First impressions?!?! I've seen people spit on them! But I – curmudgeonly grumplestiltskin that I am – say
As an ultralight backpacker, thirsty for new adventures, I'm sure you want to find out about new gear and get an independent opinion, right? If you stick around waiting for a long-term review to be published, chances are by the time you read it the item reviewed will no longer be available. Look at the Haglöfs Ozo, for example. How I coveted it and lusted after it... and where is it now?
So instead, let's live in the moment and take a look at the new 2012 Gossamer Gear Mariposa. Gossamer Gear were kind enough to rush a new Mariposa size L pack over to me, hot off the production line. I'll be using this pack next week for a four/five day hike in Käsivarsi wilderness area, and I imagine after that I might have some further observations.
After ripping open the box in a frenzy of girlish excitement, I was immediately impressed by the quality. Seams are very securely stitched, and I like the stylish little V-seams on the lid – yes, it has a lid. Lids are in, don't you know?
Slapping it on the scales reveals it to weigh 725g for the pack and hipbelt, and 53g for the sitpad, which compares favorably to the listed weight of 783g. The volume on Gossamer Gear's site is listed as 4244cu in., or 69.5 liters. So it's a biggy, which is good as I'm planning on using it as my winter bag.
I was planning on taking some photos outside, but it's chucking it down, so that'll have to wait.
The bag has seven pockets – one large one on the left side, two on the right, a big mesh one on the front (or, if you like, back), one in the lid, and two on the hipbelt (which is removable, available in different sizes, and is very comfy). All of them (bar the hipbelt pouches) have a drip hole so water doesn't pool in them.
The mesh used on the front pocket is a fine weave, so shouldn't catch too many snags – a good thing as this is a susceptible area.
Well, that's a fine mesh you've got me into.
The tall left pocket looks very good for a shelter and poles, and might just about fit a tightly-tolled packraft. Alternatively, there is a shock-top system to attach items on top of the lid, but I doubt it would take a packraft very securely. I might be wrong though.
Although it doesn't come with side compression straps, there are numerous webbing loops sewn into the sides (8 per side) for you to attach your own in whatever configuration you want. Gossamer Gear also provide a couple of meters of shock cord and three cord locks fit for the purpose.
Heavens be praised, there are load lifters! On a pack designed for volume, and featuring an aluminium stay, load lifters are, if not absolutely essential, then certainly very much appreciated. (This is something I feel the Porter/Expedition is lacking)
It's great that Gossamer Gear listened to customers' opinions about the magnet closure system they had on earlier version of their new packs (on the internal "neck"). While I liked the idea, I felt it was a bit gimmicky. Others, however, made more salient points that the magnets might interfere with electronics and compasses. Now the magnets are no more, replaced with a simpler (and lighter?) draw cord solution.
Some hardcore ultralighters might say that the built-in, waterproof whistle on the sternum strap buckle is overkill, but I really like having it there. Recently I've been carrying a super-light whistle in my ditty bag, but I prefer it being on the pack itself. If you really have something agains such things, you can easily remove the whistle or sternum strap.
Lastly, the SitLight pad that comes with the pack is nice, but I'm happy to see that the pocket for it also fits a 4-piece Z-Lite even better. Rufus will be happy about that too, as I doubt he'd fit on the SitLight.
So, all in all, at first glance I'm very impressed, and look forward to wearing it in for a few days in what appears to
be becoming a winter trip.
Kilpisjärvi this week. Brrrr.
There are a couple of things I'll be paying attention to on the trip, though. One is slippage on the seat-belt style webbing used for the straps (shoulder, hip belt, and load lifters). It's quite smooth, and I wonder how it will perform when wet.
The zipper on the oh-so-trendy lid runs vertically, and is not sealed or covered. No doubt I'll keep maps in it in a ziploc, so it's not a big issue, but still, it feels a little like a design decision rather than a practical one. For example, I can just about open the pack lid zipper on my huckePACK and remove the map without taking off the pack. Not so, I fear, with the Mariposa.
The shoulder straps also seem a little snug on my neck. Either that or my neck is more Neanderthal than previously believed. We'll see how this changes when fully loaded.
It will be very interesting to compare the Mariposa to Roger's HMG Porter, which I see as one of the main competitors packs at the moment. I had a brief look at Jaakko's Porter Expedition and it was a nice pack – but there were some things I really didn't like, most notably the hipbelt which I felt, on such a large pack, was somewhat inadequate, and should have been removable rather than sewn in. Add to that the lack of load lifters, no front pockets, no hip belt pockets, no side pockets, a hydration bladder pocket with no holes for tubes (odd decision) and I felt it was a little disappointing for what is a very expensive pack. Some of the stitching was already stretching on Jaakko's pack too, compromising it's waterproofness, a fact not aided by untaped seams. To be fair (and contrary to my original understanding) the HMG Porter/Expedition is not described as being 100% waterproof, but the material it is made of is; an important distinction. However, it is described as being 100% rainproof, but those stretched, untaped seams, and from what I've heard, I find that hard to believe. As I've stated elsewhere, my feeling is that if you have to carry a liner bag to protect your gear, then there isn't much point in the bag attempting to be rain- or water-proof. You might as well carry any ultralight pack.
The Gossamer Gear Mariposa, of course, is not a waterproof pack, and I'll therefore be using the cuban fiber pack liner that has served me well in the past. It'll be interesting to see how it settles in to a few days hiking, and how it copes with heavier, packrafting-oriented loads over the coming months.