Reviewing gear for any outdoor sport is, at times, almost self-defeating. By the time I receive, test, and write a review for anything, half of the product’s lifespan is gone. The opportunity to thoroughly use products for a season or two, then write a review, is virtually nonexistent.
Or at least it was until I got my hands on some backpacking equipment from Gossamer Gear. They’ve largely kept their lineup of packs, tents, and accessories intact for years now, which gave me a unique opportunity to write a review after two solid seasons of using their backpacking gear.
In this review, I’ll look specifically at their Mariposa 60 Backpack and The Two shelter, as well as some accessories.
Mariposa 60 Backpack
This is hands-down the best backpacking pack I’ve ever used. As its name implies, the Mariposa 60 is a 60-liter pack with plenty of exterior pockets that help get more storage out of the pack than its listed specs.
The Mariposa 60 has been my companion on one trip through the Wind River Mountains, and several here in Utah’s Uinta Mountains. I’ve also used it more than I anticipated for hunting.
What separates this pack, in my mind, are a few key details:
- It weighs only 2 pounds. That’s outrageously light, and you definitely notice that while on the trail. My pack before the Mariposa 60 was an old K-Tec special my dad gave me. That pack weighed nearly 8 pounds by itself.
- The Mariposa 60 has a removable internal frame, so if you need to just stuff it full of gear, you can.
- This pack comes with 7 extra pockets, in addition to the main 60-liter compartment. All that extra storage space is greatly appreciated. In fact, one of the storage pockets is located right behind the internal frame – making it an ideal place to store tent poles and stakes. Since that area of the pack already has rigid material in it, the tent poles and stakes don’t create any extra pressure points.
Those are the highlights that, for me, I’ve come to just love over the past two years. Gossamer Gear rates the Mariposa to carry 30 pounds of gear comfortably, but up to 35 pounds without a problem. I’ve overloaded it at times to 40, and didn’t notice any big issues. Generally, for a week-long fly fishing and backpacking trip, I’m able to keep my pack at 29 pounds. It rides smooth, and has plenty of room for adjustments to ensure a proper fit.
I also need to speak to the pack’s durability. As I mentioned at the outset of this piece, one of the problems with reviewing gear is that we so rarely get to review it after an honest attempt at breaking it has been made. For starters, manufacturers don’t like to send out review models that come back broken – or never come back at all. And by the time gear reaches the hands of reviewers, it’s already been put through stringent quality-control.
But all the QC in the world can’t account for the unique abuse you’ll put your gear through. So, after 2 years of wearing this pack while traversing boulder fields at 10,000 feet, or busting through thick forest in search of elk, I can honestly say the Mariposa 60 far exceeded my durability expectations.
Not only has it held up well, but the pack shows very few signs of wear. Aside from a tear I had to fix with thread and some epoxy (a hunting knife poked a good hole in the pack), the Mariposa 60 doesn’t look like it’s seen over 100 miles of backcountry use. It’s dusty, and that’s about it.
So, whether you’re looking for a truly stellar ultralite backpacking pack, or you’re an angler who needs something roomy for a multi-day excursion into remote trout country, I’d highly recommend the Mariposa 60. It’s been the best pack I’ve ever owned, and if I ever wear out my current one, I know exactly which pack I’m getting next.
The Two Shelter
The folks at Gossamer Gear keep things simple. Pack and shelter capacities are listed in product names, and as The Two implies, this shelter is built for two people.
The Two is one of the most astonishing pieces of gear I’ve ever used. Clocking in at an amazing 23.5 ounces, The Two is a feat of lightweight-backpacking-gear engineering magic. It packs down to about half the size of my sleeping bag – 11 inches long and 5 inches wide, per Gossamer Gear’s own website – but unfurls to comfortably hold two grown men. I’ve used this everywhere from the high country of the Rockies, to the deserts of Oregon, to the shores of Pyramid Lake in Nevada. Each time, I’m happier to have The Two than I was the previous time I set it up.
The only downside is that it’s entirely dependent on guylines and tension to keep it upright. You can buy poles that go with it, but most folks use their trekking poles to prop up either end of the tent. So, if you’re in an area that has tough soil, or doesn’t have a lot of trees, it can be tough to get The Two taut enough. However, even on the barren beaches of Pyramid Lake, I haven’t had too hard a time getting it set up.
Also of note is the size of the vestibules. The Two has two entrances – one on each side – that lead open into two large vestibules. Gossamer Gear rates the vestibule functional area as 10 square feet – each. That means you have more room inside the tent itself for a sleeping pad, bag, and pillow. I leave my boots, bags, and other stuff beneath the vestibule, and everything stays dry and tidy all night long.
Finally, I’d be remiss if I didn’t point out the integrated clothesline. It stretches across the width of the tent, and I use it for everything from hanging clothes to hanging lights. It’s one of the most thoughtfully-designed features I’ve seen in backpacking gear.
Overall, I’ve been thoroughly impressed with the backpacking gear Gossamer puts out. The Mariposa 60 is a mainstay for me on hunting, fishing, and backpacking trips. I even bought my wife their Gorilla 50 Ultralight pack, and she loves it. The Two shelter has been a gamechanger. It’s so lightweight, yet roomy, and pitches in a matter of minutes.
If you’re in the market for new backpacking gear, don’t overlook Gossamer Gear.
Spencer Durrant is a fly fishing writer and guide from Utah. He’s the Lead Guide/Owner of The Utah Fly Fishing Company, the News Editor for MidCurrent, and a columnist for Hatch Magazine. Connect with him on Instagram/Twitter, @Spener_Durrant.