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Gossamer Gear Gorilla Review

Gossamer Gear Gorilla Updated
Editors' Choice Award
Price:   $245 List
Pros:  Lightweight, carries light and medium loads well, adaptable, perfect feature set, more durable than most
Cons:  A little small for a bear canister
Editors' Rating:     
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Manufacturer:   Gossamer Gear

Our Verdict

The Gossamer Gear Gorilla won our Editors' Choice Award because it is the best and most adaptable ultralight backpack we tested. While it is not the lightest product we tested, it carries both light loads (15 lbs) and medium loads (30 lbs), in plush comfort. When casting off in winter with five days of food and fuel, the durable "simple frame" enabled the well-padded shoulder straps and waist belt to distribute the weight comfortably. With smaller and lighter loads, the Gorilla continued to carry comfortably. On top of this, the removable egg crate contoured "SitLight" foam back panel ventilates better than the back panels on the other simple frame models we tested. We love how this pack carries!

Product Update - August 2016
Gossamer Gear has made a few minor changes to the Gorilla. Most of these updates are in the hip belt, improving load transfer and comfort. The updates include a longer frame, a stiffener added to the belt, and improved pockets.

Scroll down for a more detailed comparison of the new Gossamer Gear Gorilla vs. the older 2015 version.

Additionally, the feature set of the Gorilla is exactly what we want in an ultralight backpacking pack. A large and stretchy main exterior pocket accommodates lots of clothing for quick access. Two side pockets made of durable pack fabric easily carry large water bottles or a JetBoil stove. Two hip belt pockets fit our smartphones or a handful of snacks. To top it off, the top closure of the main pack is top-notch. The unique closure flap provides a better weather seal than most others and the small zipper pocket is perfect to secure items you may want to access quickly, but have stowed securely. Each of our award winners fits a load carrying niche, and the Gorilla is the best for total weights between 15 and 25 pounds.

While we love everything about this pack, expert ultralight hikers may prefer our Top Pick Award winner, the ZPacks Arc Blast 55. The Arc Blast is a full 8 ounces lighter! It isn't as comfortable when loaded down, but folks that rarely carry weights above the 'teens will love its class-leading light weight. Our Best Buy winner, the Osprey Exos 48, is the most featured pack we tested, carries 30 pounds or a little more better than any other, and is the most affordable model with a high overall score.


RELATED REVIEW: The Best Ultralight Backpacks for 2017


Our Analysis and Hands-on Test Results

Review by:
Brandon Lampley
Review Editor
OutdoorGearLab

Last Updated:
Tuesday
March 28, 2017

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The Latest Version of the Gossamer Gear Gorilla


The Gorilla has been updated for 2016. With changes made to the belt, the overall look of this pack has not changed. The list price remains the same at $245. Check out the quote below from Gossamer Gear!

"It will look exactly the same but we have modified the termination point of the aluminum frame so that it now ends in the belt and not the bag, and we have added a stiffener to that part of the belt. This gives a bit better load transfer to the belt. We have also improved the shape of the pockets on the belt and given it a more ergonomic shape. So, a few changes to the belt, same materials, look, main bag etc…"

-Gossamer Gear

Check out a side-by-side comparison, with the updated Gossamer Gear Gorilla left and the older version shown on the right.
Gossamer Gear Gorilla Updated
 

Here's a summary of the key differences between the new 2016 Gossamer Gear Gorilla and the previous version.
  • New Belt Design — Gossamer claims the new Gorilla offers an improved belt with the addition of a stiffener and stay integration. Designed for better load transfer and comfort, the belt also has a new unisex ergonomic shape.
  • Modified Aluminum Frame-- The aluminum frame has been extended to end in the belt as opposed to the bag, for additional support.
  • New Hip Belt Pockets — The hip belt pockets have increased in size and have been updated for better functionality.

According to the manufacturer, the majority of this award winning pack has remained the same with the addition of a few upgrades to the belt. We have not tested this new version of the Gorilla, but expect it to perform in a similar fashion, if not better than the version we tested. The text and ratings in this review still reflect the older version.

Hands-On Review


The Gossamer Gear Gorilla, our Editors' Choice Award winner for ultralight backpacks, earned top scores for both load carrying comfort and durability. It is one of only two packs we judged "Great" for carrying both 15 and 30 pound loads. In addition, its Weight-to-Volume Ratio is compelling and its feature set includes all of the pockets and straps we consider most useful. Whether you're headed out for multi-day, multi-week, or multi-month trips, the Gorilla will quickly become your go-to pack. Comfortable, light, easy to pack…the Gorilla is exactly what we want in a backpack for thru-hiking and shorter trips as well.

How to Get It:
Gossamer Gear products are not widely available at online or bricks-and-mortar retailers, but rather are ordered directly from the manufacturer in Austin, TX.
Get it online at: GossamerGear.com

Taking a stop to brew some coffee while whizzing through Great Smoky Mountains National Park in winter. The Gossamer Gear Gorilla carried Brandon's mid 20s pound load very comfortably. The Gorilla earned our highest overall score and the Editors' Choice Award.
Taking a stop to brew some coffee while whizzing through Great Smoky Mountains National Park in winter. The Gossamer Gear Gorilla carried Brandon's mid 20s pound load very comfortably. The Gorilla earned our highest overall score and the Editors' Choice Award.

Performance Comparison


The chart below lines up all the packs in our review based on their Overall Performance score. The Gossamer Gear Gorilla was our clear top dog!


Weight-to-Volume Ratio


There are several options when sizing the Gossamer Gear Gorilla, and our test model was a large main pack paired with a medium hip belt. Our lead tester is 5' 11" with a 32" waist, and it was a perfect fit. The total weight of our test Gorilla, 29.4 ounces, is impressively light for a pack with its capacity and load carrying comfort. Four packs weighed in lighter, but none were as comfortable as the Gorilla when carrying more than 25 pounds. The most similar model in form and performance, the ULA Ohm 2.0, weighed in two ounces heavier.


Weight Bottom Line:
Total weight with all modular components = 1 lb 13.4 oz
Pack stripped of components = 1 lb 1.5 oz
Aluminum Frame Rod = 3.6 oz
Foam Back Pad = 2.0 oz
Waist Belt = 6.3 oz

A huge and stretchy front pocket  durable side pockets that accommodate large water bottles  and side compression straps that don't interfere with the pockets...a perfect combination.
A huge and stretchy front pocket, durable side pockets that accommodate large water bottles, and side compression straps that don't interfere with the pockets...a perfect combination.

Our volume measurements in the lab confirm that this pack has more load carrying capacity than the nominal 40L description implies. Indeed, we found most of the top performing packs similar in overall capacity, right around 50L. Both the main exterior pocket and side pockets on the Gorilla accept large volumes of gear more easily than most others. The two side pockets easily hold a 1L Nalgene bottle or a JetBoil stove, with plenty of leftover room for a 20 oz water bottle or other items.

OGL Measured Volume Bottom Line:
Total Volume = 48 L
Main Bag = 38 L
Front Pocket = 7 L
Side Pockets = 3 L

At 17 g/L max and 10 g/L stripped this pack earned the third best score for average weight-to-volume ratio. The ZPacks Arc Blast 55 scored much better in this metric, at 11g/L with all components in use. However, the Arc Blast doesn't carry weight as comfortably as the Gorilla, and we awarded it a Top Pick for Ultralight Enthusiasts who consistently carry very light loads.

Load Carrying Comfort


This pack is one of only two packs that we tested that earned a "Great" rating for carrying comfort with both 15 and 30 pound loads. The Gorilla has well-padded shoulder straps, but what's more is its ability to transfer weight to the hips whether the load is heavier or lighter. We loved this pack's ability to hug our shoulders and hips without creating any pressure points.


We carried loads of 19 to 27 pounds in the Gorilla for 10 days in January on the Appalachian Trail. Up and down through the Great Smoky Mountains, it felt great. Additionally, this is the easiest model to remove the frame and hip belt from for super light loads when you want.

The ULA Ohm 2.0, the most similar model to the Gorilla also earned "Great" ratings for both light and medium loads. Although these packs are very similar in weight, volume, and carrying comfort, the Gorilla stands out. It's two ounces lighter, and we prefer the large, stretchy main pocket to the Ohm's. In addition, the Gorilla's more durable aluminum frame is an advantage, and the foam back panel is easily removed and used as a sit pad. An integral hydration bladder sleeve and superior top closure further distinguish the Gorilla from the Ohm.

The Gorilla all packed up with equipment along with five of days food for a 250 mile wintertime section hike on the Appalachian Trail. Total weight - 24 lbs: 9 lbs of food and fuel  1 Liter of water  and a 13 lb base weight. Brandon's wintertime base weight is substantially heavier with a -10F sleeping bag  extra warm layers  fire making tools  and a reliable JetBoil stove plus hot water bottle.
The Gorilla all packed up with equipment along with five of days food for a 250 mile wintertime section hike on the Appalachian Trail. Total weight - 24 lbs: 9 lbs of food and fuel, 1 Liter of water, and a 13 lb base weight. Brandon's wintertime base weight is substantially heavier with a -10F sleeping bag, extra warm layers, fire making tools, and a reliable JetBoil stove plus hot water bottle.

Features


We think the Gossamer Gear Gorilla gets the ultralight feature set for a backpack just right. Not a lot of heavy extras, but all the important bits for utility. This simple frame pack uses a removable foam pack panel for additional support, and the top closure system forgoes drawstrings for buckle closures. As we've discussed, the main exterior pocket is super stretchy and the side pockets are a more durable nylon pack fabric, our preferred combination.


The hip belt pockets on this pack aren't oversized; we found each can fit 3 Clif Bars. By comparison, the much larger hip belt pockets of the ULA Ohm seem too bulky when fully packed. The waist belt buckle tightens with a traditional 1:1 pull. The two compression straps on each side of the main pack are simple, but you can add a more complex cord compression system using any or all of the sewn-in webbing loops. A loop for stowing an ice axe, and plastic clips to secure the tips of your trekking poles, complete the exterior lashing options.

Unique for a pack without a lid, a small zipper pocket on the top closure flap provides secure storage for your most important items you want readily accessible. This pack features an internal sleeve to hold a hydration pack and a small sewn loop at the top for securing it. Left and right ports let you easily route the drinking hose over either shoulder. A couple of small D-rings on each shoulder strap provide attachment points for anything you want to clip on, and the sternum strap buckle includes a whistle.

The Gorilla's side pockets are great and easy to access while walking. The slant design makes stowing your water bottle after drinking smooth. Hip belt pockets hold snacks or your smartphone  and maps or other items slide in behind them for quick access.
The Gorilla's side pockets are great and easy to access while walking. The slant design makes stowing your water bottle after drinking smooth. Hip belt pockets hold snacks or your smartphone, and maps or other items slide in behind them for quick access.

Adaptability


When choosing an ultralight pack, we prefer one that is adaptable. We want it to be able to carry a variety of loads, both weight-wise (as evaluated above in load carrying comfort) and volume wise. We found it extremely easy to remove the Gorilla's frame rod and waist belt when we wanted to scale down the load (in fact, it was the easiest of the bunch!). Additionally, two simple compression straps on both sides of the main pack body allow you to reduce the volume of the main pack when you're very lightly loaded. While other manufacturers incorporate much fancier compression straps, and more dedicated external lashing, we feel Gossamer Gear made just the right compromise with the Gorilla. Fourteen small webbing loops sewn into the seams of the main bag provide the means to add many configurations of additional exterior lashing. We didn't find this necessary, but folks that love to have some bungy cords criss-crossing the main exterior pocket, or a more intricate set of cords for side compression, will find it simple and easy to add onto the exterior lashing.


If you regularly hike with a bear canister, we recommend checking out the Gossamer Gear Mariposa 60, which shares many features with the Gorilla, but is a bit taller and wider.

Stripped of the frame rod and waist belt  this model weighs just over one pound. If you head out carrying super light loads  this is perfect. Brandon's hiding from the mosquitoes during a quick trip into the Wind River Range  Wyoming.
Stripped of the frame rod and waist belt, this model weighs just over one pound. If you head out carrying super light loads, this is perfect. Brandon's hiding from the mosquitoes during a quick trip into the Wind River Range, Wyoming.

Durability


Gossamer Gear incorporates two weights of fabric in the construction of this pack: 100D Robic nylon for the main pack and more durable 200D in critical wear areas. The bottom of the pack and the side pockets, which are both areas of concern for wear, use the thicker and more abrasion-resistant 200D Robic nylon. After 30 days of hard use, we can find no abrasion on the pack fabric.


In addition, we feel the Gorilla has the most simple and durable frame of the packs we tested. A single tubular aluminum rod, bent and shaped into a U, provides the load carrying support. We don't treat our gear with kid gloves and we like the confidence this frame provides compared to the carbon fiber frame rods used in the Ohm and Arc Blast. Unlike these two packs, we don't hesitate to sit on the loaded Gorilla to take a break.

It honestly takes about five seconds to remove the aluminum frame rod and waist belt from this pack. If you're headed out on short trips loaded with less than 10 pounds or so  this pack is awesome. In addition  this simple frame is more rugged and durable than most others.
It honestly takes about five seconds to remove the aluminum frame rod and waist belt from this pack. If you're headed out on short trips loaded with less than 10 pounds or so, this pack is awesome. In addition, this simple frame is more rugged and durable than most others.

Best Applications


This is the best do-everything ultralight backpack we tested. When we needed to carry winter gear and five days of food on the Appalachian Trail in January, it was just the right size. When we wanted to strip it down for dayhikes or one night out in the wilderness, the frame and waist belt were easily removable. The exterior storage pockets were also perfect for our testers, keeping snacks, water bottles, and extra clothing layers easily accessible. Whether you're thru-hiking for months or playing in the backcountry for the weekend, this pack is perfect.

Value


At $245, we feel this pack is an exceptional value. It carries very comfortably, has the volume ultralight backpackers need for even the longest trips, and scales down in weight and volume. With this pack, we're just as happy being out on the trail for weeks at a time, as we are using it for dayhikes and single overnighters. For a pack that can do just about everything, this is a great deal.

Conclusion


With a perfect set of features and a durable aluminum frame for carrying comfort, the Gossamer Gear Gorilla is, simply put, the best ultralight backpack we tested. Mix and match sizing means you can get a perfect fit, compression straps and a huge exterior pocket allow it to scale up and down in volume, and the hip pockets place maps, snacks, and your camera within easy reach. If we could have only one ultralight backpack, the Gorilla is it. Our lead tester will be rocking this pack on his next big thru-hike!

Our lead tester LOVED this pack on a long wintertime section of the Appalachian Trail. It is sized and featured perfectly for thru-hiking  but also scales down and carries lighter loads for short trips. We believe it's the perfect ultralight pack to carry loads ranging from 10 to 30 pounds.
Our lead tester LOVED this pack on a long wintertime section of the Appalachian Trail. It is sized and featured perfectly for thru-hiking, but also scales down and carries lighter loads for short trips. We believe it's the perfect ultralight pack to carry loads ranging from 10 to 30 pounds.

Sizing, Accessories, & Other Versions


The Gorilla is one of the models we tested with mix and match pack and hip belt sizes. The main pack itself is available in three sizes depending on your torso length. After selecting the appropriate pack body, the hip belt is available in five sizes to fine-tune to your waist size. All of these hip belts, with the exception of the tiny x-small size, have the hip belt pockets we love on this pack. Find the available options here: GossamerGear.com.

While we love the size and performance of the Gorilla, some folks will seek a slightly larger volume pack. The Gossamer Gear Mariposa 60 shares the majority of the design features of the Gorilla, but is both taller and larger in girth. We recommend the Mariposa if you regularly carry a bear canister for your food; it fits into this larger pack more easily.

If you're in need of a stuff sack or pack cover check out the Sea to Summit Pack Cover and Sea to Summit Ultra-Sil Dry Sacks.
Brandon Lampley

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