Last pack I ever buy – Which one?

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Viewing 25 posts - 1 through 25 (of 27 total)
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  • #3783571
    BPL Member


    Locale: PNW

    Hello, I’ll try to be concise about this question (oops, fail).

    I’m looking at the GG Mariposa and the ULA Circuit.  I’m 60 years old and am returning to backpacking after a 30yr sojourn into sailing.  I’m building out a modern kit with UL principles, but I would sacrifice a few ounces for comfort. So, somewhere between a 10 and 15lb base.  I’m not a thru-hiker, primarily 2-4 nights here in the PNW.  At 5’6″ 160lb I often find myself right between sizes.  My goals for what may be my last backpack are, <3lb, awesome fit and comfort on trail, minimalist but not just a sack, and durable.

    Any thoughts, experiences with the Mariposa or Circuit?  Any other suggestions?

    David Hartley
    BPL Member


    Locale: Western NY

    Do you have the rest of your kit sorted? I say that because my initial reaction is that for 2-4 night trips in 3 seasons in the PNW the Mariposa might be a bit too big (I don’t have direct experience with the Circuit, but I think it is similar volume). BUT if your kit includes a typical solo double wall tent and you have a synthetic sleeping quilt (and especially a synthetic bag) the volume might be appropriate.

    I use the older 40 liter Gorilla for solo trips – but that is with a down bag, a SMD Deschutes tarp, and 4 days of food. Week long trips with my brother in shoulder seasons, with more insulation, a larger shelter, and more food, pushes me into the Mariposa.

    As far as durability, the Mariposa is fine for trail hiking – just don’t drag it on granite – you will be patching a hole.

    Why do I like the Gossamer Gear packs – the fit – for me at least. They have a wide shallow profile that conforms to my back (the downside is poor ventilation, but you can’t have everything). The frame and hip belts are just OK, but seem to fit me fine. Another note – the load lifters on the Mariposa a kind of decorative – they are a couple of inches above the frame, so they don’t pull the frame/load closer as well as packs where the frame extends to the load lifters.

    BC Bob


    Locale: Vancouver Island

    I’m a big fan of the LiteAF packs.  Depending on your total load requirements, the frameless Ultra 35L Curve would be a good choice (up to 20 lbs).  Or the Ultra 40L Curve with a frame for a heavier load.  I have both.

    BPL Member


    Locale: Northern California

    Do you use a bear canister? These change the equation, for me at least.

    I like a well structured pack to get the weight off my shoulders and onto my hips. For some, this is less important.

    It’s hard to advise another what to buy without knowing what their needs/expectations are.

    BPL Member


    Locale: PNW

    Yes, I’ve saved the pack for last.

    Sleep kit:

    • Katabatic Flex 22 Quilt (used backyard only so far, super happy)
    • Therm-A-Rest NeoAir (used several times and happy with trepidations)
    • Nemo Switchback – short (kinda use as a non-skid, used similar back in the day exclusively)

    Shelter Kit:

    • Katabatic Bristlecone Bivy (just got and have not tried yet, will review)
    • SlingFin NFT (just got and have not tried yet, will review)
      • Also have a Six Moons Lunar Solo that I used last year but I don’t always like being in an enclosed tent, example is camping on gravel bars.

    I’m thinking that with the larger volume I would not need to compress the quilt and it would be the base to the bear can.  Need a pack that can accommodate a bear cannister, and preferably not strapped on top.  If the pack is light and can compress to the contents, then why skimp?  I’d also like to not have items strapped to outside out of need for space.

    BPL Member


    Locale: PNW

    Yes, in the Olympic National Park, bear cans are required.  I currently use a BV450.  I should have mentioned that a prerequisite would be to accommodate a BV500 or similar.

    BPL Member


    Locale: PNW

    What’s hard is that you can’t go to a backpacking shop and try these “cottage” gear offerings side by side.  I see the review roundups and just don’t know if I can trust them.  I’m old school and think it’s wasteful to buy and return.  I like to hear anecdotal stories like “the ULA Circuit was the most common pack I saw on the PCT this year”.



    Locale: The Cascades

    I’m a fan of the SWD pack I have. I live in Arlington, you’re welcome to stop by and check it out if it’s not too far.

    DWR D
    BPL Member


    If your only weight requirement is less than 3 lbs, you may not need to buy a cottage company pack. Go to REI if you are close enough and try on the packs. And try the Osprey packs, I find them to be very comfortable. I have an Osprey Exos 58 at just under 3 lbs and find it very comfortable and it will carry a bear can nicely. And the Exos 58 Pro is just over 2 lbs…

    David U


    Have a look at Waymark Gear.  Wide range of lightweight packs that are durable, carry very well, and are well thought out.  Should last many years of regular use.

    Victor Jorgensen
    BPL Member


    Locale: Northern California

    “Need a pack that can accommodate a bear cannister, and preferably not strapped on top. “

    Nunatak has designed a few  pack models that accomplishes this.  There is one being offered right now in gear swap that will accommodate a Bear Vault 500.  This could be a good deal if the belt size and torso length works for you.

    I am awaiting delivery on the UL framed version with custom color choices.  Wait time is pretty reasonable.  There was a good review on the unframed version on this website .  Some people say carrying the canister on top is better.   But I am willing to try the more stable arrangement of the bear canister behind the hip belt.  I will know more in a couple of weeks.  Good luck with your search.

    Terran Terran
    BPL Member


    When I was 60 , I thought everything I bought was the last.
    order it and if it doesn’t fit, return it. That’s their business model, not yours. That’s how they stay in business. It’s a virtual showroom much cheaper than brick and mortar. Use it.

    An empty canister on top is fairly light. The way the new local orders read is that if you’re not cooking, the food needs to be secured. No exception for transporting it on your person, meaning your bear can, urasack must be loaded.

    BPL Member


    I used to use a Mariposa for my winter trips.  Then I decided I wanted something a little more robust and stronger waist belt with pockets, so I went with the Circuit in Xpak material.  I carried that pack in my NPT thruhike last September.. 7 days thru the Adirondack Mountains.. carrying all my gear ( minimal ) and a Bearikade Blazer packed with 8 days food.. it fit inside the pack perfectly and my starting weight WITH food and 2 liters of water was 31 lbs. It was comfortable and i was hiking 15- 20 mile days without even thinking about my pack. I also used it last winter on all of my trips, carrying snowshoes, 4 season 3P tent and below freezing/ snow storm gear, again, around 25 – 30 lbs with food, and again, it was a pleasure. Though I do have another pack I will try next winter, waiting on my shelf is a Cold Cold World Chaos pack.

    Its hard to recommend a pack to anyone because so many different variables.. and I myself have been through almost every brand pack over last 10+ years,  so I will tell you this.. browse You tube or the net and look up “The Best Backpack Ever” or ” The Last Backpack I will Ever Buy” or ” I finally Found the Perfect Backpack”..  I bet they are all different and I am willing to wager that 90%, if not more of them.. from last year and before.. well, they are probably using different packs by now.

    BPL Member


    Backpacks are like shoes…they fit everybody differently.  Agree with Terran Terran…you have to use the try and return model that the cottage manufacturers supply.  The only “waste” is the shipping and that is about as efficient as it can get.

    I’ve been using the same ZPacks Dyneema x-grid Arc Haul since 2015.  It’s not the new bling but it fits me, holds all my gear and I really like it.  I’d probably just buy another one if I needed to replace it.  Understand that this is at least my 10th pack in the past 20 years.  The Arc Haul has suited me MUCH longer than any other.

    Granite Gear, a brand that isn’t mentioned much around here, always fit me well.  I still have the Granite Gear Crown 60 that the Arc Haul replaced but is relegated to being a loaner pack.  Also have the Granite Gear Blaze 60 (that the Crown replaced) and still use it when the loads get large.  I have multiples of packs, pads, bags/quilts, baselayers and insulation, etc that are suited to different scenarios.

    Jeffrey H
    BPL Member


    You may be able to find some niche retailers that will allow you to try on the packs you want. I was able to try on the mariposa 60 about 4 years ago at Jenifer Pharr Davis’ shop in Asheville, NC.

    I think her main business is taking people backpacking who’ve never been and renting out all the gear. Then if they enjoyed it enough I guess they sell them the same gear they used (shrug). Either way they had a lot of cottage gear on the shelves you wouldn’t find at a normal outfitter.

    So a place that does something like that in your area may be something to look into.

    Bruce Tolley
    BPL Member


    Locale: San Francisco Bay Area

    Just to echo some points made above, if < 3 lbs, fit/comfort, and carrying a bear canister are goals, try your local REI.  They have been carrying a couple of different Granite Gear packs, every now and then HMG packs are in the stores or on the website, the Osprey Exos is mentioned above, and there is the REI Flash.  You can take all your kit into the store and see what size you need and test for fit.

    BTW just published a glowing review of the ULA Circuit.

    Maybe you have already checked out this website. publishes a survey of gear folks on the PCT have used.  I have never been clear how he finds the 900 or so folks who fill out the surveys but it does give you an idea of what kind of packs are being used, and which are most popular among the people who filled out the survey. The Circuit was No 1 last year and the Mariposa No 2, followed by the HMG Southwest, and the Osprey Exos.


    Mustard Tiger


    Locale: West Coast

    I recently replaced my old pack and went with a Durston Kakwa 40. Carrying a Katabatic 22 degree quilt (wide/long), X-Mis Pro 2, NeoAir XLT in wide/long. Will be using that set -up for everything 3-season from quick overnights to thru-hikes.

    Went with the Kakwa 40 over other packs because of the frame while still being very light. My base pack weight now is just over 12lbs, keeping in mind I’m 6’2″ tall and 200+ lbs. The pack was easy to dial in a great fit, even for my long torso.

    I’ve carried a few ultralight frameless packs in the past and don’t feel restricted in any way with the Kakwa 40. Most of my past hiking and backpacking was in Colorado and never carried a bear can. Now that I’m in California I’m debating on whether I’ll carry a BV 450 when required.

    Ken Larson
    BPL Member


    Locale: Western Michigan

    If you plan to do many year of backpacking and you are willing  to have a pack that meet needs and that will be guaranteed comfortable……save your money and purchase a personalized McHale pack and you will never regret you purchase. I`m talking as a person who has had many packs I thouht were going to met my needs and found by use them in many different environments over the 60+ years of use they didn’t. If I went with McHale pack in the beginning I would have save many dollars and would have been a Happier Backpcker.



    Lowell k
    BPL Member


    I came to the same conclusion, mine is being made as we speak.

    AK Granola
    BPL Member


    Reading through the comments, I had to remember why I returned my ULA Circuit. I had saved my return message – couldn’t reach the side pockets or the hip belt pockets when the pack was fully loaded, i.e., no snacks or water while hiking. I also had a hard time fitting my bear canister inside the pack, even vertically. They were great about the return though. But it speaks to needing to try on a pack fully loaded with your own gear, so you know whether it will work for you.

    The ULA Circuit is a very similar pack to the Granite Gear Blaze 60, which is what I have now and like a lot. On the Blaze I can easily reach my water bottles and the large hip belt pockets are right in the front, very convenient. It handles a bear canister very well. Although it’s a bit heavier pack, it is nice for bigger food or water carries. I find that even when I have a lighter load, I still enjoy using this pack rather than switching out to one of the other ones around the house. Like dirtbag with his Circuit, I can hike a lot of miles with a fair bit of weight in it and not really have any back/shoulder fatigue. It just carries really well. I try to limit to 30 and under full weight, and ideally less than that. Depends on the food and water carries though.

    I could lighten it up a bit  and use a different pack for some of my trips, but I keep going back to this pack regardless of the hike. For example, I have a GG Crown VC 60 which is a full pound lighter. But it feels more like a saggy sack on my back, without the structure. I also have an REI Flash 45 which is a nice size for lighter loads. I wouldn’t put a bear can in it though, or carry 4 liters of water.

    I’m still curious about the Mariposa, and also about the HMG packs, but what I have now works so well I’m inclined to make it last as long as possible. The only flaw in the Blaze I’ve found on many many nights of use, is that the side pockets would catch rainwater and hold it. So I visited a local place that custom makes tarps and tents and whatnot, and they put in grommets at the bottom of each pocket. Still to be tested with a downpour! (The place wasn’t even going to charge me – nice guys! I insisted on paying something, so I paid $10. Use your local craftspeople!)

    Maybe it will be my last pack, my GG Blaze. I hope not though; I hope at age 59 I can wear the damn thing out and need to buy at least one if not two more!

    BPL Member


    Locale: PNW

    This has been great, my first post, and what a nice, thoughtful, and useful set of replies from the BPL community!

    I know that there is no universal answer to the question of “if I can only buy one backpack, and it may be my last, what should it be?”.  AK Granola, the GG Blaze is certainly on my list, and thanks for your insights.  Terran Terran’s observation that “try it and return it, it’s their business model” was also helpful.  And all the comments were nice and helpful.

    So, because I need something soon, I have ordered a pack from a company that just gave me a good vibe.  Whether that ends up being the “Last pack I ever buy”, or one that I return, remains to be seen.  I will update you all with a review of my experience, though I’m sure it will be an experience unique to myself.  But hey, just sharing. ;^)

    Cheers, and happy hiking!

    Mark Verber
    BPL Member


    Locale: San Francisco Bay Area

    Nor the lightest pack, but I continue to be tempted by  Hanchor MARL and the lighter Hanchor TUFA whose size “R” qualify as carry on bags which is increasingly important to me.

    I find these very pretty, beautifully made, and seems to carry well.  I haven’t had a chance to carry for an extended distant. Trying to arrange to rent one for a long weekend before I leave TW.

    A review of version 1 of the pack


    Martin Van Laarhoven
    BPL Member


    Locale: NorthEast

    I bought last month the Mariposa 60 Backpack, and I can say that I am pretty delighted with it. It’s very light and has a lot of pockets for all my items + the price is best for what it offers.

    I paid for it 240$ with a 15% discount. If you still think to get it, use the code MILFRGVT15. Found it while browsing through these coupon codes. You might find there discount codes and deals for all kinds of gear.


    Matthew / BPL


    I have ordered a pack from a company that just gave me a good vibe.

    Ao what did you end up with and how is it working for you?

    BPL Member


    Locale: PNW

    I ended up selecting the ULA Circuit Ultra.  Fantastic customer service helped me configure a very good fit, which is tough because I seem to always be on the borderline between sizes.  The size seems a bit long empty, but under a modest load settles in wonderfully.

    Started a recent 5 night trip in Olympic NP with about 26lbs and walked out at 19lbs.  All I  can say is it was amazing, comfortable,  functional, and light.

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