Gossamer Gear Silverback 65 Backpack Review

Gossamer Gear Silverback 65 Backpack Review
The Gossamer Gear Silverback 65 is a multi-day ultralight-style backpack designed for thru-hiking with larger loads, bushwhacking, and winter backpacking. It’s very different from Gossamer Gear’s popular backpacks, the Mariposa 60 and Gorilla 50, in that it’s a pure roll top without any external mesh with a pre-curved polycarbonate frame instead of a frame stay. The Silverback is not sold by Gossamer Gear (although the Mariposa and Gorilla still are) but is only available from the company’s retail partners, like Garage Grown Gear in the United States.

Specs at a Glance

  • Weight: 37.6 oz – size medium (38.3 oz actual)
  • Volume: 65L total capacity
  • Main Pack Body to Bottom of Extension Collar: 46.5L
  • Dimensions: 10.7″ W x 7.28″ D x 21.5″ H
  • Pockets: 3 + main
  • Load lifters: Yes
  • Hip belt pockets: 2
  • Hydration compatible: Yes
  • Bear canisters: Vertical (BV500, Garcia); Horizontal (BV475, BV450, BV425, Bear Boxer)
  • Materials: Robic Nylon 100d and 200d (on high wear areas)
  • Recommended maximum load capacity by manufacturer40lbs
  • Recommended comfortable load by SectionHiker: 25-30lbs
  • For complete specs, click here. 

Backpack Storage and Organization

The Gossamer Gear Silverback 65 is a traditional roll-top backpack with side water bottle pockets, hip belt pockets, and a front open pocket, with a main compartment that has an internal hydration pocket, a reservoir hang loop, and hydration ports located between the shoulder pads. The roll top can be secured on the sides of the pack with webbing straps or the ends can be clipped together on top. The extension collar has a stiffener which makes it easier to roll closed, especially when the pack is very full.

The main packbag can hold a lot of gear!
The main pack bag can hold a lot of gear!

The main pack bag has a 46.5L capacity and can hold a lot of gear, making this the Gossamer Gear pack of choice if you need to haul a big bear canister like a BV500 around with you. In using the pack, we found that it “likes” to be stuffed full and packed carefully. Otherwise, the soft fabric of the pack bag (100d Robic) tends to collapse and become shapeless and blob-like, even if you use the compression system to shrink the volume.

Smartwater and Nalgene bottles have a tendency to fall out of the side pockets
Smartwater and Nalgene bottles have a tendency to fall out of the side pockets

The front stretch pocket and both side water bottle pockets are entirely made with solid fabric, improving durability since mesh pockets are usually the first thing to get ripped up on backpacks when they encounter vegetation off-trail. While the front stretch pocket is deep enough to keep items from falling out, water bottles, both Smartwater bottles, and 32 oz Nalgenes are easily stripped from the side pockets, off-trail or when you set the pack on the ground: because the pockets are not very deep and don’t have a cordlock or strong elastic closure to hold contents in place. I would advise using a shoulder strap bottle sleeve or reservoir with this pack instead. When bushwhacking off-trail, I’ve found it prudent to put everything that I normally store in the side pockets inside the main compartment so it doesn’t fall out and get lost. Losing your only water bottle off-trail is not good.

The hip belt pockets are made with 200d Robic for added durability.
The hip belt pockets are made with 200d Robic for added durability.

The hip belt pockets are large and can hold plenty of essentials including a smartphone. The pockets are covered in more durable 200d Robic because pockets take a beating when you have to push through waist-high brush and small trees off-trail. The side pockets and the bottom of the main pack bag are similarly reinforced.

The previous version of the Silverback 55L (see review), which had 10L less volume, had a removable top lid with a big pocket, in addition to a roll-top closure on the main pack bag. A top lid is really useful in winter when you want to be able to change gloves, hats, or wind layers, or grab snacks or navigation tools quickly without having to undo a roll top pack and search around in a big cavity for what you need. I find it a little disheartening that the top lid was removed from Silverback 65 because it really reduces the pack’s functionality for winter hiking and backpacking.  Granite Gear’s larger backpacks, the Crown 3 60 and the Blaze 60 have removable top lids and roll-top closures if you’re looking for a pack that supports both configurations.

Silverback 65 Polycarbonate Frame
Silverback 65 Polycarbonate Frame

Backpack Frame and Suspension

The Silverback 65 has a modular frame and suspension system with several components including a polycarbonate frame, a pad pocket, sit pad, shoulder straps, and a removable hip belt. The polycarbonate frame in the Silverback 65 looks identical to the one in the previous Silverback 55. This frame sheet is stiff and supportive but also flexes to adapt to your curves and anatomy. It is also easier to remove and reinsert, compared to the aluminum stay in Gossamer Gear’s Mariposa and Gorilla Backpacks, which slots into small sleeves in the hip belt and can be a herculean struggle to reassemble.

In addition to the frame sheet, there is a pad pocket behind the pack’s shoulder straps that holds a piece of foam embossed with the Gossamer gear logo. This is a multi-use sit pad that is easy to remove and replace when you want an insulated or dry place to sit on during breaks or when cooking dinner. A sit pad and the pad pocket have always been a signature feature of Gossamer Gear packs and it’s easy to become addicted to using one since it’s so convenient to pull out and replace.

The sit pad makes a good seat in camp.
The sit pad makes a good seat in camp.

The Silverback 65 is a unisex backpack with wide J-shaped shoulder straps that may be uncomfortable for men and women with well-developed chests. However, both the shoulder straps and the hip belt are covered with thick and comfortable foam and mesh, making them better suited for people with “curves.” The sternum strap runs up and down along a webbing strap sewn on the front of the shoulder straps making it easy to adjust its height. The shoulder straps are optimized for use with Gossamer Gear accessory pockets and bottle sleeves but are harder to use with third-party add-ons.

The sternum strap height is easy to adjust
The sternum strap height is easy to adjust

The hip belt is removable, so you could theoretically replace the hip belt in a size medium pack with one from a size small pack if you had a smaller waist. I’m not sure that Gossamer Gear’s resellers, including Garage Grown Gear, offer that as an option. You could ask though! It’s an option Gossamer Gear still offers with their other backpacks.

The sit pad is easy to slot into a pad pocket
The sit pad is easy to slot into the pad pocket

The Silverback hip belt is a little unusual in that it is not directly linked to the frame but passes through a sleeve behind it. While other manufacturers use the same design, most manufacturers add a piece of velcro between the hip belt and the frame or frame pocket so there’s a very secure connection between the two for load transfer.

I contacted Gossamer Gear support and they assured me that my hip belt was sewn correctly with the velcro patch on the back of the hip belt…where it can’t possibly connect to the frame. I think that design could be improved simply and quite substantially by inserting a second velcro connection between the front of hip belt and the back of the frame pocket for load transfer. Without it, I found that a 25-30 lbs load felt kind of sloppy to carry when I would have expected it to feel snappier.

Notwithstanding this issue, I haven’t been that impressed with the hip belt on this pack. It’s not adjustable in length or gender-specific. The hip belt’s webbing straps are also soft and frequently fold over inside the buckles, jamming them, so you can’t tighten the hip belt.

External Attachments and Compression

One area where the Silverback 65 performs well is in its external attachment and compression system.

The Silverback has two tiers of side compression straps
The Silverback has two tiers of side compression straps

The Silverback 65 has two tiers of side compression straps that make it easy to lash gear to the side of the backpack, including snowshoes or a folded-up Thermarest Zlite pad, since the straps are long enough for this purpose. Both compression straps close with buckles, which is preferable if you want to attach snowshoes to the sides of the pack. There’s also a top strap that runs over the roll top which can be used to secure a foam pad there as well.

There are also numerous yellow-colored webbing loops sewn into the seams of the Silverback that you can run your own cords through. Gossamer Gear sells some wonderful shock cord compression kits ($6) that include four cordlocks for just this purpose. They work with any backpack and I stockpile them myself. For example, if you wanted to attach snowshoes to the front of your pack, you could tie two horizontal runs of compression cord across the front of the pack to hold your snowshoes.

Yellow loops along the side seams let you create custom attachment points
Yellow loops along the side seams let you create custom attachment points

In the spirit of modularity, you can also remove unnecessary straps from the Silverback 65, so you don’t have to cut them off. There are only three of these straps on the Silverback, so the weight savings are minimal, but it can reduce unused strap clutter, depending on how you configure the pack.

Bushwhacking the NH500 with the Silverback 65
Bushwhacking the NH500 with the Silverback 65

Assessment

The Gossamer Gear Silverback 65 is a roll top backpack made with 100d and 200d Robic Nylon that weighs 2 lbs 5.6 oz and costs $309. While it’s positioned as a general-purpose thru-hiking pack for larger loads, off-trail hiking, and winter backpacking, there isn’t anything really compelling about it in terms of performance or features that makes it stand out as a heavy hauler. We didn’t find the load transfer to the hip belt to live up to expectations. It’s not built with the heavier-duty fabrics you’d expect for off-trail travel and it doesn’t have any of the winter-specific features that you’d expect on a winter backpack. See our links below for the backpacks in these categories that we do recommend. Net, Net, I’d give the Gossamer Gear Silverback 65 a pass.

Disclosure: Gossamer Gear donated a backpack for this review.

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