"Is that a homemade pack?"

Quite possibly the most frequently asked question as my husband, Matt, and I traversed the 3,000 mile CDT this past summer was if we made our own packs. While neither of us could claim seamstress abilities, we were always ready with our answer, "Nope, these are Gossamer Gear G4s, and we love them."

Gear is inevitably a common topic out on the trail, especially packs. With so many options out there and just as many opinions to sway the purchase, sifting through all the information is daunting. Luckily I'm a spreadsheet-loving gear geek who jumped on the chance to compare packs before making a purchase, and I was always eager to discuss gear with anyone who showed an interest.

Monarch Pass

Heading down to water on the portion north of Monarch Pass

When it came time to compare packs, the field narrowed greatly once I took into account weight, functionality, and price. The G4 came out on top because it had a high weight and storage capacity considering how light it was, weighing in at just 16.5 ounces with a 30 pound capacity. Lastly, the price was very budget friendly. I also wanted my 3 foot sleeping pad to do double duty and act as my back pad. We each had a ten pound base weight, so twenty pounds of wiggle room to account for food and water seemed very forgiving, knowing we'd test the weight capacity a few times on the CDT because of extremely dry stretches or long resupplies between town for food.

Colorado CDT

Beautiful views in Colorado

The CDT was remote, rugged, and wild, and I was a little worried about the durability of the G4 when I first got it. Its featherweight category, the thin material, and the mesh pockets seemed like a recipe for disaster on a trail that included bushwhacking, but the mighty G4s held up. Our sleeping bags were able to spread out in the "flares" at the bottom, the material held up to our laziness in slinging the packs on the ground, and the outside pockets were great for quick access items like water, snacks, water purification, and maps.

CDT start

And so it begins… we had 5 days of food and 5 liters of water heading out from the start

Though the mesh pockets made the pack appear bigger and heavier than it was, we loved their functionality in drying damp gear in the back pocket and we used the small loops to dry socks. We also went stoveless, rehydrating foods like refried beans and noodles in a peanut butter jar, so we often let our food "cook" in the outside pockets. Both of us used the removable hip belts without pockets, though the tiny Velcro pockets were useful for small things like energy bars and trail mix.

fastpacking cdt

Our own personal geyser tour heading into Old Faithful. Pack was around 12 pounds here

From a female perspective, the pack isn't pretty, but function wins over fashion in any outdoor endeavor, though I'll admit a part of me secretly wants a pink pack. Both my husband and I found the fit of the straps, the sternum strap, and the hipbelt to be very comfortable. The pack became an extension of our backs, sitting so snugly at times that we were able to run the flats and the down hills on the days into town, the days we carried the least amount of food and therefore less weight.

While the packs won't be seeing many more 3,000 mile treks in the mountains, mine certainly has plenty of miles left on it. Its battle scars include some holes in the side mesh pockets, practically unavoidable in some of the poorly maintained sections of trail, and some tears in Matt's material from when he was a little rough in stuffing contents into it, so he'll either need a new one or a repaired one. We really tested the weight limits on the packs, at one point carrying 7 liters and 5 days of food in New Mexico, and while the packs were more uncomfortable (is that much weight ever comfortable?) we got away with it without compromising the integrity of the packs.

fastpacking continental divide trail

Matching shirts and packs here in northern Wyoming

The G4 was our first piece of Gossamer Gear and certainly won't be our last and we're looking forward to many future adventures with other Gossamer Gear products.

This post was written by former Trail Ambassador Julie 'Stopwatch' Urbanski, a Triple Crowner who has traveled through much of the U.S., whether on foot, via bicycle, or in a car. She has hiked the Pacific Crest Trail, the Appalachian Trail, the Continental Divide Trail, and the Colorado Trail (2007, 2011, 2013, 2012), and bicycled down the Pacific coast from Portland, Oregon to the border of Mexico.

We would love to publish your ultralight gear story. Please consider contacting us for further details.

January 15, 2014 — Brian Fryer