How to Choose the Right Ultralight Backpack: Top 5 Packs
Deciding on the best Gossamer Gear lightweight backpack for your time in the backcountry can be a daunting task. When purchasing a new backpack, think about the types of trips you will be taking. Whether it's high mileage backpacking, weekend warrior style outings, or day hikes, you will need a lightweight backpack that can hold your gear and offer the features you need.
Below, we'll help you choose between packs like the high-volume Mariposa, fan-favorite Gorilla, or ultralighter-dream Murmur. You'll learn the elements of each pack and key features that set them apart. After taking a look at the different backpack features and styles, you will know which pack is right for you!
So, get ready to learn more about the ins and outs of the:
- Mariposa 60
- Gorilla 50
- G4-20 Ultralight 42
- Kumo 36
- Murmur 36
We'll also leave you with some resources at the end to keep learning about lightweight backpacking and refining your trail experience.
1. Mariposa 60 Liter Lightweight Pack
The Mariposa 60 Backpack is the perfect option for anyone transitioning to ultralight backpacking. It has a capacity of 60 liters and can swallow all the gear you need, including a bear canister.
This pack has seven external pockets that offer a wide range of storage solutions, including an external tent sleeve, large mesh pocket for wet clothing, and roomy hipbelt pockets for your phone or snacks.
The Mariposa is made of a durable custom Robic fabric for those who are tough on their gear. This large volume pack is also an option for winter hikers who have more gear to carry on those sub-zero nights, as well as family campers when you need to carry extra stuff for the kids. The Mariposa does best with weights under 30 pounds, but can handle up to 35 pounds just fine.
- A size medium with a medium hipbelt weighs just 30.5 ounces (under two pounds!)
- Unisex ergonomic shoulder straps and hipbelts with ample padding for optimal comfort
- Center hydration port and internal sleeve for a water bladder
- Three sizes: Small, medium, and large, which accommodate torso lengths of 11.5” to 23.5”
I was a little nervous about ditching my bigger (heavier) name-brand pack for this one. I took the Mariposa out on a few overnighters to get a feel for it and experiment with loading. It all worked well! It held everything I needed and organization was easy. Then, I took it out for three weeks on the John Muir Trail… WOW! The heaviest the pack ever was, with seven days of food and one liter of water, was 30 pounds. Even at this weight, the suspension system kept me comfortable on the rocks and overpasses. And it only got better as the pack got lighter. I passed many PCTers with Mariposa packs (of all generations) and they all had great things to say about it too. It's a little dirtier now but it held up great. —John
2. Gorilla 50 Ultralight Backpack
The Gorilla 50 Ultralight Backpack has many of the same great features as the Mariposa, with some significant differences. The Gorilla Ultralight Backpack is a versatile mid-size pack ideal for 2- to 7-day adventures. A size medium has a total volume of 50 liters, and the webbing straps can be used to compress your pack when not carrying a full load.
Winner of Outdoor Gear Lab’s Editor’s Choice award for best mid-volume light backpack, the Gorilla's versatility, durability, and comfort make it the best weekend companion you’ll ever have.
- A size medium with a medium hipbelt weighs 29.8 ounces
- Unisex ergonomic shoulder straps and hipbelts with ample padding for optimal comfort
- Three pack sizes: Small, medium, and large, which accommodate torso lengths of 11.5″ to 23.5″
- Quick-release side compression buckles to hold your trekking poles or umbrella securely
I love this pack. It is light, comfortable, holds everything I need it to, and compresses down when I'm headed into town. I've loaded it with climbing gear for an overnight mountaineering trip as well as a 4-day trek on the PCT. I've also used it as a day pack when I needed bulkier layers. The accessible hipbelt and side pockets make my "snackpacking" strategy possible (I eat while walking). The removable frame is also nice for when I am carrying varying loads. The most versatile pack I own. —Heather
3. G4-20 Ultralight 42 Backpack
A modern nod to a vintage classic. A tip of the hat to an OG pack. We took what made the original "G4" so popular and roped in a gang of new fabrics and materials to create a minimal do-it-all frameless pack, the G4-20.
- A size medium weighs only 25 ounces
- Extendable roll-top with dual closure options
- Fixed hipbelt with two zip pockets
- Available in titanium grey and electric blue
I've been been backpacking for 35 years. I've always leaned toward ultralight gear, but I have never had a frameless pack, so I had some skepticism. I heard about Gossamer from a friend of mine who has five of their packs. Like me, he can be a bit of a gear addict! I used the G4-20 on a 4-day, 3-night trip in Kings Canyon National Park. With a 32lb. load at the start and around 27lb. at the finish, it was a perfect fit and hugged my body. I never felt pack fatigue, pressure points, or any discomfort the entire trip. I'm 6ft., 195lbs., and the large fit me perfectIy.
It takes a few days of use before you really start to notice and appreciate Gossamer's design and attention to detail. For instance, the angle of the water bottle pocket is perfect. I could easily reach it while hiking and put the bottle back without missing a stride. The deeper pocket was perfect for tent poles and the thinlight foam pad from Gossamer. This pack is transformational for me because it changed my thinking about frameless packs. I'm a convert. If you're under 35lbs. total pack weight, I would do it, without hesitation. Great job, Gossamer! —Kerry
4. Kumo 36 Liter Superlight Backpack
The Kumo 36 Superlight Pack is the perfect pack for day hikers, weekend adventurers, and thru-hikers who crush it in the minimalism department. A frameless pack that utilizes our removable fast belt, the Kumo can carry up to 25lbs. exceedingly well.
The rear mesh pocket is slanted to provide access without taking the pack off, and features two side water bottle pockets and side compression webbing for a variety of storage options. While the Kumo is a frameless pack, it can be paired with our airflow sitlight pad for a little extra support and increased ventilation when hiking in hot weather. Any hiker who wants more of an experience with less luggage will love the Kumo 36.
- A size medium weighs 20.5 ounces
- Dual stretchy shoulder strap pockets for easy access to your phone or snacks
- Dual hydration ports and internal tabs for a hydration bladder
- Now available in small and medium sizes, which accommodate torso lengths of 11.5" to 19.5" or more
Just took this pack on a 3-day trip through the Smokies on the AT. This is an awesome pack! The pack is the perfect size. I had enough room for my gear and food for three days, and had much more room to spare! The shoulder straps are very comfortable, as is the hipbelt with pockets. The sitlight pad also came in handy on many occasions. I found the pack perfectly comfortable with this pad as the frame. I would recommend this pack to anyone. It is very comfortable, reasonably sized, lightweight, and has excellent functionality. —Zach
5. Murmur 36 Liter Hyperlight Backpack
The Murmur Hyperlight Pack was designed by founder Glen Van Peski for those carrying a base weight of five pounds or less. The Murmur weighs 12.5 ounces with the included hipbelt and sitlight pad. It weighs a mere 7.9 ounces once you remove the sitlight pad and fast belt.
The Murmur does not lack prominent Gossamer Gear features, including side water bottle pockets, a large mesh pocket for wet clothing, and trekking pole holders. The main compartment can close two ways: roll top for a more streamlined shape, or clip the buckle together in a "dry bag" style to use the extension collar.
This pack is intended for true ultralight backpackers who carry a 5-pound base weight or less. For hardcore ultralighters, this pack may be suitable for multi-night hikes. To keep this pack as light as possible, 30D Cordura nylon is used for the main body and 70D Robic nylon for the bottom and select areas for some added durability. This pack should be used only on developed trails to avoid ripping the fabric on brushy trail.
- A size medium weighs 12.5 ounces with the sitlight pad and fast belt
- Frameless design
- Dual hydration ports and internal sleeve for a hydration bladder
- Unisex shoulder straps and waist belt
- One size: Fits torso lengths of 16" to 24"
I have some frameless ultralight backpacks that are made of cuben fiber, but despite being technically strong, they feel very vulnerable. The Murmur is super light, but doesn't feel at all flimsy. It looks good and seems to be incredibly tough. My dog took a liking to it at one point and even her big clumsy paws and claws didn't damage it. —Brian
Take Your Perfect Ultralight Backpack for a Hike
Now that you know all the details on five of our most popular lightweight backpacks, it's time to hit the trail!
Make sure to check out some of our other resources on the Light Feet blog for help sizing your pack, reducing condensation in your tent, and much more:
- Easily Size and Fit a Backpack: Your Ultimate How-To Guide
- Gorilla vs. Mariposa: How to Choose Which Backpack Is Right for You
- Pack Liners vs. Pack Covers: Which to Use for Backpacking
- How to Take Care of Your Gear Post-Hike (And Get Motivated to Do It)
- 4 Ways to Use a Hiking Umbrella for Your Dog
- 20 Creative and Fun Ways to Use a Carabiner
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