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Gear talk: A new purchase- The Gossamer Gear Mariposa

As a change from my normal office bound life, work this week took Three Points of the Compass on a small road trip. From Kent up to Norfolk, up and across to Manchester and Southport, then down to Malvern, back to Essex and off home to Kent. ‘Ah ha‘ I thought, ‘I know a business in Malvern I want to visit‘.

Backpacking Light offices at Hanley Swan, in the Malvern Hills district

Backpacking Light offices at Hanley Swan, in the Malvern Hills district

I have been considering my next upgrade of pack for some time now. My current ‘pack du jour’; the Osprey Exos 48, excellent as it is, hasn’t quite been cutting it for me on longer treks when carrying full backpacking gear. In amongst a small short-list of possible replacements, I was undecided between one of the ULA packs and the Gossamer Gear Mariposa. I have seen the ULA Circuit and Ohm before but had mostly only seen the Robic 2015 incarnation of the Mariposa on the excellent review by Bob Cartwright on the Outdoors Station.

Bob’s review had almost settled it for me but I am reluctant to make a large and expensive gear purchase before having had a good rummage round and feel first. This is difficult to manage with products from USA based cottage industry. Dropping an email to Backpacking Light, a prompt reply immediately invited me to their offices and store rooms at Hanley Swan to try on a pack or two for size. Having finished my business on the Friday I popped in to their offices and was immediately made welcome by  proprietors Bob and Rose and offered a cup of tea.

Trying a Gossamer Gear Mariposa pack for size and fit at Backpacking Lights offices

Three Points of the Compass tries a Gossamer Gear Mariposa pack for size and fit at Backpacking Light offices

Bob sized me up for a Mariposa pack, loaded weights and I was encouraged to go for a wander round the grounds to get the feel of it.

The pack is an excellent product. As I suspected, the configuration of pockets and overall dimensions suit my requirements admirably. Once I have made my future change from my current single skin Nigor Wikiup shelter to the one I have in mind (watch this space), this will slide into the long wand pocket on one side. This pocket stretches the height of the pack and is one of the features that drew me to this particular pack. The Large size pack fits my frame well but the bigger question for me was which of the detachable hip belts would prove most suited.

Having determined that the Large size hip belt was best, I was chatting to Bob and mentioned my dislike of the hip pockets on the Osprey being too far round to the side. ‘Hold on‘ he says, and disappears for a minute to re-emerge with one of the earlier Large size belts made by Gossamer Gear. The latest belts have decreased the extent to which the padded section extends round the front, pushing the hip pockets further round to the side. However the earlier pattern of belt has just the same thickness of padding over the hips but the padding extends about an inch further forward, in turn putting the hip pockets in a much more usable position.

Gossamer Gear Mariposa with fitted hip belt

Gossamer Gear Mariposa with fitted hip belt

One addition to the latest incarnation of the Mariposa is the return of the inbuilt whistle on the chest sternum buckle. Three Points of the Compass has looked at the effectiveness of whistles recently, the results of that test mean this sternum whistle will remain a back-up to my primary whistle. The internal hydration sleeve is also unlikely to be used for its primary purpose but I like to slip either ‘next up’ maps and documents in to these sleeves, or a sit mat.

The addition of a sit mat to anyone’s gear list is a desirable I reckon. Not only are they a real bonus to be pulled out at sit down rest stops at wet, cold or muddy points, but as a place for kneeling in the tent they are much appreciated. A Thermarest Z seat weighs 59g but the Mariposa comes with a 30g ‘SitLight‘ pad slotted into the back, so a handful of grams saved there.

Gossamer Gear Mariposa with fitted SitLight pad

Gossamer Gear Mariposa with fitted SitLight foam pad

Minus food and drink, my base weight these days usually comes in at sub-10kg, well within the load capacity of this pack. As to the weight of the pack itself, needless to say, Gossamer Gear’s listing of weights is slightly dubious- despite their website stating an ‘average’ weight of 986g for large pack, belt, frame, lid and pad, mine totalled 1026g on an accurate set of digital scales. I am not complaining, this still comes in a handful of grams less than my Osprey Exos 48 in large which weighs 1150g. However the Mariposa has an increased capacity (around 60lt.) and is better configured. This may mean that I am unable to meet the desired, if ambitious, 3-4-3 target, but that is only a guide, not a firm rule, we shall see.

I am keen to get out and try the pack out in anger. I am convinced it will offer the performance I am after. If so, this will be the pack that accompanies me on my Long Walk.

Having made my purchase I hung around for a while chatting all-things gear, walks done and to be done and the merits of various stoves. Both Bob and Rose gave generously of their time, it is very much the personal touch with their customers that sets R&R Enterprises apart from your more average retailer. For this customer, it makes a refreshing change.



5 replies »

  1. Hi,

    I’m thinking of buying the Gossamer Gear Mariposa and like the idea of packing the tent up last and stowing it in the large side pocket. Now I’m wondering what the effect would be of carrying (in my case) 1.5kg on the side of the pack. Have you found this arrangement to unbalance the pack at all?



    • Jon
      I have given similar thought myself to this issue as that is my tent storage too. And if a silnylon shelter, or similar, packed away wet, then even more weight. I have yet to experience any problem so far, but need a multi-day hike to really see what occurs to the body over extended time. My plan is to ensure that water carried on the other side provides the balance required. Chatting to Bob, who sold me my pack, I asked him about this very issue and he tells me he has never had any problem.Do let me know how you get on


  2. Also, if you keep water in the right side pocket, it balances out the tent weight. I have done two six-day trips with the Mariposa and will be taking it on the JMT this summer and have not experienced any issue with off-balance weight. My tent is a Big Agnes Copper Spur 1 (weighs 2.5 pounds)


    • I agree James, I have never experienced any issue with off-balance weight when carrying my shelter in the side pocket. Though admittedly both of my shelters are under a kilogram. It is now over five years since I purchased my first Mariposa. Having completed over 3000 miles with it, I had no hesitation with buying another Mariposa when it wore out


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