Our Marvelous Mariposas

We were having a leisurely "working" afternoon in bordertown La Quiaca (Argentina), entering in data collection and treasuring our last sips of Argentine wine before crossing into Bolivia, when the e-mail from Grant Sible at Gossamer Gear came through. He asked if we were interested in testing out their new Mariposa 2012 Ultralight Backpack to which, after a teenage screaming-jumping fest, we happily accepted.

The Mariposas are integral to our lightweight mission and have become part of our identity- we're those chicas locas with those impossibly small gray packs. "That's all you have for the year?" is a question we receive regularly. The pack weighs in at a mere 27 ounces, several pounds lighter than a woman-specific traditional backpack averaging four to five pounds. The Mariposa cuts out the crap from a traditional backpack's design- no excessive zippers, buckles, straps, pockets or padding- and sports the following love-em! key features.

Love-Em! Key Features
  • Uses a sleeping pad as back support 
    • To the envy of every traditional backpacker we have met along the way, we conveniently pull out our sleeping pad for use as a sit pad for any sit-down break
    • Our pad is a tri-folded and trimmed-to-torso-length Therm-A-Rest Ridge Rest SOLite
  • Surprisingly durable fabric (custom 140 denier Dyneema GGridstop™), which makes us wonder why we ever needed the cordura fabric of our now retired traditional packs
  • Super cool shock cord system that we use for strapping wet laundry onto the top of the pack to dry (or Shelley often uses it for a quick stow of a shedded clothing layer)
  • Accommodates a hydration bladder with a secure interior pocket and accompanying hydration tube exit hole
  • Seven sizeable exterior pockets make everything accessible... no need for a full-length frontal or full-width lower zipper often seen on traditional backpacks. Anything needed during the day can be accommodated in one of the exterior pockets (extra layers, water bottles, snacks, water treatment etc) or in the top of the pack body (where we store our lunch). Some anecdotes for a few of the pockets we'd like to highlight:
    • Lower right-side pocket. I keep both my 1L generic store-bought waterbottle and our handheld GPS in this pocket (and sometimes a snack) - they fit securely and are easily accessible.
    • Upper right-side pocket. A "safe" place for fragile items such as our popcan stove or Amazon Kindles.
    • Long left-side pocket.  Sarah can both grab and stash her trekking poles in this pocket without taking her pack off. Also wide enough to store tents, puffy jackets etc.
    • Large frontal mesh pocket. For drying orange peels or too-dirty-or-wet-or-smelly-to-put-inside-your-pack items.
    • Hip belt pockets. For easy access to small personal items such as lipstick to celebrate the 4th of July on the trail.
This is a great starter pack for traditional backpackers seeking to experiment with a lightweight system (can handle up to 35lbs) and for ultralight enthusiasts looking for ultralight quality and a personally modifiable pack. The stay (3.5oz), hip belt (5.15oz), and integrated shock cord lacing are all removable for those counting each ounce (or as we like to say to our English-speaking foreign friends, "giving a damn for each gram!"). For us, it has been a perfect blend of weight, durability and load capacity. We need to be prepared for grazing pokey bushes in the desert, scrambling through sharp rock on high passes, or brushing tree branches while swinging through the jungle. Additionally, we've needed the ability to carry up to ten days of heavy South American-resupplied food (no freeze-dried backpacking food or flat-pack tuna here!) and to carry up to seven liters of water in the desert or when we've been unsure of our next water source. The Mariposa has done it all for us.

What would we suggest for a future version?
  • More friction on adjustment cordage- Sarah and Shelley have experienced some slippage in the adjustment webbing of the shoulder straps
  • Removal of bungee cinch on underside of top (or use velcro to cinch)- it gets in the way and tangled when packing into the main body of the pack so I removed the cord from my pack altogether and don't miss it
  • Fragile mesh on front pocket- we all have gotten holes in the front mesh, whoops! Maybe we should be more gentle... 
We are proud to sport Gossamer's marvelous Mariposas and uphold their "take less, do more" motto. Each day on our journey is a new surprise. We don't know if we will be on an open dirt road, navigating steep cliffsides, skiing down skree, hopping our way through a marsh, maintaining our balance while sliding down a muddy hillside or cramming into a tight bus. All the while, we are grateful to have our lightweight system supported by our Mariposa packs that allows us to navigate what the trail throws at us all at a moment's notice.

Our beloved Mariposas can be found on Gossamer's website here for an affordable $235.

Shelley feeling good after a big ascent (1600m/ 5,250ft) up San Juan pass (4200m) in Choquequirao, Peru
Trinity enjoying altitude atop the first of two 5000m+ passes of the day (Cuyoc pass, Cordillera Huayhuash, Peru - 5000m/ 16,400ft)
Shelley and Sarah, unhindered by bulky backpacks, hiking arm-in-arm on Sarah's last leg (approaching Cajatambo, Peru)
Note Sarah's hip belt pockets for small item storage (in front of Cajatambo Valley, Peru)
Shelley utilizing the shock cord system on top of the pack to quickly stash her rain jacket/ wind breaker before heating up on the ascent of San Antonio pass (5010m/ 16,432ft) in Cordillera Huayhuash, Peru
Lipstick on the 4th of July (pictured- Sarah, Shelley and Trinity)
Note zipper storage for small items on top of pack and the neat and secure OTT (over-the-top) closure system which we are bigger fans of than the roll-top closure system sported by the previous Mariposa version (pictured- Trinity)
Shot of long side pocket where Trinity stores the tent poles (near Punta Olympica, Cordillera Blanca, Peru)
Non-mesh side pockets (as compared to the all-mesh side pockets of the previous Mariposa version) keeping dust out on the dirt road between Chaqua and Oyon, Peru (pictured- Sarah and Shelley)
Trinity's "clean" socks ready to dry
Trinity reading on her sit pad (pulled from her pack) next to Shelley's pack (sit pad stowed in mesh sleeve as back support) (Mantacra, Peru)
Shelley writing in her journal sitting on her readily-accessible sit pad (Cordillera Huayhuash, Peru)
Trinity trimmed her pack of these items (not pictured - material from bladder sleeve, took out removable stay)
Who needs donkeys? We have all we need in our little packs. (pictured- Shelley)
Okay, so we did find some folks with lighter backpacks than us - what do you think of this new design Gossamer? (pictured- Trinity and two local girls near Huayllapa, Peru)
A small backpack makes it easier to hitch (pictured- Trinity and truck driver on dusty, construction-filled road near Punta Olympica, Cordillera Blanca, Peru)
Lightweight backpacking makes it easier to do this... (pictured - Sarah, near Oyon, Peru)
Or this... (pictured - Trinity, Choquequirao, Peru)
And this! (pictured- Shelley, Cordillera Blanca, Peru)
Day one on the trail out of Ushuaia, Argentina, the tres chicas locas, Trinity, Shelley & Sarah, sporting Gossamer's previous version of the Mariposa (note roll-top closure system and mesh side pockets)
Take less, do more!


  1. That last picture! The. Best. Enjoy following your journey.

  2. I am glad yal took my advice on that last picture!! So awesome!!!!

  3. Wow! Dave from Gossamer Gear here. Thanks for the STELLAR article with over the top pics. You are da bomb(shells)!! :)

  4. Girls, love your blog! Jealous as hell too. You look like you're having an absolute blast... I too use a Mariposa. An excellent pack!!!

  5. https://tripadvisornepal.blogspot.com/

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