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Hands-on Gear Review
Gossamer Gear Gorilla Review
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.
In previous years, the Gossamer Gear Gorilla won our Editors' Choice Award. This year, by a very small margin, the Mariposa took the cake, but the Gorilla still stands as one of our favorite ultralight packs. 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. When carrying smaller loads, the Gorilla still holds its own and carries very well. 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. Basically, we love how this pack carries! In addition, the feature set on this pack is top notch. 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.
RELATED REVIEW: The Best Ultralight Backpacks for 2017
Our Analysis and Hands-on Test Results
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
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. Aside from the Gossamer Mariposa, the most similar model in form and performance is 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
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 a 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 day hikes and single overnighters. For a pack that can do just about everything, this is a great deal.
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.
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.
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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