Gear Review: Gossamer Gear Gorilla 40 Backpack
The Gossamer Gear Gorilla 40 ultralight backpack is best used for multiday hikes or thru-hikes. Experienced hikers who have a handle on their base weight will enjoy the Gorilla while being able to stay under the 30-pound load limit.
- Model: 2017 Gossamer Gear Gorilla 40L backpack
- Weight: 36 oz for size large
- Price: $100
Circumstance of Review
In the course of two thru-hikes and 4,000+ miles, I have been through four Gossamer Gear Gorilla packs. My version is from 2017. The 2018 version is very similar, but has an updated closure.
Appalachian Trail: 1,990 miles
I swapped to the Gorilla at mile 200 of the AT to get a smaller volume pack to force a pack shakedown. I had a sizing issue and problem with the sync cord metal grommet, which led to a free replacement of the pack in Central VA.
I used the second Gorilla for the remainder of the AT. Some creative hiking (sliding) over rocks in Maine led to holes in the bottom of this pack and my dry bag. That, plus the combination of shoulder strap stitching coming undone this pack got retired.
Pacific Crest Trail: 2,350 miles
I started the PCT with my third Gorilla and used it without the stay or hip belt until South Lake Tahoe at mile 1,095. I had a seam split in the Sierra while carrying a bear canister around the Pinchot Pass area. Also at this time I had issues with the shoulder strap stitching and another area on the pack. This pack was also replaced at no charge.
The fourth Gorilla made it from SLT all the way to Canada. With the exception of the metal grommet falling off, this pack is still in usable condition. I tried two other packs on the PCT during this time for about 300 miles but switched back to the Gorilla around Ashland, OR.
Weather and Terrain
Between the AT and the PCT, this pack tagged along with me in everything from snow to pouring rain, and of course some nice days in between.
The terrain was the full spectrum: ranging from full-on desert to snowy mountain passes. Through all these scenarios, the pack’s lightweight build combined with its other features performed well, despite minor issues.
Main compartment: No problem fitting a BV500 with seven days of food in the main pack compartment, in addition to other gear.
Frame: Lightweight metal stay integrated into the hip belt. This helps transfer load while wearing the pack.
Hip belt: Padded hip belt with adequately sized pockets.
Brain: Zippered brain for holding small, quick access items. I had little use for this after I got my gear streamlined.
Front mesh pocket: This pocket fits a large amount of gear that can be accessed quickly. Also great storing wet items to dry out while hiking.
Trekking pole holders: Plastic holders for trekking poles to attach them to the pack. Never leave trekking poles in a random hitch’s car again.
Ice axe holder: For holding ye olde axe for situations that don’t require it. Be careful with the pointy end—it will cut the pack.
Side pockets: Symmetrical side pockets are big enough for fitting two 1L SmartWater bottles or a 2L Platypus. Pocket design allows easy bottle access on the move, which is challenging on other 40L packs.
Hydration sleeve: The pack has a hydration sleeve for a bladder.
Modularity: Stay and hip belt can be easily removed for fast packing.
Worn with stay and hip belt
As long as I kept to the 30-pound load limit, the pack was comfortable. This includes hiking long, 12+ hour days in succession.
Worn with hip belt, without stay
During the AT, I found that the pack’s comfort wasn’t sacrificed by not using the stay as long as you used the hip belt and stayed within the load limit.
Worn without stay or hip belt
In the lightest configuration, careful attention must be paid to total weight. I used this configuration for the first 1,000 miles of the PCT and at times I had to stop just to rest my traps and shoulders.
Capacity: This is a generous 40L. A six-pack of your favorite beverage should fit in extension collar.
Pad holder: External pad storage also acts as the pack frame, and can be used as a seat. Place a ZLite in here and have three uses for ultimate weight savings.
Customer service: Excellent customer service for all products in my experience. This cottage-industry aspect sets this company above many others for me.
Main Pack Material Durability/ Stitching
I know other hikers have used the same Gossamer Gear pack for multiple thru-hikes, I have not been able to do that. I don’t tend to be overly cautious with my gear, so a pack with a thicker material may suit me better in the future. Gossamer Gear uses a custom material on their packs to cut weight. The material seems thin and I have rubbed holes in the bottom of my pack from getting too familiar with the rocks of Maine.
I have rubbed holes on my hip belt through normal use.
The shoulder strap stitching started to come undone on two separate Gorilla packs.
I also had a seam split on the Gorilla I used during the PCT.
In addition, the stitching of another section of the Gorilla I used on the PCT started to come undone.
No roll-top closure
A roll-top closure would be a great option for the Gossamer Gear Gorilla. I added a roll top to my Gorilla and prefer it to the cinch or over-the-top type closures.
Mesh pocket durability
During my AT thru-hike I got a few holes in the lightweight mesh pocket. I heard one firsthand account on the PCT of the pocket getting snagged on a tree, which led to catastrophic failure.
Grommet on cinch cord
I’ve had the metal grommet on two Gorillas fall off.
Not made in the US
At $265 (including a hip belt) you can buy comparable packs from US companies like ULA or Superior Wilderness Designs and support these smaller, US-made cottage brands.
Overall I would recommend the Gossamer Gear 40 Ultralight backpack. The 2017 is on sale for $100, which makes it a great pack for the money. While I had some durability issues with the Gorilla during both my thru-hikes, it never prevented me from finishing a section and all the issues were resolved quickly and professionally by Gossamer Gear. The updated version can be found here.
Comparable Packs to the Gossamer Gear Gorilla
ULA Photon 35L: 28 ounces, $145
Waymark Gear Thru 40L: 16 ounces, $210
Hyperlite Mountain Gear 2400 Southwest 40L: 1.88 pounds, $310
This item was not donated for purpose of review
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