Hands-on Gear Review

Gossamer Gear Gorilla Review

The 2018 Gossamer Gear Gorilla
Price:  $260 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
Bottom line:  The Gorilla delivers a perfect set of features, plenty of pockets, comfortable straps, and carries well.
Editors' Rating:   
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Total Weight (ounces):  31.5 oz
Stripped Weight (ounces):  27.5 oz
Claimed Volume (liters):  40 L
Manufacturer:   Gossamer Gear

Our Verdict

A past Editors' Choice winner, the Gossamer Gear Gorilla is an excellent ultralight backpack. It's sibling, the Gossamer Gear Mariposa, took over the highest honor in our latest review, but we're still big fans of the Gorilla. It's not the most lightweight model tested, but it handles light to medium loads (up to 30 lbs) with ease and 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. When carrying smaller loads, the Gorilla still holds its own and carries very well. Furthermore, the removable egg crate contoured "SitLight" foam back panel offers top-notch ventilation. Basically, we love how this pack carries! The feature set on this pack is stacked, too. With large external pockets on the back and a large lid for stowing smaller items, there is plenty of storage space inside and out on this pack.

Product Update
Gossamer Gear informed us of some modifications to the lid design of the Gorilla that were implemented in the final days of 2017. The latest version is pictured above. More details on the update are found below.


RELATED REVIEW: The Best Ultralight Backpacks for 2018


Our Analysis and Test Results

Review by:
Jane Jackson & Brandon Lampley

Last Updated:
Wednesday
January 31, 2018

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The 2018 Gorilla Vs. The 2017 Gorilla


Gossamer Gear reverts to the original lid design for the 2018 iteration of the Gorilla. Not a huge change. The price also jumped a bit. The 2017 Gorilla is available (until stock runs out) on the Gossamer website, linked below, at a huge discount. If the lid design isn't a priority for you, grab the less expensive 2017 version. Below is a side-by-side photo with the 2018 model on the left of the 2017 version.

The 2018 Gossamer Gear Gorilla
The 2017 Gossamer Gear Gorilla

Hands-On Review of the 2017 Gorilla


The Gossamer Gear Gorilla earned high scores for both load carrying comfort and durability. 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, and easy to pack, the Gorilla is precisely 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

Performance Comparison


The Gorilla is durable and versatile. The pack carries both heavy and light loads with ease.
The Gorilla is durable and versatile. The pack carries both heavy and light loads with ease.

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 less, but none were as comfortable as the Gorilla when carrying more than 25 pounds. Aside from the Gossamer Mariposa, the most similar model in form and performance is the ULA Ohm 2.0, weighed 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 extra room for a 20 oz water bottle or other items. The Gossamer Gear Mariposa has a slightly larger volume, with minor additional weight, making it an excellent option for those looking to have somewhat more flexibility and space in a pack.

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 an 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 three models that we tested that earned a "Great" rating for carrying comfort with both 15 and 30-pound loads. Similiar to the Gossamer Gear Mariposa, 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 ten days in January on the Appalachian Trail. Up and down through the Great Smoky Mountains, it felt delightful. Additionally, this is the most accessible model to remove the frame and hip belt from for super light loads when you want.

The ULA Ohm 2.0, which is quite similar 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. Also, 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 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. We also liked the large external pocket on the ULA Circuit, which is similar to that of the Gorilla. The Granite Gear Virga 2, however, lacked in this metric because its external pockets were too small to do much with.


The hip belt pockets on this pack aren't oversized; we found each can fit three 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.

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 efficiently 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 main difference between the Gorilla and the Mariposa (besides volume) is the top closure style. The Gorilla has a removable lid, whereas the Mariposa has a fold-over closure system that is a bit more streamlined but lacks the extra storage space.

Here is the Mariposa and the Gorilla side by side  unpacked. The two packs are similar in size and design  but the Mariposa is more versatile in the range of loads it can carry comfortably.
Here is the Mariposa and the Gorilla side by side, unpacked. The two packs are similar in size and design, but the Mariposa is more versatile in the range of loads it can carry comfortably.

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.

Just like the award-winning Gossamer Gear Mariposa, the Gorilla can be used to carry heavy loads, after a re-supply or the beginning of a trip, or light loads, like food and water for a day hike from camp. 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 bungee cords crisscrossing 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 are looking for a pack with a more integrated external lashing system, check out the Haglofs L.I.M. Strive 50, which has bungees already incorporated into the pack's design.


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.

The shoulder straps on the Gorilla are well padded and comfortable  even when the pack is loaded down for a multi-day trip.
The shoulder straps on the Gorilla are well padded and comfortable, even when the pack is loaded down for a multi-day trip.

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.


We feel the Gorilla, as well as the Gossamer Gear Mariposa, 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 appreciated the confidence this frame offers 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 model 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 day hikes 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 $260 ($215 for the pack, $45 for the optional hip belt, which we recommend), 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 day hikes and single overnighters. For a pack that can do just about everything, this is a great deal.

Conclusion


With a great set of features and a durable aluminum frame for carrying comfort, the Gossamer Gear Gorilla truly is one of the best ultralight models 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.

The Gossamer Gorilla's large side pockets are a perfect fit for a Nalgene.
The Gossamer Gorilla's large side pockets are a perfect fit for a Nalgene.

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, except for the tiny x-small size, have the hip belt pockets we love on this pack.

While we love the size and performance of the Gorilla, some folks will seek a slightly larger volume pack. The 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.
Jane Jackson & Brandon Lampley

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Most recent review: January 31, 2018
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OutdoorGearLab Editors' Rating:  
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