After a recent backpacking and camping adventure in the Pharaoh Lakes Wilderness Area of New York’s Adirondack Park, a friend of mine who had just been camping with us decided that he’d like to give backpacking a try. He asked me for advice on what equipment he would need, and my first thoughts were, “well, you’re going to need a pack!”
Initially, I wasn’t sure what to suggest. He didn’t have a super compressible down backpacking quilt, and his big dome tent wouldn’t fit in even the most gargantuan of expedition packs. The truth was, he had to start from scratch, and that was good news. Starting from scratch meant avoiding most of the mistakes people make when they get into backpacking. I made those mistakes, and they cost me a lot of money and a bit of discomfort on the trail.
Thinking it over, there was only one pack I could recommend for a newbie backpacker: The Gossamer Gear Gorilla. At this point, I had been using the Gorilla for just under a year, but there was no doubt in my mind. If he was willing to start fresh and order a new sleeping bag (or quilt) and consider sleeping in an ultralight shelter or tarp, the Gorilla would be right for him too.
Introduction to the Gossamer Gear Gorilla
The Gossamer Gear Gorilla is a 46 liter ultralight pack modeled after Ray Jardine’s original grocery sack. It features two large side pockets for holding water bottles, one extra-large mesh pocket for carrying wet gear or day needs, two smallish hip belt pockets for easy access items, and a flat zip pocket on top which is great for maps and guides.
All together, the pack weighs 26 ounces, but that can be reduced by moving components:
- Pack Body: 14.9.1 oz (medium)
- Hip Belt: 5.2 oz
- Aluminum Stay: 3.4 oz
- Sitlight Pad: 2.0 oz
The aluminum stay is an optional and can be inserted when carrying extra heavy loads, like a lot of water if you’re crossing a desert. For most weekend backpacking, it isn’t necessary. The sitlight pad can be inserted in the back panel for extra support, or can be swapped out for a full length or torso length pad. The hip belt, which I always use, helps to transfer weight to your hips and keeps the pack from swaying while you walk.
The Gorilla uses an interesting closure system that Gossamer Gear calls “Over the Top.” It’s a bit different from the roll top closures found on most ultralight packs. At first it doesn’t seem as if it will allow you to close the pack very well when it is stuffed with a full load of gear and food, but it always manages to seal up tight. That said, this pack isn’t waterproof. You should always line it with a big plastic bag. I also recommend hiking with a poncho that can be draped over your pack.
If you’re looking to start backpacking from scratch, and you’re willing to buy all new lightweight gear, then I suggest starting with the Gossamer Gear Gorilla.