It was shaping up to be just another day at the office: quiet, uneventful, and of course a fair amount of immersing myself in the wild landscapes of ragged peaks and snowy descents that comprise the wallpaper of my computer. Fortunately for me, it was not going to be a typical day after all. For starters, my brand new Gossamer Gorilla ultralight pack came in the mail and right after my lunch break my pager went off with a call out for a rescue on a local and very popular trail.

I grabbed the Gorilla out of the box and drove quickly (but responsibly) to the mountain rescue team headquarters. Upon arrival, I stuffed the pack with a full rescue load (harness, helmet, 100 feet of personal rope, and water). At the trail head I was handed a backpack winch and I threw that over my shoulders, resting it on top of the pack. I only had twelve or so weeks to test this pack and I was off to a good start. One mile up the trail in 90 degree heat we found the victim and conducted a successful rescue. I even got a few compliments from the team on my cool looking new pack to boot!

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Specs & Design

This pack is light; very light. I tested a size large with a medium waist belt and the weight came to a grand total of 27 ounces – absolutely incredible for a 3,000 cubic inch pack! Although Gossamer recommends a maximum load of 35 pounds, I went way over that and it held up (Editors Note: This is an ultralight backpack meant for light loads. It is our job to try to break the gear so that our readers know how durable the gear is. This being said, we do not recommend overloading this pack. If you plan on carrying heavier loads, then this is not the pack for you.)

As I was fortunate to get one of the first Gorilla packs fresh from the factory, I did experience a problem with the sternum strap ripping off of the shoulder strap. Gossamer has since fixed that issue on all the packs in stock and all new packs moving forward. I mention this only so that you can be sure your pack has the improved sternum strap before you head out into the backcountry.

Other than that problem (which happened right at the end of my twelve-week test period) I experienced zero problems with the pack. The fit was spot on; it was very comfortable to carry and its pocket layout was perfect. To give you an idea of how light you can go for a one to two night trip I packed:

Gorilla Gossamer Ultralight Pack (27oz), 70 ounces of water (75 oz), Brooks Range Quick Tent with stakes and line (26 oz; stay tuned for an in-depth test this fall), canister stove with a pot and fuel canister (28oz), water purifier (19.5 oz), Nano Puff (10 oz), Beanie (2 oz),sleeping system with 3/4 Z-pad (28oz), food (10 oz), pocket knife (2 oz), and headlamp (1oz).

The whole kit weighed in at 173 oz or 10.8 pounds! Of course this could be further shaved down by going lighter on a few items and if you had to carry more clothing for inclement weather this weight would obviously go up.

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Pockets and Thoughts

From that first day forward I tested the Gorilla Gossamer pack on overnight backpacking trips, short day hikes, and even a few rescues over the next three months. The waist belt is removable and if you remove the back foam pad the pack folds up into a very manageable, light, and compact package and can be easily slid into a larger pack for longer trips. I took advantage of this feature on a backpacking trip where my partner and I carried a 30m rope, light trad climbing rack, ice axes, crampons, and the rest of our overnight backpacking gear. We climbed to the top of a 10,000 foot mountain and the next day conducted a day hike out along a class 3-4 ridge to another nearby mountain. The Gorilla slipped right into my bulging overnight pack and the next day the Gorilla swallowed all of our gear for the technical portion of the ridge we intended to traverse.

This is a great pack to bring on bigger trips when you will need a smaller, lighter pack for day trips that branch out from your base-camp. For ultralight ventures you can also remove the foam back pad and slip in a torso-length nightlight sleeping pad that Gossamer sells as an accessory. I found that my three-quarter length Z-pad, if folded in the right way, would fit in the elastic/mesh pockets that hold the back-pad against your back. This essentially eliminated needing to strap any gear to the outside of my pack.

The two pockets on the hip belt are enormous! I could slip in my iPhone and a beanie and a stick of ChapStick into one pocket and still have plenty of room. The side mesh pockets are also very large and could easily swallow a Nalgene, unlike some side pockets that are so small you worry that the bottle will pop out.

The big mesh pocket in the middle of the pack is also very deep and secure and you can easily stuff a jacket or other hastily retrievable items in there. I could reach back without taking off the pack and retrieve items out of the middle pocket, but I do have long arms and so not everyone may be able to reach into this pocket while wearing the pack. The Gorilla also has a small zippered pocket in the top lid that is secured with magnets and two very minimal, lightweight clips. The zippered pocket is pretty small; I could fit a map and a few smaller and flat items in there.

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Pros

  • Very light
  • Easily packable
  • Large pockets
  • Comfortable to wear

Cons

  • No internal compartments or organizational features.
  • Lightweight = less durability. If you are going to carry heavy loads, this is not the pack for you.

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Final Thoughts

The Gossamer Gorilla is a great pack for those looking to cut weight wherever they can. As I get older (and maybe a little wiser) this pack caused a revolution in my thinking about backpacking. No longer am I content to carry a 45 pound pack on a one or two night trip. Going light just makes a whole lot more sense and with this pack you do not have to make any sacrifices with durability, comfort, or usability to enjoy a sub-two-pound overnight pack. Of course, with this shift in thinking comes a whole new need for gear. My bulky three-season tent is now relegated to car camping. My three pound, large-even-when-stuffed sleeping bag shares the same fate. With all of this space saved in your old overnight backpack you are free to look into slightly smaller packs, like the Gossamer Gorilla. After twelve-plus weeks with this pack I am sold on going as light as possible.

Manufacturer: Gossamer Gear
Date available: Currently available
Manufacturer’s Website: Gossamer Gorilla
MSRP: US$ 225
Listed Weight: 27oz
Actual Weight: same
Materials:
40 denier Dyneema GGridstop coated ripstop nylon
Select use of 1680 denier ballistic nylon for reinforcement
Select use of 210 denier urethane-coated double-rip ripstop nylon
Select use of 30 denier silicone coated ripstop (silnylon)
XTC fabric for harness lining
Power mesh fabric, pad holder and large pocket
Size/Model tested: Large with Medium waist belt
Requirements: None
Colors Available: One color combo available – Black, Grey, & Orange
Warranty info: Manufacturer against defects (Note: Gossamer Gear does not offer a warranty on a few of their packs, but they do on the Gorilla). Here is what they have to say about their warranty: “Some of the tradeoffs of designing with extremely lightweight materials are strength and durability. Gossamer Gear deliberately designs gear as light as functionally possible. It is up to the user to determine if an item of gear will serve their intended purposes. You cannot expect our equipment to stand up to the same use/abuse as gear weighing 2 – 5 times as much.”

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