“Designed specifically to be used in the pad pocket of any of our overnight backpacks, this multi-use ultralight pad will give structure to your pack, cushion your back, and allow some air to circulate between you and the pack while keeping the pack body close to you. The SitLight can also be used to sit on in camp or during breaks, to lengthen your existing sleep pad, or as a base for your pillow. The foam is amazingly light and strong for its density. The pads are tough, flexible and resilient, and exhibit good UV stability”Gossamer Gear
Three Points of the Compass is currently employing an Osprey Manta on dayhikes, and one of two Gossamer Gear packs for any multi-day backpacking trips. I have most experience with the Gossamer Gear Mariposa, having used one of these terrific packs over thousands of trail miles. I wore out my first one, retired it and purchased a new Mariposa in late 2019. This is a lovely lightweight framed pack that I can configure exactly to my preference. I can keep many items outside of the main pack, including my shelter in the tall wand pocket on the side, and day ‘stuff’ and waterproof in the stretchy outer pocket. This is a pretty big pack and will swallow a lot of gear. It is only when carrying more clothing for colder or inclement weather, or when also loaded with extra water and many days of food that it is approaching full. Even then I could squeeze more ‘stuff’ in if necessary. More recently, in 2020, I sized down, stuck with the brand I know and like, and purchased a frameless Gossamer Gear G4-20.
Most Gossamer Gear packs have a sleeve in to which a sit pad or similar ‘back-panel’ can be slipped. This provides a little structure and rigidity to the pack, evens out any bumps, takes a bulky sit pad outside of the main pack body, provides a handy sit pad for use when not hiking and can also have a folded sleeping mat placed between pad and pack if desired. I have carried a Thermarest XTherm in that position on many trails though that can be a warm and quite thick set-up.
Gossamer Gear have produced a number of different sit pads for use with their packs over the years. Thankfully the old Gossamer Gear/Kymit Air Beam Pack Frame pad of yore seems to have gone to the ‘Great Gear Disasters in the Sky’ repository. Any reliance on that inflatable back pad was always going to be tested when it inevitably punctured even if the degree of comfort, rigidity and support could be dialed in. Most hikers also felt that taking a little bulb pump along with them on trail, simply to pump up the back pad in the pack seemed a little excessive. Some loved it though…
More successful was the tri-fold Nightlight Sleeping Pad introduced in 2004. This Evazote foam pad could be used at night as a minimalist torso length sleep pad. It weighed between 140g-170g and could be folded into the Mariposa, Gorilla or Silverback pack sleeves. This design of pad (based on the ‘Mt. Washington’ pads from Paramount Outfitters) introduces air pockets in to a corrugated design that is both more comfortable and lighter than flat foam sheets. This pad measured 740mm x 480mm but is now discontinued. The present SitLight pad has the same egg crate design.
Depending on what size of pack is purchased determines what size of sit pad is incorporated. For example, there is a small, medium and large sized sit pad for the small, medium and large size Mariposa packs. Both my Gossamer Gear packs are size Large, both sit pads that came with them are subsequently also Large. Gossamer Gear provide weights for their standard egg crate SitLight pad for the Mariposa as- 51g, 60g and 75g. My large SitLight pad came in at 70g or 72g (see below for explanation).
The simple ‘eggcrate’ SitLight design of pad is possibly the lightest option there is from Gossamer Gear. I usually slip this pad out of the pack sleeves at halts as something dry, warm and comfortable to sit on at rest stops. The pad is resilient and will take a lot of scuffs, abrasion and knocks. I have frequently appreciated using a pad as a kneeling and sitting place in the entrance to my shelter. A pad has also proved useful on occasion propping up my sleep mat on a slippery DCF floor on a sloping pitch.
With thousands of miles of use the SitLight pads begin to compress slightly and lose a little of the ‘peaks’ in their design, dimples flattening out and getting a little thinner. They also lose a little structural integrity and get a bit ‘saggy’. You can see the ripple that has developed in my old pad. This never really bothered me on trail however. The SitLight pad, already the thinnest, compresses the most of the three pads shown here.
There is not much difference in the thickness of the three Gossamer Gear pads- between 12mm and 17mm when uncompressed. Being foam, they all compress and all possess recovery ‘bounce back’. Evazote is used for their construction as this material exhibits greater recovery and resiliance than the similar Plastazote. Gossamer Gear retain a preference for this closed-cell, cross-linked EVA polyolefin for their foam products such as their 3mm thick Thinlight pad. Many manufacturers produce various foam pads in different sizes to different thicknesses. They are just about ALL plain old Evazote, produced by Zote foams and then distributed through ‘cutting and forming’ secondary suppliers. You pays your money and makes your choice.
In this image you can see tucked behind the SitLight pad in my Gossamer Gear Mariposa my shoulders-to-glutes length of 3mm Evazote pad weighing 35g
While my original pack is somewhat worn out and now withdrawn from use on future trails, the sit pad, though battle scarred and now bereft of tall peaks to it’s egg crate design, these now being mostly flattened, could easily continue in use.
When I purchased my Gossamer Gear G4-20 pack this came with their G SitLight Camp Seat for slotting into the stretchy pockets on the back. This lacks the egg crate design of the SitLight pad and has a ‘cured’ smooth finish on front and rear faces. As you can see , there is a ‘g‘ brand centrally placed and six cut-outs above and a further six cut-outs below to permit a smidgen of air movement. It seems to only be available in two sizes, I have the Large. Any of the sit pad types can fit any of the packs, as well as some packs from other manufacturers. Though they do have to be correctly sized. Gossamer Gear list their perforated G SitLight Camp Seat that comes with my G4-20 pack as weighing around 94g to 105g, depending on what size pad is purchased, however my large size pad weighs 78g.
The G SitLight Camp Seat pad may be comfortable but the ventilation does not amount to much more than the Sitlight while in use when trekking. It is a slight improvement on the impervious egg crate SitLight pad with my Mariposa, but my back still gets pretty warm and sweaty when using either of these pads. This really shouldn’t be much of a surprise as there simply isn’t much airflow between back and pad.
Gossamer Gear also produce an Air Flow SitLight Camp Seat that can be purchased seperately in three sizes. I have the Large. It cannot be ordered as an alternative when ordering any of the packs- yet. This carefully and, dare I say it, beautifully manufactured pad encloses the EVA foam in a stretched half perforated and fully pervious Robic covering ‘underside’ and soft wall mesh ‘topside’. While it is the heaviest of the three options, this does reduce the amount of sweating considerably, or perhaps just manages it better. It is also quite a stiff pad and the stiffest of the three pads I have, but I do wonder how it is going to hold up over time as the foam loses its rigidity over the miles. Another isue is its ability to hold water, beit sweat or rain. My suspicion, not proved yet, is that the firmer, less perforated G SitLight Camp Seat may prove to retain most rigidity in the long term. The fabric edging of the Air Flow pad does seem a bit of over-kill to me, that while enabling it to be slipped into the pack sleeves more easily, and giving structure, stiffness and durability, does add considerably to the weight. Gossamer Gear describe it as “featherlight” and “amazingly light”, it isn’t.
The heavy fabric covering, perforated against the back and smooth yet pervious closest to the pack, is no doubt essential to actually give this pad any durability. Held to the light it is all to apparent how well perforated the internal foam is, making it just about as free for airflow as is possible. It is a shame about the weight though.
Gossamer Gear also colour code their Air Flow SitLight pads for some reason. The Small is red, Medium is Yellow and my Large is Blue. Gossamer Gear advertise a weight for the large pad of around 134g. Mine tips the scales at 145g. Why are these manufacturers so woeful in so many of their given weights?
- Mariposa- ‘eggcrate’: SitLight– 70g
- G4-20: G SitLight Camp Seat– 78g
- Air Flow SitLight Camp Seat– 145g
I note that my previous SitLight pad, with more than 3000 trail miles, was a couple of grams heavier (72g) than my newer one. While it appears to be an exact similar sized pad, there is probably just a shaving of difference when pads are machine or laser cut which will account for this. At least Gossamer Gear were reasonably accurate with this particular weight reference.
- Mariposa SitLight (Large)- 585mm x 270mm x 12mm (max)
- G4-20: G SitLight Camp Seat (Large)- 580mm x 275mm x 17mm
- Air Flow SitLight Camp Seat (Large)- 570mm x 265mm x 13mm