Gossamer Gear Gorilla Review
Cons: A little small for a bear canister
Manufacturer: Gossamer Gear
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.
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
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.
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 ounce water bottle or other items.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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, 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