Gear Review: Gossamer Gear Silverback 50
Gossamer Gear has been a prominent brand in ultralight backpacking for almost 20 years. They have a reputation for simple, lightweight, high-functioning gear. I used the Silverback 50 on my CDT thru-hike last year and wanted to share my thoughts on the pack.
- Sizing: Available in small, medium, and large
- Capacity: 50L
- Weight: The .arge weighs in at 2.4lbs, or 1.1kg
- MSRP: $129 on the GG website (discounted because the pack is being redesigned)
The Silverback is based on the popular “Gorilla” that has been on the market for years. The major differences are the materials, and the Silverback having 10 liters more capacity. This pack is designed for harsh conditions and thorny, sharp plants such as in New Mexico on the CDT. It is constructed of 210 denier Robic Nylon, a tougher fabric than the 70-denier fabric used on the Gorilla. The Silverback uses Extreema on the exterior pocket, brain, and side pockets, whereas the Gorilla uses mesh.
Gossamer Gear packs are not made from waterproof materials such as Dyneema Composite Fabric (Cuben Fiber). This is not an issue for me as I always use a trash compactor bag or dry sacks to waterproof my gear. The Silverback and all packs made by Gossamer Gear come in only one color. The gray color goes well with everything, doesn’t show dirt, and doesn’t stand out in a crowd, something I really appreciate while traveling.
Like most good ultralight packs, the Silverback is very simple in its design. It is comprised of one large compartment accessed from the top via a brain, a large front pocket, and a water bottle pocket on each side. Shoulder straps and a hip belt round out the design.
The main compartment is super simple. Inside there is only one pocket for a hydration bladder, should you choose to use one. The collar of the main compartment opens tall, enabling you to overfill the pack if necessary.
The Silverback uses a conventional drawstring closure at the top and then a brain to cinch down the pack from above. The brain also has a pocket that’s useful for storing items you want to access to throughout the day. I’m not in love with packs that have a brain; they can be quite fiddly to adjust and they look quite ugly, but an extra pocket is nice. Luckily, the brain is completely removable and if it’s not something you will use then you can save some weight by leaving it at home.
Large exterior pockets on a thru-hiking pack are essential, in my opinion, and Gossamer Gear has done an excellent job. I thought at first I’d miss the stretchy mesh of my ULA Ohm but I had no issues with the solid material used on the pocket. This pocket was usually where I would stash my tent and rain gear; you could argue that having mesh might enable wet gear to dry faster but in my experience the only way to dry gear is to hang it up in the sun and/or wind.
I did tear the material of the pocket somewhere in New Mexico but the desert is super tough on gear and I can’t fault it for that. A quick fix with Gorilla tape on the inside and out and I was good to go.
Water Bottle Pockets
Big enough water bottle pockets are still something that backpacking companies do wrong (Osprey, cough). Gossamer Gear again got it right; large and stretchy with a drainage hole at the bottom should something leak.
The mesh used on the hip belt and the shoulder straps is one of my favorite features of the pack. It is extremely comfortable and has larger pores than other types of mesh, which helps wick away sweat. After hiking the CDT with the Silverback it still doesn’t smell. I’m currently traveling with the pack and it’s a little grubby and beat up, but at least it doesn’t smell.
The hip belt is nicely padded and very comfortable. The pockets on the hip belt could be a little bigger; coming from the pockets on the ULA it was always going to be hard to beat as they are huge.
Wide and with good padding, the shoulder straps are very comfortable. On average I’d say my pack weight was around 20-25 lbs on the CDT. The sternum strap does its job well but I’d like to see load lifter straps on the pack to really dial in a personal fit. On the CDT I used a product called the Keyhole, enabling me to quickly grab my camera.
Back Panel / Butt Pad
I love a good butt pad. In my opinion it’s totally worthwhile carrying a stand-alone butt pad, but with the Gossamer Gear packs you don’t need to. On the back panel of the pack are two elasticated sleeves that hold in a piece of closed cell foam, which serves double duty as cushioning for your back while you hike and cushioning for your butt when you take a break. It’s also nice to be insulated from the cold, wet ground.
Compression Straps and Ice Axe Loop
The Silverback has two simple compression straps on each side to compress the load and take a little pressure off the stitching of the main body. Me, being dumb and trying to save weight, cut them off and immediately regretted it.
At the bottom of the pack is an ice axe loop and a system to stash trekking poles. I didn’t really use them and instead stashed my ice axe and trekking poles in the main exterior pocket when not using them.
Overall Comfort and Usage
The pack uses an aluminum frame that does an excellent job at distributing the weight down into the hip belt. As mentioned, I had an average pack weight of around 20-25 pounds and it handled the load well. The hip belt and shoulder straps are nicely padded without going overboard and feel secure and stable when going up and down steep climbs. The only changes I’d like to see made would be the inclusion of load lifter straps.
A Few Criticisms
The brain: I kind of like it… but not really. I believe Gossamer Gear was testing out the brain concept with the Silverback and Gorilla but has switched back to the old lid design. I’m not sure if I like that design either. I think I’d just rather have a roll-top closure with a compression strap over the top.
Hip belt buckle: I didn’t have a single issue with this while on the CDT but now that I’m traveling with the Silverback, the hip belt buckle has popped open a few times. I’m probably carrying close to 30 pounds of gear in the pack right now, and a few times the buckle has failed when I’m wearing the bag.
The Silverback Is Being Remodeled
The Silverback is currently going through a remodel. Gossamer Gear informed me that the changes aren’t major, it’s mainly just the redesigned lid as previously mentioned. The older version of the pack is currently being sold for $129, and once they’re gone they’re gone. I recommend picking up a Silverback if they are still available for that price—it’s a complete steal. If not, then check out the Gorilla or wait for the updated Silverback.
I hope you enjoyed the review. If you want to see all the rest of the gear I used on the my CDT thru-hike click here.
Happy Trails, Pie
Disclosure: This pack was donated by Gossamer Gear, but my thoughts on the Silverback are 100% my own.
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