The Gossamer Gear Mariposa 60 is a lightweight ultralight-style backpack that weighs 30.5 oz. It’s ideal for weekend backpacking and long-distance trips, particularly if you prefer a backpack that has lots of pockets and a frame, like a more conventional backpack, but weighing half as much. The Mariposa is also available in a wide range of sizing options, including short torso lengths, long torso lengths, and interchangeable hip belt sizes. This is welcome news to short people, tall people, and square-shaped people who don’t fit into the round holes dictated by conventional backpacking companies.
Specs at a Glance
Starting in 2021, all Gossamer Gear Backpacks are sold with medium size hip belts, which fit 80% of its customers. If you need a small or large hipbelt, it costs an additional $25, but a rebate is available for its cost when you return the unused hip belt. The refund is issued when Gossamer Gear receives the returned hip belt. It can be shipped back gently folded in a small box, but not an envelope, according to Gossamer Gear’s instructions.
What Makes the Mariposa 60 so Unique?
The Gossamer Gear Mariposa 60 has been on the market for over 10 years and undergone many design changes during its lifetime. While those changes have improved its durability, carrying capacity, and quality, the pack’s personality and widespread popularity have stayed the same. What is it that makes the Mariposa 60 so beloved by the people that use it? I’ve long pondered that question since I bought my first Mariposa 60 back in 2008 to hike Vermont’s Long Trail.
If there’s one thing that’s remained constant during the Mariposa’s evolution, it’s the configuration of its side pockets, with one long tent pocket on the left and two smaller pockets on the right side of the pack. This pocket layout is unique and lets you move some of the bulky gear that usually hogs up the main compartment, like a tent and or a Jetboil, to an outside pocket, making it much easier to pack the gear that you don’t need during the day and want to keep dry and safe inside the pack.
This pocket layout also can help change the way you think about your backpacking gear and how to categorize it by function or frequency of use. I often recommend the Mariposa to hikers transitioning from a heavier conventional backpack to an ultralight-style one for just this reason, and because a 60L pack is large enough to carry your pre-existing gear list without forcing you to leave anything behind.
But the Mariposa isn’t for everyone. For all of their benefits, the pack’s external pockets can be difficult to adjust to if you don’t carry a tent or you’ve been weaned on ultralight-style packs that have symmetrical water bottle pockets. They also make it impossible to add functional compression straps to the pack, which can make it awkward to carry less than full loads with the Mariposa. You can still attach gear to the outside of the backpack, as I illustrate below, but the compression capability is lacking.
Backpack Organization and Storage
The Mariposa 60 has seven external pockets and a main storage compartment.
- Front stretch mesh pocket
- Left-hand tent pocket
- Upper right accessory pocket
- Lower right water bottle pocket
- Over-the-top map pocket
- Two hip belt pockets
Front Stretch Mesh Pocket
The front stretch mesh pocket is a good place to store wet items and extra layers you want easy access to during the day so you don’t have to stop and open the main compartment. The mesh weave is open so it drains well and it’s gotten much tougher over the years, so it has good durability. The mesh is reinforced with 200D Robic nylon like the rest of the pack bottom so it won’t rip or abrade when you set it on the ground. There’s also a drain hole at the base so it the reinforced portion won’t collect water in the rain.
The Tent Pocket
The left side of the Mariposa has a long tent pocket, 14 inches deep and open at the top, which is ideal if you carry a one or two-person tent. But you can really put anything you want into it, like a hammock/tarp or larger items that you want to segregate from the rest of your gear. For example, if your tent gets wet at night, or soaked with internal condensation, this tent pocket is a good place to store it separate from your other dry gear. It also makes it convenient to pull out to dry in the sun if you stop for a rest break.
The tent pocket also works well with tents that have components that make them hard to pack sideways in the main compartment, like the tents made by Tarptents that have carbon fiber struts in the corners. However, the contents of the tent pocket cannot be reached when you’re wearing the backpack, so it’s not a particularly good place to put a water bottle unless it’s being held in reserve.
Right-hand Accessory and Water Bottle Pockets
The Mariposa has two right-hand pockets, one on top and one on the bottom. They’re both 8″ tall and open on top with an elastic band to keep their contents from popping out. The bottom pocket is designed specifically to hold two, one-liter water bottles, including 32 oz Nalgenes or Smartwater bottles. Water bottles stored there are easy to reach and replace while wearing the backpack. Both of the right-hand pockets also have drain holes to avoid collecting water in the rain.
I often carry my cook system in the upper right-hand pocket, especially if it’s wet, or a toiletry kit for easy access during the day. It’s also a good option for carrying snacks or a damp water filter/squeeze system.
There’s a map pocket in the fold-over lid that’s also handy for storing your personal effects. It extends the width of the fold-over lid, so it’s actually quite large, but whatever you put inside it has to be flexible to wrap over the top of the main compartment.
Hip belt pockets
The hip belt comes with two large zippered pockets that are solid-faced for durability and water resistance. I usually use these to store my compass and a folded-up map, Aquamira water treatment drops, and bug dope, but they’re also large enough to store a smartphone or a point-and-shoot camera.
There’s a hydration pocket in the main compartment, where you can hang a water reservoir if you choose to use one. The hydration port is centered between the shoulder straps and covered to prevent rain from leaking in. Using a hydration system is not a bad way to carry water in a Mariposa because it can be tricky to balance the load across the right-hand water bottle pocket and the left side tent pocket if you have a very lightweight tent and carry two liters at a time.
The main compartment is cavernous and unstructured. I usually line the Mariposa with a white plastic compactor trash bag to help protect my gear from moisture even though the Mariposa’s Robic nylon fabric is quite water-resistant. A white compactor bag can also make it easier to find gear inside the pack.
But the closure at the top of the main compartment is a bit clunky. There is a plastic clip used to cinch close the top of the extension collar before you can fold the over-the-top flap over it. I still find it unnatural to use compared to a drawstring or a roll top. Gossamer Gear does make two packs with a rolltop though, the 40-liter G-4 20 (reviewed) available now, and the 55-liter Silverback (reviewed) which is being updated and be available again later in 2021.
Backpack Frame and Suspension
The Mariposa comes with a lightweight frame stay that slots into sleeves on the pack of the pack and terminates in the hip belt. It’s optional so you can remove it, but it’s so lightweight and improves the pack’s handling so much, I’d recommend keeping it in. The current model comes with the frame preassembled, which is good because it can be tricky to get it to slide properly into the hip belt. That is another reason not to remove it from the pack if you don’t have to.
The frame stay is pre-bent so most people will not have to modify it, but it can be customized if required. The frame stay gives the Mariposa a max recommended load weight of 30-35 pounds and keeps the pack from collapsing on itself when it’s loaded up.
The pack also has an integrated sit pad that pads the frame stay so you don’t feel it through your back. It’s easy to pull out and sit on to keep your bum warm or dry when you take a break or cook dinner. It’s a signature feature of Gossamer Gear’s overnight packs although now copied by many other pack manufacturers.
The Mariposa includes load lifters which I consider important on higher volume backpacks, starting at about 50 liters of capacity. Without load lifters, a heavily loaded backpack can have the tendency to pull you backward and off-balance. Load lifters help counter the backward tilt of a heavy pack, bringing it closer to your back, and shifting more of the weight onto your hips.
While the Mariposa is unisex, Gossamer Gear has done a lot of work in recent years to make it more comfortable for women by adding softer foam and spacer mesh to the inside and top edges of the shoulder pads and hip belt. The resulting pack is exceedingly well-padded and comfortable to wear, but a little bit too soft and cushy for my taste. Most people really like the padding though because it conforms well to their hips and doesn’t slip.
The hip belt is tensioned with a conventional pull-back mechanism while the sternum strap buckles together in the middle to help eliminate painful pinching. The sternum strap slides up and down along webbing straps attached to the shoulder pads so you can adjust its height in an infinite number of ways instead of only being locked into preset positions.
External Attachment and Compression System
The Mariposa 60 is noticeably light on side compression straps and external attachment points because the side pockets get in the way of having them. However, there are tiny webbing loops purposely distributed around the perimeter of the pack that let you create your own compression or attachment points with some cord and a cord lock. Gossamer Gear sells a convenient accessory cord kit for just this purpose.
There are 8 x 2 such webbing loops sewn into the seams of each side of the backpack along with 4 plastic rings on the over-the-top flap that you can anchor cord to. There are another 4 plastic rings on the front shoulder straps along with two hydration hose keepers, which are good anchors for the accessory pockets that Gossamer gear sells.
You can route accessory cord through those webbing loops and plastic loops in many different ways. For example, you can rig up:
- Rig up a pair of parallel cords on each side to carry snowshoes or a foam pad.
- Criss-cross a cord on top of (over) the front mesh pocket to dry wet clothing.
- Secure tie a solar panel to the map pocket so it drapes down the front of the pack.
The possibilities are really endless and help overcome the fact that the side pockets make it hard to provide two tiers of webbing-based side compression straps.
With a little imagination, you can use also the top fold-over pocket to sandwich awkwardly shaped gear like a foam sleeping pad, cylindrical tent body, or a low volume Bear Boxer Bear Canister (also sold by Gossamer Gear) onto the top of the main compartment, making it easier and more convenient to carry. This doesn’t work with a full-sized canister, however, which will fit vertically inside the Mariposa.
The Mariposa has the requisite ice ax loop as well as trekking pole tip holders found on most packs but does not include shaft holders for either making them a bit hard to use unless you have some of that cordage around.
Comparable Internal Frame Backpacks
The Gossamer Gear Mariposa 60 Backpack is perfect for hikers transitioning from a heavier backpack to a lighter weight one because it provides plenty of storage and pockets to organize your gear. It has a lightweight frame that provides plenty of load-carrying support for heavier loads. With a maximum recommended load of 30-35 pounds, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a backpack that’s as comfortable, refined, and easy to use as the Mariposa 60.
If you don’t need 60L of capacity, but like what you see in the Mariposa, check out the 50L Gossamer Gear Gorilla. It has fewer external pockets than the Mariposa but is also a great backpack.
Disclosure: The author received a backpack for this review.
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