Equipment are now making a hybrid bag, the Matrix 1, but it is a lot heavier (915g vs. 665g) and has less down (175g vs. 200g), so I think my modified Neutrino is a bit of a winner.

For a sleeping mat I used my Nemo Zor short. I was generally comfortable and warm, even without using the silk sleeping mat cover that I usually. However, I think I’m going to take my Thermarest X-lite as it’s even more comfortable and probably kinder to my back. It also has a higher insulation rating.

IMG_0917Air Beam frame

I used the Air Beam frame in my Mariposa in the Monadhliath, but it didn’t seem quite right. I was determined to give it a proper trial. This time I used it properly with no foam pad behind. Much, much better! It was very comfortable and moulded to my back much better. Compared with a foam pad, it ventilates a lot better and makes the pack sits better on my hips For the sake of around 100g, I think it’s a worthwhile improvement for comfort. I’ve no idea how robust it is, but it seems OK. I also used it as a sleeping mat extension under my pillow in my tent.

DSC01274Air Beam as mat extension

In terms of clothing, I had hoped to try a pair of Marmot Essence overtrousers but they didn’t arrive in time. Instead I took a pair of Montane Atomic (Entrant DT) overtrousers. This was the first time I’d used them in serious rain. I’m sorry to say they failed and were damp around my backside. I think it was more likely to be lack of breathability rather than failure. I wished I’d taken my Rab Drilliums, which are still the benchmark for me. This version of the Atomics is no longer made. I threw them in the bin when I returned. The Drilliums will be going on the Challenge.

On a slightly arcane note, I was very pleased to have an umbrella and waders. Both will be going on the Challenge. Little things can make huge difference. I’m finalising my Challenge gear list and will share soon. It’s about 9kg, which is about what I expected.

2013: gear review

It may surprise you but I haven’t bought much gear this year. However, I’ve made plenty of posts on gear. So here’s a round up of some thoughts on the gear that I’ve used in 2013.


The tent I’ve used most this year has been the Force Ten Nitro Lite 200, which I bought near the end of 2012. I’ve always wanted a tunnel tent. While it’s very good tent, I’ve found it needs several modifications to make it into an excellent tent.


For the modest weight, you get an amazing amount of room, all of which is usable, unlike some other designs. With the double side guys and Tension Band System, it is very stable, although side-on winds will always make tunnel tents flap a bit. Generally, it’s a well thought out design and I like it a lot.


For many, the million dollar question is: “is it better than the Scarp1?”. Back in January, I did a long-term review of the Scarp, which I think is one of the best tents ever designed.

My answer is still that the Scarp is slightly better but the gap has narrowed. My reason for still preferring the Scarp is that it sheds wind in all directions, even side on, which means it is more flexible when selecting a pitch. Like the Nitro, the Scarp needs some modifications to push it into the excellent category, which you can find here.

The other shelter that I used during the year was my cuben MLD Duomid. You won’t be surprised that I modified that as well! I still like the Duomid, especially for summer. During the year I acquired a MLD Trailstar and OookStar inner. As yet, I’ve not tried them out, but I’m looking forward to using them.


I’ve only used one pack this year: the Gossamer Gear Mariposa. I think it’s an excellent pack and I posted a long-term review in August. In October, I bought an AirBeam frame for the Mariposa. I’m looking forward to using it.


Sleeping mats

Sleeping mats have become a bit of a topic in backpacking circles, with the initial enthusiasm for air mats mats fading as longevity and puncture issues became apparent. I wrote an assessment back in January. This year, I’ve mainly used the Nemo Zor self inflating mat. I’ve found it more comfortable than I’d expected and will continue to use it, especially with my bespoke silk cover.


As Tucas cuben stuff sacks

Near the end of this year, I ordered some cuben stuff sacks from a new cottage manufacturer in Spain, As Tucas. After my initial order, I liaised with Marco and ordered a bespoke cuben rucksack liner/drybag. Obviously, I’ve not tried these yet, but the workmanship is very good. Marco has some other interesting items and is open to bespoke orders, so go and have a look.


Fuel4: a potential game changer?

In November, I was sent a free sample of a new fuel for backpackers by Fuel4. Fuel4 is an alcohol jelly. I did some tests and was impressed. For me it addresses two of the major drawbacks of meths: the smell and soot deposits. I shall do some field tests in 2014 and report back. I still like the immediacy and convenience of gas, but can see the attractions of Fuel4.



As most of you know, I prefer mid boots for walking. While I’ve used trail shoes, most of the time, I just prefer mids. It’s a personal thing. I’ve been a big fan of Salomon Fastpackers but they are now out of production. The nearest replacement is the X Ultra Mids, which I used in the Lake District in September. To my delight, these are even better than the Fastpackers. They are even more comfortable and have a better grip.



There’s not been much new in the way of clothes, but two items I used for the first time in 2013 were my Paramo Fuera Ascent jacket and Mountain Equipment Ibex trousers. The Ibex trousers (not pants!) are superb. They are by far the best soft shell trousers I’ve tried. I’m seriously thinking of using them for the Challenge. I also like the Fuera Ascent windproof. OK, it’s quite heavy, but it’s a lovely jacket with fantastic venting. For summer, though, I really like the Rohan Windshadow jacket as a windproof. It’s a shame the hood isn’t better designed. I also like the Rohan Pacific shirt in summer.


Lifeproof Fre iPhone 5 case

Lastly, if you’re an iPhone user, it’s well worth considering the Lifeproof Fre case. It makes your iPhone waterproof and shock resistant but is low weight and surprisingly slim. I’ve started using my iPhone as a GPS and have 1:50,000 maps on it. Since buying this case, my SatMap has become redundant. I liked the case so much, I bought a second case in lime green, so it stands out more if I drop it.DSC01169

Disclosure: with the exception of Fuel4, all these items were purchased with my own money. Fuel4 sent me a free sample to test. I have no formal or financial relationships with any gear manufacturers or retailers.

GG Mariposa pocket mods

I like the pockets on the new Mariposa rucksack but they have two weaknesses. 1) the zips aren’t waterproof, 2) there are no drain holes to let out any water ingress.


While it’s impossible to make the pocket zips watertight without either sewing a new zip or some rain flaps, it is possible to make the zip fabric less absorbent . Using a small paint brush, I applied some McNett SilNet to the zip material. This should stop water from being absorbed and give some protection.

photoThe second thing to do was to make some drain holes so that any water ingress won’t build up. I used my mega expensive eyelet and punch set to put an eyelet in both pockets.

photo2Although the eyelets are larger than strictly necessary,  they do look quite neat. It’s a shame that water resistant zips and drain eyelets are not standard on the Mariposa.

Gossamer Gear Air Beam Pack Frame


When I first saw the Air Beam Pack Frame on the GG web site, I was intrigued but not enough to order one from the USA. However, backpackinglight.co.uk is stocking an increasing amount of the GG range and has recently received a delivery of Air Beams, so I bought one. It arrived less than 24 hours after ordering 🙂

When I opened the package, I was slightly underwhelmed. While the inflatable frame seemed well made and tolerably robust, the pump and valve seemed a bit “Heath Robinson”. On the underside there is a small rigid tube to which you attach the flexible tube and pump. The frame will not stay inflated without the pump being attached. There is also a deflation valve just above the inflation bulb, which is engaged by depressing a button.

Inflation is very easy and quick. It’s best to inflate the frame after locating it in the mesh pockets of the pack (shown below, sorry about the quality of the picture). It can be pumped up easily or deflated when wearing the pack. It then dawned on me that having the pump permanently attached and easily accessible was a good idea. This means that the correct pressure can easily be achieved by pumping up the frame and releasing some air if necessary. The inflation bulb can be tucked away in the side pocket after use.


So what does it feel like? I loaded some bits and pieces into my Mariposa, so I had about 5kg of weight in the sack. I put on the sack with the Air Beam semi-inflated and then pumped it up.

Compared with the simple SitLight foam pad, that comes with the pack, it is more comfortable as it moulds to the shape of your back. This is particularly noticeable at the base of my spine where the beams are fatter. It also makes the hip belt sit better over my hips.

I experimented a bit with the air pressure. For me a reasonably high pressure seemed best, but I’ll only know out on the trail. I’m guessing that there will be a bit more air circulation as there are quite deep valleys between the beams. The effective thickness of the frame is similar to the foam sit pad, accounting for compression when wearing the pack.

The mesh sleeve still accommodates my 3mm sleeping mat behind the air beam without either straining the mesh of seeming overly thick. Indeed, I wouldn’t go out without having a backup foam back pad. It seems to me that the big drawback is the possibility of a puncture. The pad does come with a puncture repair kit, but finding a leak is no always easy out in the field.

Overall, I rather like the Air Beam. It certainly seems very comfortable, more so than closed cell foam. I’m not sure why they produced it in bright yellow. I think grey or black would have blended better. In terms of weight, it adds around 50g, once you leave out the sit pad (sit pad is approx 50g, Air Beam inc pump approx 100g).

Gossamer Gear Mariposa: more mods

This week, I’ve made a few simple changes to my Mariposa rucksack.

1) Reflective strip. I sewed a small reflective strip on to the lid so that I will be more visible to traffic, should I be walking on a road when it’s dark. It didn’t take long and doesn’t spoil the aesthetics of the pack 🙂


2) New lid cords. The old cords are fine but they dangle. I replaced them with some bright orange cord that I used on my Nitro Lite. The stop the cords whipping around in the wind, I added a loop. I also used a cord toggle to make it look more tidy. As someone unkindly pointed out, it looks a bit like a light switch cord 😉


3) New lid mod. Regular readers will remember that I replaced the cord system for closing the throat of the lid with a karabiner. To make it even easier to close, I added some cord loops. This mod won’t be applicable to the very latest version as it is now closed with a buckle clip.


All pretty simple and quick to do.

Northern Fells trip – other gear observations

Ultra TRohan Ultra Silver T: I used this as a base layer for the three days I was walking, under a Patagonia R1 fleece. The ultra is made a fine gauge silver impregnated polyester, which feels like silk. It’s a brilliant base layer. While it feels warm to the touch, being very thin, it never feels hot. It flashes sweat away very quickly and never feels sodden, unlike thicker base layers. Perhaps because it doesn’t retain moisture, it never seems to smell. I often wear it casually under a shirt, but this is the first time I’ve used it for backpacking. I’m totally converted. It’s superb and incredibly light at 60g for the T. The only shame is the only colours available are black and blue.

Patagonia R1 Pullover: I’ve used this several times and really like it. The grid pattern of the underside of the fleece seems to regulate temperature better than conventional fleece. Underneath Paramo, for cold weather it was perfect. It dissipates sweat quickly. It has a good cut being neither too loose or too constrictive.

Paramo Vasco Jacket: this was ideal for the cold conditions I encountered. I really like the Vasco (no longer available, unfortunately). The venting is excellent with sleeve vents and a large floating vent across the shoulders. The removable hood is good as it can be discarded when using a hard shell in heavy rain. It’s a great jacket for cool weather and cut slimmer than most Paramo jackets. I wish it had slightly longer sleeves.

Ecco Biom Hike Mid boots: these are now thoroughly broken in and are fabulous. They are so flexible and comfortable. The deep tread provides a positive grip. I love them and am reluctant to use anything else.

Alpkit Pipedream 600 sleeping bag: this is the old style Pertex one. At just under 1kg, it’s a good cool weather sleeping bag. While the down is not up to Western Mountaineering standards, it’s still good. I used extra clothes on the two coldest nights (–4c, I sleep cold). The hood is not very good, but I now sleep with the hood from my PHD Minimus down jacket in preference to a sleeping bag hood anyway. Overall it’s a surprisingly good bag for the money. I’m looking forward to Rab introducing their water resistant down sleeping bag range. It might lead me to sell my old bags for a 400 and a 600 bag from Rab.

Gossamer Gear Mariposa (2012 version): I love this pack. Great carry. Sometimes I hanker after the old style drawstring closure with Y strap.

The rest of the gear was all stuff I’ve used for ages and worked well.

Disclaimer: all items have been bought with my own funds and I have no relationship with any of the manufacturers

Gear feedback from Lakes

I know gear roundups don’t find favour with some people, but I find it useful to read how gear performs in the real world rather than in the back garden. On this trip I took some different items from normal.


The first big change was to wear trail shoes. This is not the first time I’ve worn them for backpacking, but it is the first time I’ve used La Sportive Raptors. I’m very impressed with them overall but there are some drawbacks. Grip and stability is excellent, especially compared with the Inov-8 Roclites I’ve used before. The Raptors have a much better and supportive heel cup.

I felt there were some drawbacks. Firstly, compared with mid boots, they are not as good for contouring, being less stable and having a tendency to dig into my ankle. I also felt they put more strain on my toes going downhill, slowing me down.

I wore some Bridgedale wool fusion socks on the first day and then some NRS neoprene socks with some light M&S merino liners thereafter. The Bridgedales were fine but not great when wet. The neoprene socks were excellent and very comfortable when wet, even when they were soaked. My feet were cool but not cold.

However, I really didn’t like having very wet feet. Using my Goretex lined Salomon Fastpackers, my feet never get soaking. They can be quite damp, but never soaked. It’s an entirely personal thing, but I think the compromises of lined, lightweight boots suit me more than unlined trail shoes most of the time.

La Sportiva Raptors (and Integral Designs eVent short gaiters)


I used the new Gossamer Gear Mariposa 2012 and was extremely pleased with it. It improves on the already good Mariposa Plus. I think the new hip belt and the aluminium stay make for an even more comfortable carry. The new style shoulder straps also seem to fit better. I preferred the solid material on the side pockets to the mesh on the old sack. The stretch mesh on the front pocket is also an improvement.

The hip belt pockets meant I could dispense with my normal belt pack as I could put a camera in one pocket and some food in the other. The lid pocket doesn’t have much capacity but is useful for a map and compass. My big bug bear with these pockets is the zips. They really do need rain flaps as driven rain can easily get into the pockets. Alternatively they could have water resistant zips.

While I like the top closure, the shock cord which pulls the mouth half closed frequently got in the way when packing. I feel a Velcro closure might be neater and I might make one myself.

If I was being really critical, the main body material of the pack is good except that it does tend to absorb water a bit. It would be worth giving the material a decent waterproof coating. However, I used a lightweight silnylon rucksack cover, which kept out most of the rain.

Overall, I think the new Mariposa is an excellent rucksack.

Gossamer Gear Mariposa 2012 rucksack


I used my Rab Sawtooth jacket for the first time. I was interested to see how it stacked up against Paramo. In relatively mild and damp conditions, I thought it did well. For the weather I encountered, in some ways, it was better than Paramo as it is more air permeable and hence more comfortable. It is still decently wind-proof and water resistant, although not as good as Paramo.

The mesh backed Napoleon pockets are not only good for storage, but also ventilation. The sleeves are wide enough to roll up, but can be secured with Velcro cuffs. I really like the material, which retains some warmth but not too much. It dries quickly and layers well under a hard shell.

It combined very well with my Marmot Driclime vest when I needed a bit of extra warmth and wind proofing.

The lack of a hood is an advantage when it comes to wearing under a hard shell, but a disadvantage in showery weather, although I used an umbrella, so it was not such an issue. A good compromise would be a roll-away Pertex hood, which would provide some wind and water resistance, but not be too bulky. I think I’d prefer to have chest pockets rather than Napoleon pockets, although the advantage of Napoleon pockets is access under layers. Perhaps a good compromise might be to have double access pockets with zips on both sides.

So is it a Paramo replacement? I think two things slightly count against the Sawtooth. One thing I really like about Paramo is very water resistant (I don’t regard Paramo as totally waterproof), which is really helpful in showery conditions. The Sawtooth is reasonably shower-proof but no more. The lack of a hood is also an issue. However, at 400g, it is substantially lighter than any Paramo jacket. I think for warmer weather, it’s a good choice as it’s more comfortable and flexible.

Rab Sawtooth jacket


It was also a first outing for my new Rab Neutrino SL 200 top bag in conjunction with the POE Peak Elite AC sleeping mat. This was a mistake. I should have used a warmer mat like the Exped Synmat UL. Not only that, the Peak Elite is very slippery, which was a poor combination with the slippery Pertex of the Rab and I kept slipping downhill when I was on a slight slope for the first two nights.

However, despite this, I found the bag reasonably warm. As I side sleeper, I had to be careful to make sure the down was on top when I turned over. It also meant that the hood was largely superfluous. I didn’t secure the bag to the mat. I don’t like constriction, which is a major reason why I don’t think I’d get on with a quilt. Being enclosed, I didn’t have a problem with draughts, but it was noticeable that there were cool spots where the uninsulated material was not in contact with the mat.

I’m in two minds as to whether a top bag really works for me. I need to try it with a more suitable sleeping mat.