I recently switched to using the Gossamer Gear Mariposa Backpack – a lightweight pack that still has lots of volume for people like me who are new to UL backpacking and in the beginning stages of building a UL gear list. I also love the comfortable shoulder straps and hip belt.
I had several reasons for wanting to lighten my load. Since I normally carry 30-35 pounds depending on the trip, I didn’t think it would take too much tinkering with gear to drop at least 5 pounds. Nevertheless, I wasn’t really sure where to begin and what would give me the most bang for my buck. On a recent trip with DC UL Backpacking, Jen (Shuttle) was nice enough to share her weight-saving tips. I never realized how light a backpack could get. A simple switch from my older backpack to the Mariposa would allow me to shed 3 pounds. I jumped at the chance to try her Mariposa on before the trip was over.
The minute those wide straps hit my shoulders I was pretty much sold. For years, I suffered through packs digging into my collar bone and hips, so the straps and hip belt were a huge incentive alone to make the switch even if it wouldn’t have saved me weight. I also liked how the volume was distributed more horizontally than vertically, so the pack isn’t knocking me in the back of the head. I wasn’t sure how one could fit winter gear into a UL pack, thinking that UL equated to no volume. But when I found out that the 2013 Mariposa actually has more volume than the pack I was currently using, I just had to pull the trigger. I was concerned about how much of that volume was in the outside pockets, but I figured I could get used to it after the positive comments both Shuttle and Brian (B~~~~) had for the Mariposa. The 2013 addition of a water bladder loop inside was an added plus for me too.
I put my new Mariposa to its first test on the 18-mile Ramsey’s Draft/Shenandoah Mountain hike in the George Washington National Forest (Virginia) on August 24-25, 2013. (I went with the Washington Backpackers (Link 2), but DC UL Backpacking was out there the same weekend.) I spent some time before the trip figuring how to distribute the weight and use the outside pockets.
Upon a recommendation, I used the long pocket for the Tarptent Notch I was borrowing in another weight saving effort. I liked this idea since I normally strap my tent on the outside anyway to keep moisture away from my other gear. I could also fit my MSR Sweetwater filter in the pocket with the tent (not UL I know, but I like it – for now). I used the other two small pockets for things I would want quick access to – water, map, snacks, long-sleeve shirt, pack towel, headlamp, bug spray and sunscreen. I shoved my rain jacket and water shoes in the mesh front pocket. In the hip belt pockets, I stowed my camera, lip balm, and a snack bar. I did have to make sure the inside gear was packed in a way to avoid a bulge in the back since it doesn’t have the stiff frame of a traditional pack – the extra volume helps to do this (and isn’t meant to be an excuse to carry more stuff).
My Mariposa weighed 25 pounds at the trailhead when we set off. It didn’t take long to tell what a difference 5 pounds makes. I have never really enjoyed backpacking over 10 miles in a day. But on this trip, I was traveling faster than I normally did and my collar bone and hips didn’t hurt. At rest stops, I wasn’t dying to take my pack off and usually left it on for short breaks. When we got to camp, I felt like I could have kept going, rather than collapsing. And the next morning, my back wasn’t aching and I wasn’t dreading putting the Mariposa back on for the hike out.
However, I will have to get used to the foam pad backing rather than the mesh backs I’m accustomed to with other packs. The foam pad provides structure and doubles as a sit pad, but does not breathe and really increased my sweat production. My back was soaked and it was only about 70-degrees out, which I am not used to – good thing hiking clothes dry quickly. I was never fond of all the zippers and webbing on traditional packs, so I didn’t miss things like a sleeping bag compartment or side access at all. In fact, the over-the-top closure on the Mariposa makes it easier to access the inside than my other pack.
Overall, I’m really pleased with the Mariposa and can’t wait to add more miles to my trips.
This post was contributed by Hollis Luzecky, a Gossamer Gear customer. She is a member of the DC UL Backpacking Meetup which is sponsored by Gossamer Gear. If you’d like more information about Gossamer Gear’s Meetup.com sponsorship program, please fill in our Meetup Sponsorship Contact Form.