About the Guide’s Gear Award
The Backpacking Light Guides Gear Award identifies products that are recommended by the guides and instructors of Backpacking Light’s Wilderness Trekking School. These products have been proven in the field to offer exceptional performance, durability and value for their weight. Premarket or otherwise “new” products (less than one season old) do not qualify for the Guide’s Gear Award. Instead, the Guide’s Gear Award is given to those products that our guides and instructors use on a regular basis, not only on their Wilderness Trekking School courses and expeditions, but also for their own personal use. Every award recipient must meet the standard outlined in the following criteria statement:
“Guide’s Gear should represent products that are at the very top of their category in terms of their performance-to-weight ratio. Such products should be versatile and adaptable to a very wide range of environmental conditions and activity contexts, durable enough for rigorous use over an extended period of time, and embody state of the art design, materials, and manufacturing techniques. Guide’s Gear should reflect a simple and beautiful design aesthetic, address core functionality through exceptional performance, be intuitive to use, and contain no significant flaws or deficiencies. Guide’s Gear should reflect the unequivocal recommendation of experienced guides that is based on proven, long-term experience with the gear, complete with an understanding of the limitations of that gear.”
Guide’s Gear Award No. 1: Gossamer Gear Mariposa Backpack
Category: Backpacks for On-Trail Hiking
The Gossamer Gear Mariposa may pack more features into two pounds than any other pack on the market, including a solid suspension, a massive amount of gear-organizing capability, materials that are durable enough without costing a fortune, and enough volume for four-season use in cold climates.
The Mariposa offers very comfortable load handling at weights of less than 25 pounds, and carries up to 30+ well enough if you’re saddled with food weight at the beginning of a trek or thru-hike section. It accomplishes this with a simple internal frame (a feature sadly lacking on most so-called ultralight packs) and a very wide padded hip belt. Compared to the “gunny sacks” out there with their narrow belts and conspicuously absent suspensions, the Mariposa is a load carrying Cadillac in terms of comfort.
Its best feature is a design optimized for organizational efficiency and ease of access to lots of gear without opening the main packbag compartment. External pockets include a large rear pocket, three side pockets, two hip belt pockets, one top lid pocket, trekking pole and ice axe attachment points, and loops for customizing a bungee system for attachment and compression. With 36 liters of capacity in the main compartment and a whopping extra 21 liters in external pockets, small volumes can be carried without the pack carrying like a bag of slop, and there’s plenty of overflow for winter travel in cold weather (when high volume insulating gear takes up pack space).
A combination of 100 and 200 denier nylons give the pack enough durability for thru-hiking and other trail endeavors without excessive weight or cost.
Best for: on-trail use, thru-hiking, medium-to-large volume loads, those who need to access lots of gear while on the trail.
Limitations: Class 2+ scrambling or canyon hiking / bushwhacking (fabric durability limitation), very small volume loads, 40+ pound loads, those who need to lash large items to their packs (e.g., skis, snowshoes, packrafts).