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Gossamer Gear Gorilla Review

Delivers a perfect set of features, plenty of pockets, comfortable straps, and carries well
The 2018 Gossamer Gear Gorilla
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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
Manufacturer:   Gossamer Gear
By Jane Jackson & Brandon Lampley  ⋅  Apr 30, 2020
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84
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#2 of 14
  • Weight-to-Volume Ratio - 35% 8
  • Comfort to Carry - 25% 10
  • Features - 20% 7
  • Adaptability - 10% 8
  • Durability - 10% 9

Our Verdict

The Gossamer Gear Gorilla is an excellent ultralight backpack. It's not the most lightweight model tested, but it handles light to medium loads (up to 30 pounds) 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. 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.

Compare to Similar Products

Our Analysis and 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. The latest version of the Gorilla performed the same as the previous version, with the major difference being an over the top closure instead of a lid.

How to Get It:
Gossamer Gear products are not widely available at online or brick-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 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. A few packs weighed less, but none were as comfortable as the Gorilla when carrying more than 25 pounds.


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 ounce 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 a fairly high 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. The Gorilla has well-padded shoulder straps but also has the impressive 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 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.


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.

We liked the side straps on the Gorilla - a feature that the Mariposa lacks.
We liked the side straps on the Gorilla - a feature that the Mariposa lacks.

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.

Above is the 40-liter Gorilla next to the 60-liter Mariposa. In testing  we found their volumes to be closer than listed.
Above is the 40-liter Gorilla next to the 60-liter Mariposa. In testing, we found their volumes to be closer than listed.

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.

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 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 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.

An inside photo of the Gorilla loaded up with a small kit. The aluminum stay that makes up the frame (shown here) is super easy to remove.
An inside photo of the Gorilla loaded up with a small kit. The aluminum stay that makes up the frame (shown here) is super easy to remove.

Value


Because of its design and feature set, we feel like 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 latest version of the Gorilla with fully loaded external pockets.
The latest version of the Gorilla with fully loaded external pockets.

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